A duo of Charleston natives hurriedly walked down Wentworth Street on Sunday afternoon, carrying maps to the 20-plus downtown congregations participating in the third annual Spirited Brunch, a self-guided snack tour sponsored by The Post and Courier and the College of Charleston.
“We’re trying to figure out where to go next,” Hy Chase said. “This is a rare opportunity, so we want to see as much as we can.”
In their first few stops, Chase and his friend, Ron Hornbeck, said they had already been stunned by the architecture and okra pilau at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Thomas Street.
“I live in the neighborhood and had never been inside,” Hornbeck said.
Standing on the front porch of Trinity United Methodist Church, Helen Todd said several Spirited Brunchers had been inside the house of worship before when they attended weddings there. But they hadn't gone on a proper tour. Because the church is a popular wedding venue, it served wedding sugar cookies and pound cake.
“So many churches have to lock their doors these days,” Todd said. “Today is different. People get to walk through them.”
New to this year’s event was an exhibit space on the College of Charleston’s campus set up to showcase congregations that don’t have downtown addresses, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Mount Pleasant. It offered chocolates embossed with an image of the Salt Lake Temple.
“They’ve been very popular. Who doesn’t like chocolates?” David Goltra, a church representative, said. “They made 300 and they’re near the end.”
Nearby was a table for the Iglesia de Dios Nuevo Comienzo, a multicultural and multigenerational church that has members from seven different countries.
While Maria Cotton sprinkled three spices to fresh fruit for brunch-goers, she explained the four-year-old church's motto of "Here, we are family."
"Most of our members are immigrants," she said. "So, we try to be a big family for them since they don't have their own big families here."
Near the halfway mark of Sunday's event, Sheikh Shamudeen of the Central Mosque of Charleston pointed out that most of their prepared food, including falafel, hummus and pita, had disappeared.
“It’s symbolic,” he said. “When you come later, you might miss out on the good stuff."
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Broad Street served as another savory snack destination. The church served Irish soda bread, inspired by Bishop John England, who was born in Ireland and purchased the land where the Gothic cathedral was built. They also served okra soup.
“So many people just go to their own church,” Liz Jenkins, a member of St. John’s, said. “This is a chance to learn about others faiths, rather than have them be a mystery.”
The spread at St. Mary of the Annunciation on Hassell Street wasn't much different than what members bring to church most Sundays, said Barbara Ankersen.
“Every Sunday after mass, we have coffee in the church hall and we make food like this to go with the coffee,” Ankersen, who made deviled eggs, said. “Whatever is our specialty, we made that food today."
“Sometimes we have bloody Marys,” she added. “We decided not to have those today.”
After Ankersen told a group of visitors about the church’s history — it's placed on The National Register of Historic Places — she asked them, “Have you been across the street?”
She was referring to the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim synagogue, which was founded in 1749 and is the longest-running Reform Jewish congregation in the country.
“We love that people are getting to learn about different religions,” Ankersen said. “Each year, this event is getting a little bigger and more people know about it.”
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