Confirmation Class

During this time of the COVID pandemic and in-person classes being suspended, Church Street’s Confirmation class has continued without any interruption. This year’s class of fifteen 6th and 7th graders began last September and will continue through April 2021. They meet every Sunday at 11 am via Zoom. The parents join the students on screen the first Sundays in the month.

The class is taught by Rev. Rick Isbell with on-screen help from Russell & Melanie McNutt and Jeri Strong. Behind the scenes Jenny Cross’ support has been tremendous in setting up electronic student folders, and Paula Buckner’s filing system of past Confirmation materials has been invaluable in helping us continue to get important Confirmation materials to students.

We have been delighted for our clergy staff to join the class periodically along with Confirmation mentors. In addition to weekly class sessions, class members have also been collecting food items for BOH Food Co-op as well as money to contribute to Heifer Project International.

In spite of all the challenges and hurdles of doing class via Zoom, the students have been great in their attendance and participation. We’ve even had some class members to join us while traveling in the car on trips (there are some advantages to Zoom!). What the future holds, we don’t know; but the Confirmation class will keep zooming along.

At the start of each summer, Church Street participates in a special hands-on mission project in conjunction with the Holston Conference. In an unprecedented year, the need was greater than ever, and the task more challenging than ever. 

Within the Holston Conference, projects in Liberia and Zimbabwe are supported by the fulfillment of buckets full of food and school supplies. For the past two years, Church Street has supported the Zimbabwe-based project Ishe Anesu, which is designed to provide education to under-resourced children. This is accomplished through the payment of school fees and the purchase of required school uniforms, books and stationery.

“American schools are funded by the state,” Associate Pastor Rev. Palmer Cantler says. “Many public schools in African countries are not free and require families to pay for the education of their children.”

The Ishe Anesu project also offers Christian education and values, family and social ethics and recreation while providing two meals a day. Those meals are supported in part by the Church Street congregation. 

In the two years Church Street has supported Ishe Anesu, Rev. Cantler has set a goal of fulfilling 50 food buckets. In 2019, the Tennessee Valley region of the Holston Conference sent 716 buckets to Zimbabwe. So far in 2020, 220 buckets have been sent. 

Each bucket is filled with 1 bag (4-5 lb.) sugar; 1 bag (4-5 lb.) self-rising flour; 1 bag (2 lb.) rice; 1 bag (2 lb.) dried beans; 1 powdered milk (10 oz. or less); 1 box (18 oz. or less) quick/instant oats; 1 bottle (48 oz. or less) cooking oil; 1 box (50 count or less) Splenda/sucralose; and canned ham (2 lb. total). 

The 5-gallon bucket must be packed strategically, Rev. Cantler says, because if one thing is off, it can be flagged by customs on its way to Zimbabwe and the whole shipment could be delayed. 

Before the pandemic, buckets would sit in the breezeway of the church, waiting for members to take them home and fill before returning on a specific day, or members could support the project financially. Volunteers would then check each bucket to ensure that each was packed correctly before sealing with a lid and loading for shipment. 

But as time for the annual hands-on project approached in 2020, Rev. Cantler was unsure of how to move forward with the buckets in a safe way, let alone fill 50 appropriately with a food shortage. Missions chair Katie Heatherly sparked confidence and the team decided to give it a try. 

Opting to ask the congregation to support financially, it was nearly a week before the donations from members funded 70 buckets, surpassing the annual goal of 50 buckets in record time. 

In addition to the financial giving from members, a church member affiliated with Home Depot learned about the project from the church newsletter and approached the missions team about donating the buckets for packing. Rev. Palmer also connected with a Kroger and Walgreens partner to order the appropriate food. Each partner coordinated the best way to safely order and transport supplies to the church. 

Masked and gloved, the missions team packed 70 buckets in one night, working socially distanced in an assembly line style. The buckets were packed and sent off to their recipients in Zimbabwe. 

“It was really amazing that we were able to do more,” Rev. Cantler says. But, little did she know when she received the updated numbers the next week that donations for the project had jumped to about $5,000— almost double what was received in the first week. 

