The First Church of Christ, Congregational was filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of good music and delicious food on Saturday, May 20, as families and friends came to celebrate the church’s ongoing relationship with the Appalachian South Folklife Center.
Guests enjoyed a pulled pork buffet dinner prepared by members of the church and entertainment by the talented duo, Tim and Maggie Mainland, who came up from Pipestem, West Virginia where the Appalachian South Folklife Center is located.
Saturday night’s concert was attended by close to 100 people which included families with children and when all the funds raised were totaled, the amount came to $5,000. This also included money raised from an online Go-Fund-Me page set up by the church for their mission work in West Virginia. All of the funds will go to both The Appalachian South Folklife Center and the Riff Raff Center that the church has been supporting.
Tim and Maggie entertained the crowd with a variety of folk songs that included Appalachian tunes. Between the two of them, they play more than 25 different musical instruments. During this concert, Tim played the banjo and Maggie alternated between the penny whistle and the flute, much to the delight of the audience.
While helping with the dinner cleanup in the kitchen, Rev. John Castricum said that for the past nine years volunteers from the church have gone to West Virginia to help local families
“The fundamental purpose of the mission trip is about relationships: to deepen old ones and create new ones,” said Rev. Castricum. The relationships that have developed between those in West Virginia and the participants from Bedford are one of the most valuable results of the continued visits.
Several people at the concert were wearing green shirts that indicated they were volunteers who have participated in the Folklife Center’s home repair service projects. The area they go to help is “so beautiful and good for the soul,” said Rev. Castricum.
Tim Mainland would agree. Originally a hippie from California, his heart and career belong to the Appalachian Mountains. Tim has been with the Folklife Center since the late 1970s and has served as the director since 2022. He taught music at Concord University, in nearby Athens, for more than 40 years and is known for being a folk song collector and banjo player by some and as a composer and classical guitarist by others.
A slide show playing in the church hall displayed pictures from previous mission trips: the work that the volunteers have participated in not only involved building projects with hammers and nails but also cultivating relationships with hearts and hands.
These annual mission trips are a multi-generational venture involving people of all ages who have built bonds with the people in the West Virginia communities.
Mark Guetersloh, an active member of the church, went to West Virginia twice, once with his family and once on his own. His son Nicholas has made the trip multiple times.
The first time Mark and his family went, they worked on repairing the front steps, replacing railings, and painting a home.
Last year, Mark returned to help make repairs on a home for an elderly woman who didn’t have any family who could assist her. The Bedford group worked to make her home safer as well as more comfortable for her.
Mark said the “time you spend with the people will last a lifetime. We were there for them.”
The church has also helped support the Riff Raff Arts Collective (https://theriffraff.net) which
The First Church of Christ, Congregational will go on another mission trip to West Virginia again this summer to help at the home repair service camp. The Bedford participants will stay at the Appalachian South Folklife Center (www.folklifecenter.org) in Pipestem, which organizes their team’s mission projects.
Church members who are not able to go on the mission trip can participate by sending food and selling baked goods at the concert and other fund-raising events. The money raised helps purchase gift cards that can be used to pay for supplies needed for the various West Virginia home repair projects.
Tim and Maggie’s Orcadian Driftwood CD was on sale at the concert. The proceeds will go to the Appalachian South Folklife Center, which was founded by Don and Connie West in 1965. The Center has celebrated more than 50 years of providing programs and services that reflect their pride in being mountaineers, including music festivals, learning day camps, summer home repair service, and other community services. Their focus is on education about their heritage and culture, and their goal is to teach compassion for all cultures of the world starting locally.
Maggie said that of all the groups that have come to volunteer, the Bedford group “is [their] favorite;” they make the people they help feel good because they understand the meaning of mission.