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It’s no secret that many families here are hurting.
Right now, Lancaster County has the ninth highest unemployment rate (12.1 percent) in South Carolina.
Local charities are being hammered by those clamoring for assistance.
Helping the hurting is what being a Christian is all about, especially at this time of the year, said Brad Strider of the Southern gospel music trio, Mercy’s Well.
That’s why Mercy’s Well is hosting Lancaster’s third annual Southern Gospel Christmas Celebration at 6 p.m. Saturday at Christian Assembly Worship Center.
Appearing with Mercy’s Well will be King’s Cause of Lancaster and Eighth Day of Spartanburg.
Admission is one non-perishable food item to benefit Christian Services and the Second Harvest Food Bank.
“We have been so fortunate and blessed to have everything we need,” Strider said. “Giving to charities has been way down because a lot of people, including those who give to great causes like Christian Services are having a tough time, too.”
Each year, Mercy’s Well stages the Christmas benefit concerts in the hometowns of its members. Strider is from Asheboro, N.C., John Kennedy is a Sumter native and Greg Gainer is from Lancaster.
Gainer is the former pianist at St. Luke United Methodist Church.
Benefit concerts are scheduled for those three towns, along with a fourth one in Martinsville, Va.
“The communities we come from have given to us so much through the years and many times we don’t have the chance to come give back because we are on tour. These benefits are a good way for us to do that,” Strider said.
Staying close to home has been a little more difficult for Mercy’s Well in 2008. Its Carolinas/Virginia ministry base has grown and now includes Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan and Mississippi.
“It’s been an interesting year for us in that it has been much harder,” Strider said. “But the Lord has given us the opportunity to carry his message to more people. It’s been tough, but it’s been a blessing.”
Strider said the trio will perform several songs from its latest release, “December, Songs Where the Story Began” on Saturday. “December” is the trio’s second collection to feature traditional hymns. But unlike its “Stories of Life,” their latest songs are Christmas carols.
“These are great old songs with some intricate arrangements,” Strider said. “It doesn’t matter what your worship style is, these are all songs that people enjoy during the holidays. I know it’s neat to look out there and see people light up when we sing songs like ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel.’ That’s pretty cool.”
Strider said he hopes to see a good crowd come out to support Christian Services at Saturday’s benefit.
“You know, it’s easy to sit back and say to yourself, ‘I’ve had a tough year,’ but when you stop and look back, you really haven’t,” he said. “All you have to do is go to your cabinet, find a couple of cans of something to bring. You can come enjoy a night of good Christian music and fellowship for free and help a neighbor who really needs your help.”
– Contact features editor Greg Summers at 283-1156.
Southern Gospel Christmas Celebration
WHO: Mercy’s Well, King’s Cause and Eighth Day
WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Christian Assembly Worship Center, 542 S.C. 9 Bypass East (the former Coke warehouse)
COST: Free admission with a non-perishable food item to benefit Christian Services and Second Harvest Food Bank
INFORMATION: (336) 314-6787