In the face of a tough
economy that’s stifling charitable giving, one Johnston County church is taking
a page from its past to preserve its future.
From 1936 to 1951,
Thanksgiving Baptist Church in Selma held an annual Harvest Day celebration to
generate funds for its ministries.
It became a phenomenon which
attracted hundreds of people each year from several states and garnered
national attention, including a 1948 article in The Saturday Evening Post which
said in part: “The people of Johnston County, North Carolina, save their best
products to be sold at auction so the work of their church can go forward. Is
this the cure for the growing indifference that threatens America’s rural
churches? Thanksgiving Church stands white and clean in a hillside meadow in
the gently rolling landscape of Johnston County in Central North Carolina.
Johnston County is an agricultural county, and Thanksgiving, nine miles from
the nearest town, is a Baptist church, the members of which are small farmers
and their families.
“But go to Thanksgiving on
Harvest Day, the day in autumn when the little church holds its annual Lord’s
Auction, and you will see something more virile than the dignity of age … If
you arrive in the early afternoon of Harvest Day, shortly before the Lord’s
Auction is due to begin, you may conclude that a small county fair is about to
open on the church grounds.
“Where did all these things
come from and why are they here on the church grounds? They came from the farms
of the members and friends of Thanksgiving Church. Since the crack of dawn,
cars, trucks and wagons have been bringing them from every direction. They are
here because these are the gifts of the people to their church — their gifts
‘to the Lord,’ as the forthright local phrase has it — and they have been
assembled and put on display because they are now to be sold by the church at
the annual Lord’s Auction, the event for which the other activities of the
morning have been a preparation.
“What has the Lord’s Acre
Plan meant to the members of Thanksgiving Church — and to rural church members
all over the South who have followed the plan? It has certainly meant more than
just a practical way of raising money for the church. That it is practical is
proved by the fact that no other money plan has ever worked half so well. But
even more important, the Lord’s Acre Plan has given these people a genuinely
happy comradeship and kinship with the other folks in their church who worked
for the same cause. …”
On Oct. 9 — to stimulate
financial giving and foster a renewed sense of community pride — Thanksgiving
Baptist Church will hold its first Harvest Day in 59 years. Members promise
food, fun and an auction.
Find Thanksgiving Baptist
Church at 6701 NC Highway 42, two miles east of the Buffalo Road intersection,
Call Pastor Steve Reed at 965-3204 or e-mail