Summer Salad gatherings offer women fellowship



More than a decade ago, Jacksonville’s Southside United Methodist Church transformed its somewhat generic July women’s Bible study in to evenings filled with friendship, spirituality and salad.

Yes, salad!

Each week, the women pray over every empty seat in preparation for Summer Salads, "May the Lord personally minister to and encourage you this evening."

This year’s series kicked off July 11 with speaker Christina Couch, whom the church referred to as “fierce in faith and dedicated to helping woman overcome the fears of unanswered prayers.”

Women from their 20s to those in their 80s meet weekly for praise and worship in the church’s enormous Family Life Center. They have Bible study, a special guest speaker and socializing.

But first, they eat salad.

It all started when church member Suzanne Tedder realized the women attending the weekly Bible study were having a bit of summer cabin fever, eager to escape the chaos of running the kids here, there and everywhere.

“They needed a break,” said Christa Crapps, who heads the women’s ministry for the church these days.

So, Tedder found a way to help them escape one chaotic evening a week to delight in each other’s company and immerse themselves in the Lord’s teachings. She supplied big dinner salads, and they loved it.

They wanted more.

For the next four weeks in July they met on Wednesday nights and had the salads catered. Eventually the event grew, with guest speakers each week sharing about the presence of Jesus Christ in their lives.

“It organically grew from a small Bible study to 200 to 250 attending each week,” Crapps said.

“We have volunteers who help set tables and decorate the room. They put out centerpieces, and there are drinks and a meal. We have someone who inspires by sharing their testimony, or we talk about a book.”

Women of the Summer Salads ministry event.

Couch, the first speaker this year, has four children she home schools, plus some foster children. She talked about the difficult times she and her husband had conceiving, the high-risk twins they eventually had and, of course, the decision to add foster children to their growing family.

“This is my first year to put it together and be the head person,” Crapps said. “Last year, we had an author who wrote a book called A Royal Love Revealed. It was really neat. She kept seeing hearts occurring in nature, a leaf, a cloud, a seashell and believed it was God sending her little signs from her recently departed mother.”

She wasn’t looking for signs, but there they were, Crapps recalls.

“They were just there, coming out of nowhere,” she said. “She wrote a Bible study called A Royal Love Revealed, and it kind of takes you through her journey of falling deeper in love with the love of the Lord.”

In addition to the Summer Salad series, the church is growing another women’s ministry—a contemporary circle of United Methodist Women.

“We are hoping people in their 40s will get involved,” Crapps said.

The church, which is located near San Marco, just outside of downtown Jacksonville, has about 1,500 members. To learn more about Summer Salads and Southside United Methodist Church, visit www.sumcjax.org, then click on events, then Summer Salad.

—Yvette Hammett is a freelance writer based in Valrico.



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