Wine to Water: Paris, TN

{The following was written by Rev. Megan Huston, pastor of First Christian Church, Paris, TN. As a seminary student, she served as an intern with Week of Compassion.}

In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ first miracle is at a wedding. In the middle of a great celebration, the wine runs out. Spurred on by his mother, Jesus turns water into wine. It’s a compelling story—Jesus offers abundance in a moment of scarcity. In that same spirit, First Christian Church, Paris, TN, has tried to live into a ministry that offers life to communities in need, seeing abundance in times of scarcity.

Not long ago, I spoke to Brandon Gilvin, WoC’s Associate Director, who told me about a new initiative Week of Compassion was trying with some churches: “Wine into Water.” The project teams Week of Compassion, Church World Service’s “Water for All” program, and local congregations. Like the folks John writes about in the Gospel who gathered for a wedding in Cana, churches put together a social event: a wine tasting with hors d' oeuvres, a sit-down dinner, a concert—whatever sort of celebration the church would like to put together, and the money they raise from admission or contribution goes to clean water projects through Week of Compassion and Church World Service.

When I heard about a fundraiser for Week of Compassion involving wine and compassion, I knew that FCC Paris would be interested! I was right. Our entire congregation immediately got to work. We spread the word around our small community of about 10,000. We convinced the hottest band in town to donate their time. We even persuaded a Methodist brother across the street to donate all the wine! It didn’t hurt that the best caterer in town goes to FCC. Pretty soon, we had pulled together one exciting shindig.

We had to organize advertisng and ticket sales, so we got posters made and each committee member was asked to sell about 20 tickets. Pretty soon, we were hearing about our own event from friends and neighbors.

We aren’t one of the “big” churches in town. We don’t have a gym or other elaborate facilities.  We’re like a lot of Disciples churches in a lot of towns all over the country: a congregation of about 100 active members trying our best to love God and serve our neighbors.

With a little creativity and some collaboration with Week of Compassion, we were able to put together one of the most exciting fundraisers anyone could remember in Paris. We also hit the right notes in term of advocacy—by sharing photos and stories of East African communities who would benefit from the project, we raised awareness about the “Water for Life” project and one of the regions it serves.

Our evening of fun raised $3000 to help create clean water systems: new wells, cisterns and dams. It will also go to help increase advocacy about water issues all over the world, and help fund educational initiatives about water, hygiene, and health across Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya.

Since our party, our congregation feels like we’ve really contributed something. We took our gifts and created life for others. We participated in a miracle.

For more information on how your congregation can sponsor a "Wine into Water" fundraiser, e-mail Brandon at bgilvin@woc.disciples.org.