In addition to learning that donations had far exceeded what she expected, Rev. Cantler felt confident that the team of volunteers could fill the gap caused by COVID-19’s impact on other churches in the Tennessee Valley region. She ordered more food, asked her contact at Home Depot for 50 more buckets and on Saturday, Nov. 7, volunteers packed 50 more buckets. This brings the total for the Holston Conference total to 270. 

“I hoped for 30 at the beginning of the year,” Rev. Cantler says. “120? I was astonished.” 

This miraculous act of giving by the Church Street congregation reminds Rev. Cantler of her word for the year: Flexibility. Early in 2020, events happened that began to be clear signs that God was showing her how to have flexibility in her life, and the Zimbabwe food buckets are no exception. 

“A big lesson in 2020 for me is God is abundant,” she says. “God has continued to show up in abundance and generosity and shown generosity in this congregation.” 

What started as a goal of 50 more than doubled, and it created quite the impact on the Ishe Anesu project as founder Maria Sabino Humbane and her team continue to support the immediate needs of the poorest of the poor. They can provide more opportunities for continued growth through vocational training and outreach programs to educate and empower mothers of Ishe Anesu children. 

“I just keep praying for abundance and flexibility and staying out of the way,” Rev. Cantler says. “No matter what, God will provide.” 

Want to become involved with Missions at Church Street? Learn more here

Upcoming Project Volunteers Needed for:
  • Provide Lunch for Getting Ahead Class: Lunches are needed for our next Beacon of Hope Getting Ahead Class, which begins on Monday, 9/30. If you’re able to provide a dinner for about 10 people, please contact Dona McConnell (865-599-5047). 12 volunteers are needed.
  • Youth Mission BlitzJoin our Youth during Fall Break (October 10-11) for three different mission opportunities. See the front page of this week’s Messenger for more info. Lunch provided, and construction expertise valued (though not necessary for every volunteer opportunity on those days). Contact Jenny Cross at if you would like to volunteer.
  • Provide Dinner for Family Promise: If you are able to provide a dinner October 7 or 8, please contact Susan Fowlkes to help at

  • Trunk or Treat Trunks: Children’s Ministry is gearing up for a great Trunk or Treat on October 27 at 5 pm. We are looking to pack the Magnolia Parking Lot for our kiddos with at least 30 cars. Please contact Katryn Bancroft if you want to join in the fun and decorate your trunk for the festivities (

  • Halloween Carnival at Beacon of Hope: Help provide activities/games, candy for trick or treating, and support on October 29 at 4:00 at Vestal UMC for the kids Beacon of Hope serves in this South Knoxville neighborhood. Please contact Dona McConnell (865-599-5047) if you would like to help.
Ongoing Needs for Volunteers:
Beacon of Hope Sharing Shop — Second and Fourth Thursday of each month at Vestal UMC in South Knoxville (12 pm). Contact Dona McConnell if interested. 

Beacon of Hope Benevolence Volunteers — Meet every Tuesday at Vestal UMC in South Knoxville (12 pm) to provide assistance to our neighbors in South Knoxville. Contact Dona McConnell if interested.



Here’s how you can help at our Sharing Shops currently: 

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”


Beacon of Hope, located at the former Vestal United Methodist Church in South Knoxville, serves Church Street’s neighbors in need through a variety of programs. This week, Beacon of Hope shared a new program with the area’s children: Vacation Bible School.

Along with parents and volunteers from Church Street, children ages 3 and up were engaged with Bible stories, songs, art projects, active lessons, and prayer as they learned more about “Life is Wild; God is Good”, this year’s theme. Enjoy the photo gallery below of kids (and adults!) taking part in this fun 3-day event.

sharing shop logo

Church Street’s Sharing Shops are in need of the following items for the summer months: women’s casual summer clothing and shoes, men’s casual summer clothing and shoes, toilet paper and shampoo. If you are able to share any of these items, please bring them to the Sharing Shops bins on the lower level of the church outside of Parish Hall. If you have questions, you may contact Dona McConnell at 599-5047. Please share these needs with your communities who may be able to contribute.