The Sunday Scoop is a series on churches in Moore County. The series covers the latest activities from Bible school to missions and everything in between. Welcome.
The Discipleship and Missions Program at Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church has volunteered and financially contributed to locals and beyond. The adult program, according to director Austin Vernon, has a mission “to be the hands and feet of Christ.”
Austin Vernon is in process of becoming an ordained minister. He is the director of discipleship and missions at Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church. He stands at the church in this photo on August 12.
They activated their unofficial emergency response after Hurricane Fran. Members checked in on one another and removed debris. They also held a supply drive of consumables, hygiene products, and clothes for distribution in Wilmington.
They open their church doors for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
From hunger to homelessness, and the challenges of poverty, the church has teamed with community partners to ease suffering. Partners include Northern Moore Family Resource Center, Hope Academy, Friend-to-Friend, and they assist with a Santa’s workshop which allows parents to select gifts for their families. In the Fall of 2019, the church teamed up with Southern Pines Elementary School.
“Reverend John [Hague] and I walked over one day and said, ‘hey, we don’t have any preconceived notions of what we could do together, but we’re open to service,’” Vernon said about serving the school, which was previously located across the street before the town built the new school.
During the pandemic, their Families in Transition (FIT) program supplied consistent access to hygiene items for the homeless. FIT continues this service.
In January 2020, they started a reading program in the school. That was two months before the pandemic. It was for third-graders who needed help. The program built a transformation of trust between students and volunteers.
“One volunteer said the child was having a rough day when a grandparent was ill. The volunteer said to think of one good thing that happened today. After reading, the child said, ‘I got to be with you,’’ Vernon said about living out faith.
An anonymous donor’s financial gift spurred another community initiative. The funds came with a request to help racial disparities. The church pledged $25,000 to the Southern Pines Land and Housing Trust for the purchase of the historic Southern Pines Primary School.
The youth program has also worked in missions. Global leaders went to Peru “to be the hands and feet of Christ.”
Youth serve in the Appalachia Service Project repairing homes, and for some youth, it is their first encounter with poverty. The mission provides opportunities for learning construction skills and building relationships.
The youth has Sunday night Bible studies and service projects throughout the year.
They held the pre-pandemic worship service at 9 a.m. and 11:10 a.m., with Sunday school at 10 a.m. During the summer, the church offers a 10 a.m. service.
“Assuming restrictions are not placed,” Vernon said, “we will go back to the pre-pandemic schedule.”
They offer live video services on Facebook and Vimeo and plan to continue.
T Rev. John Hague uses humor in services and does not preach hell and damnation, according to Vernon.
“He is engaging and uses personal stories and current events. After George Floyd, he scrapped his planned sermon and wrote from the heart. It was vulnerable, acknowledging racism in general, and that he does not have all the answers. It is important to listen to their issues,” Vernon said about listening with empathy.
Freedom of conscience is a founding principle of the Presbyterian and offering counter-narratives is OK, according to Vernon.
Hague has been with the church for six years. He grew up in Durham and said he was excited about the growth of the church.
“Be a part of the church if you want to make a difference in this community,” Hague said about members supporting neighbors.
Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church offers past services on its website. Learn more about the church at 330 South May Street in Southern Pines/ (910) 692-6252.
Feature photo: Rev. John Hague welcomes visitors on August 12.
~Article, photos, and videos by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Stephanie M. Sellers. Contact her at [email protected].