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Christmas is a time to be close to family.
But before leaving the road this year to do that, the Southern gospel trio Mercy's Well has a little unfinished business to take care of in the hometown of group member Greg Gainer.
Mercy's Well will host Lancaster's second annual Southern Gospel Christmas Celebration at 7 p.m. Friday at Second Baptist Church.
Admission is one non-perishable food item to benefit Christian Services and the Second Harvest Food Bank.
Appearing with Mercy's Well on Friday will be The Anchormen and King's Cause.
Last year's Christmas celebration was held at Sherwood Baptist Church.
"Based on the feedback we've been getting, we felt that we needed a bigger sanctuary this time," said Gainer, former pianist at St. Luke United Methodist Church.
"It's such a good cause and we hope to have a great crowd come out," Gainer said.
The concert series grew out of a desire to help worthwhile charities, while giving the group's fans their own Christmas gift through the low-cost events.
Assisting local food banks is more important than ever. Recent cutbacks and layoffs now have the county with the fifth largest unemployment rate in the state, at 9.9 percent.
"They can come and have a good time without shelling out $10 or $15 for a ticket and help out a good cause at the same time," said Mercy Well's founder Brad Strider. "It's a way for us to give back. That's what Christmas is about."
This holiday season, the trio has put together benefits in four towns – Sumter, Lancaster, Winston Salem and Asheboro – instead of three, Strider said.
Earlier this year, former lead singer and Sumter native Kyle Hake left Mercy's Well to enter the ministry full time. Hake, who is now associate pastor and minister of music at Bible Baptist Church in Port Orchard, Wash., was replaced by John Kennedy.
Kennedy is a Mount Airy, N.C. native who now lives in Winston Salem. Strider lives in Asheboro.
"We hated to lose Kyle, but God had a different calling on his life," Strider said. "We decided to go to Sumter anyway, so we could be supportive of that. The folks there have been awfully supportive of our ministry, too. We are trying to celebrate what the true meaning of Christmas is all about."
Mercy's Well recently released the CD, "Skywriting," which is drawing national attention from music critics and Southern gospel music fans.
"It's been extremely well-received and is doing well commercially, too," Strider said. "It's proven to be a good mix of the contemporary sound that people enjoy from us, while being traditional at the same time. We feel really blessed by how it turned out."
Gainer said although its somewhat harder, he is looking forward to the opportunity of singing in his hometown Friday.
"You would think it would be easier, but I'm not so sure," Gainer said, laughing. "There is this level of apprehension you get of having to sing every note of it just right."
Southern Gospel Christmas Celebration
WHO: Mercy's Well, The Anchormen and King's Cause
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Second Baptist Church, 1426 Great Falls Road
COST: Free admission with a non-perishable food item to benefit Christian Services and Second Harvest Food Bank. A love offering will be received.
INFORMATION: (336) 314-6787