Church carries on 40-year barbecue tradition

by Alan Hodge

Alan Hodge/MIW photo Joel Murphy, left, and Tom Harte, right, look on as Ted Torsella, center, prepares a hunk of pork Friday, Nov. 12, for Christ United Methodist Church’s barbecue. Church members have been cooking and selling barbecue for 40 years.

COULWOOD – A rich barbecue tradition was alive and well at Christ United Methodist Church on Bellhaven Boulevard.

Saturday, Nov. 13, saw members of the congregation’s United Methodist Men and United Methodist Women pitch in and prepare an old-time feast of barbecue and all the trimmings that raised $4,500 for the church. The barbecue sale was the 40th annual event of its type since Christ UMC was founded half a century ago.

Though the funds are helpful, church member Joel Murphy thinks the barbecue brings more to Christ UMC than cash.

“It’s not just about the money,” Murphy said. “There is a real feeling of fellowship when 50 or 60 members take part without being asked. Most are second generation church family members. It’s like the body of Christ coming together.”

Murphy cited church member Mary Earnhardt as just one example of the spirit of cooperation that prevails at the annual barbecue.

“She does an excellent job keeping up with the takeout orders,” he said. “Everything works like a well oiled machine.”

The Christ UMC barbecue has a long and interesting history. One of the barbeque’s original cooks is 79-year-old Carl Roberts. He’s such a part of the tradition that the church named the picnic shelter where the barbecue is cooked after him. The night before the barbecue sale Roberts and others prepared 1,250 pounds of pork butts in two 9-foot long smokers and recalled the event’s history.

“We originally started cooking fish and chicken,” Roberts said. “Then we moved to barbecue.”

Another congregation member who recalled the early barbecues at Christ UMC is Alden Hare.

“There was a guy named Charles Lamb who helped out,” Hare said. “He was legally blind and had grown up in the family barbecue business in eastern North Carolina. He won several cook-offs and made barbecue for events like the Coulwood Fourth of July Celebration.”

Other congregation members who cooked barbecue at the church’s early fundraisers included Forrest Bingham, Randy Kiser, and Joel’s father the late Joe Murphy.

Though Friday night’s cool and clear weather was perfect for a cookout, Roberts reflected on times in years past, before the shelter that bears his name was erected in 1993, when cooking the barbecue was more challenging.

“We even cooked in the rain and got soaked,” Roberts said. “One guy named Price Brawley was so wet he squished when he walked.”

Joel Murphy shared a ideas why folks have been coming to Christ UMC licking their chops for the annual barbecue and bake sale.

“We cook all night and serve it fresh and hot on Saturday,” he said. “We baste it with our secret sauce. Everyone has a secret sauce. It is by far the best way.”

Also on the scene last week and taking in all the barbecue cooking knowledge he could absorb was Joel’s 25-year-old son Tanner. A student at Western Carolina University, Tanner is set to carry on the barbecue tradition at Christ UMC his dad, grandfather, and the other congregation members have built up over the years.

“Somebody will have to do it in the future,” he said. “Hopefully I will be able to do that. I look forward to it.”

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