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The room was abuzz with laughter and friendly chatter as women from across the area gathered for the Christian Women’s Connection birthday luncheon on Tuesday.
But this sort of camaraderie isn’t unusual. It’s like this every time these women of faith gather to encourage one another as they enjoy a meal together.
The birthday luncheon, marked the beginning of the Christian Women’s Connection’s 26th year. Women of all denominations gather on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Captain’s Galley to develop and deepen friendships, glean inspiration, enjoy music, learn and have a little fun.
This month’s feature guest was Pierre Cunningham of Cakes & More.
Cunningham brought the birthday cake, along with brownies and cookies to sample.
Cunningham, who’s been cooking since he was 9 years old, opened his Catawba Street bakery a few months ago.
“I learned to cook literally standing behind my grandma,” he said. All of his creations, he said, are scratch-made from recipes he learned from her.
Rhoda Byrd provided the music with “No Other Word for Grace but Amazing.”
Beth Lyle of Spartanburg was the guest speaker for January. She shared stories from her own life of how she learned to put her trust in God in the face of adversity.
“God didn’t call us ‘hopers.’ He calls us believers. You can make it if you believe in Him,” Lyle said.
Lyle compares life to a bed of roses. While rose beds have fragrant flowers, she said they also have thorns.
“It’s your choice” Lyle said. “You can see the rose or see the thorn.”
Jimmie Helms, a regular at the luncheons for almost eight years, always has a good time.
Retired educator Bertha Smith has been coming to the Christian Women’s Connection since 2009. The former North Elementary school teacher said she taught the children of several women in the group.
“I love it, it’s always been so inspirational for me. It’s not a ‘select’ group, it’s women loving and caring about one another,” said Smith, who chairs the Christian Women’s Connection planning team.
Vice chairwoman Pat Clancy has been a faithful supporter of Christian Women’s Connection since the early 1990s.
Clancy said she’s always been impressed with the love and support the women offer each other. Gossip and negative attitudes don’t have a home there. It’s a haven where every woman is welcome regardless of race, denomination or circumstance.
Clancy said an average of 35 women, including three “first timers,” attend each month.
“If you’ve got a pulse, come on,” she said while grinning.
Ginny Karelius has been a Christian Women’s Connection regular almost from the beginning. Although she and her husband now live in Fort Mill, she still returns for the Lancaster luncheons.
Karelius was so impressed with the group’s mission that she became a speaker and now travels to other CWC meetings. She also leads Bible studies.
A special ministry
In 1986, a group of women from several denominations began meeting with the idea of having informal “seminars” to help each other from a Christian perspective. Jean White acted as coordinator.
White said after meeting for several months, it was still unclear how to keep the seminars going. The only clear thing was that meeting at lunch-time worked best for most women.
Then, White said, she recalled her Hickory, N.C., next-door neighbor who had been coordinator for the Christian Women’s Club there. White called her former neighbor, who put her in touch with Stonecroft Ministries (www.stonecroft.org).
Stonecroft Ministries is a Christian organization with a heart for women to know God and grow in their walk with Jesus Christ. White said the Hickory group was affiliated with Stonecroft Ministries.
When White contacted Stonecroft for information and guidance, she said it was an answered prayer. Stonecroft, she said, had the structure and guidelines to serve as a model.
White said those guidelines specifically avoid controversial doctrinal differences between denominations and focus on what each person’s faith has in common.
The Stonecroft slogan is, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity. In all things, to glorify Christ.”
White said a core group applied for Stonecroft affiliation in August 1986. Stonecroft representatives visited Lancaster that November and helped organize the first “official” Christian Women’s Club luncheon at the Days Inn.
When searching for a suitable meeting place, White said several factors, including room capacity, were considered.
“We wanted to make it affordable so everyone could come,” White said.
Since then, the group has met at Days Inn, the University of South Carolina Lancaster, as well as at Etta’s Kitchen and Captain’s Galley.
In 2005, the name was changed from Christian Women’s Club to Christian Women’s Connection to reflect the group’s make up and mission. There is no membership or dues. Women who come only pay for their respective meals.
Luncheons aren’t the only thing going on. Other groups have formed.
Bible studies are held each week at various locations, where the women examine topics such as “Why Believe,” “What is God Like,” and “Knowing God’s Will.”
Prayer connection meetings are also held monthly. For more information about CWC, call Smith at (803) 285-6491 or Pat Clancy at 286-0133.
Want to know more?
If you’re interested in attending, the next Christian Women’s Connection luncheon is Feb. 28. Guest speaker is Pam Morin of Aiken, on “Words from Your Heart – a Diamond in the Rough.” Call Lenda Wilson at (803) 285-6527 by Feb. 24 to make a reservation.