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Posted: November 12, 2010 12:30 a.m.

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Lovejoy UMC barbecue is Saturday


Few culinary traditions speak of the South like barbecue. The distinctive smell and taste of good barbecue seem to be synonymous with the Southern lifestyle.

Churches have co-opted the barbecue experience as a fundraising and fellowship tool for years. It’s a near-perfect marriage: Church members have fun making the barbecue and Brunswick stew, and the people who buy it love to eat it.

Lovejoy United Methodist Church in Covington continues the tradition of Southern church barbecue with some fun twists this year as they present their annual Fall BBQ Fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Lovejoy has been holding barbecue fundraising since 1978, when then-pastor Dr. Bob Brown decided it would be a great way for the congregation to enjoy lunch together on a Sunday after church. The church family meal evolved into a larger event, open to the public, with diners purchasing plates to benefit the church and its mission programs.

Today, Lovejoy relies on the annual fundraiser for a portion of its budget and for missionary support. The congregation also benefits from the fellowship they have with neighbors and friends in the community.

"That simple first barbecue over 30 years ago has developed into an anticipated fall tradition for the community and an opportunity for fellowship, celebration and financial stability for the church," said Phyllis Gravitt, wife of the current pastor Richard Gravitt.

Lovejoy members of every age pitch in with tasks such as peeling potatoes, chopping meat, stirring stew, and making tea.

The barbecue team is headed by members Rodney Williams, Jimmy Nolan and Mike Criswell. Williams is responsible for the stew’s secret recipe, while another member, Martha Jo Nolan, has perfected the secret recipe for the sauce. The church has been preparing for the barbecue for about a month, and the team will cook all night Friday and into Saturday.

In just the last couple of months, Williams, Nolan, and Criswell have all undergone major medical procedures. However, they haven’t allowed their circumstances to dampen their spirits or keep them from taking part in the event. The church has lovingly dubbed this year’s fundraiser "The Handicapped BBQ of 2010," adding a touch of gentle humor to what could have been a difficult situation and paying tribute to their efforts.

"They represent the spirit of the kind of people who are members at Lovejoy, but they also represent the kind of spirit that has made this community a place where you want to live and raise your children," said Gravitt.

The barbecue has its own mascot. On Nov. 6, members Fred Hopkins, Al Martin, and Jerry Day took a bale of hay, fitted it with eyes, ears, and a nose, and painted it pink to create a cute pig beside Ga. Highway 36, reminding passersby about the fundraiser.

Initially, the church named her Priscilla, but she quickly took on another name, Miss Barbie Q Lovejoy.

"She has quickly become a real person to everyone," said Gravitt. "One person wondered if she would be ‘ok by herself in the dark down there.’"


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