Exterior Clarksville United Methodist Church

The exterior of Clarksville's United Methodist Church. Photo by Brent Engel

CLARKSVILLE – After more than a decade of improvement projects, it would be easy for Clarksville United Methodist Church to take a break.

But that just wouldn’t befit the “Little Congregation That Can.” The church, which usually has fewer than 15 in attendance at Sunday services, expects a big crowd for its annual Clarksville Applefest Fried Chicken Dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12.

Tickets are $10 and will be available at the door, although those arriving late may be cluck out of luck. Each diner will get two pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, a hot roll, homemade dessert and beverage.

Proceeds will go toward four new projects – resurfacing the basement floor, repairing broken plaster, painting the exterior and upgrading the outdoor steps leading to the sanctuary.

Janie Busch, one of the dinner organizers, said the community has been very supportive in the past, and she is confident the backing will continue.

“I think of it as they will continue to walk with us,” she said. “As long as we remember our motto – Open hearts, Open minds, Open doors – and show that in our lives as the reflection of God’s love, I believe we will have many others on this journey with us.”

The congregation already has seen the results of its faith. A five-year, $80,000 campaign to restore the church’s stained glass windows was completed recently, with a re-dedication on Oct. 6. And since 2007, the roof of the 111-year-old parish has been replaced, steeple work has been done and the kitchen was renovated.

Of course, the kitchen serves as a practical place to host the Applefest dinner, but it is also symbolic. The church has received worldwide publicity for opening its doors to volunteers who battle ever-more-frequent Mississippi River floods. Seven of Clarksville’s top 10 inundations have happened since 2000, and this year’s deluge came in second behind only that of 1993.

Busch and other volunteers served almost 4,600 meals to displaced residents and flood fighters during the spring and summer. That’s 10 times the town’s population. It’s during times of tribulation that church members often return to their convictions.

“My faith comes not from the religious home in which I was raised, nor the little country church that was my destination at least three times a week,” Busch recalls. “It comes from recognizing that we were all so loved we are made in His image. The verse in 1 John 4 – ‘God is love’ – is what sustains my faith. I don’t have to know this will all happen. I just know I’m not walking alone.”

Though she leaves the big details to God, Busch is certain of one thing. The chicken that diners will enjoy Oct. 12 – made by Laura Portwood from her family’s secret recipe – is heavenly.

“This is the best, bar none, fried chicken I’ve ever had,” she said. “I’m from Kentucky, and sorry Colonel, but Laura Portwood has you beat!”

Send questions and comments to athorp@pikecountynews.com.

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