COLUMBIA — Red and blue stars and streamers decorated the walls, and red carnations ornamented the tables of the First Christian Church gymnasium as folks cozied up with bowls of chili and slices of pie.
For the 13th year in a row, First Christian Church hosted its annual Election Day luncheon.
The luncheon tradition began in Paris, Mo., where Brenda Mosby and Mimi McRoberts attended church. McRoberts said she and Mosby thought it was a good idea and wanted to bring it to Columbia.
“We were pretty inexperienced and perhaps a bit unrealistic when we started this,” McRoberts said. “So looking back, I’m really amazed it came together so well. I’m not sure I’d have the nerve today to start it up again.”
Serving from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., McRoberts estimated the luncheon fed about 350 to 400 people, including meals delivered to businesses and individuals not able to make it to the church and take-out orders.
Diners could choose from a selection of chili, sandwiches and relishes, potato au gratin soup and pie.
Alexandra Estes, 9, who had the day off from school, said the apple pie was her favorite and that the event is something she looks forward to each year.
“We’ve got some great pie-bakers in our congregation, and it’s given them an opportunity to show off their culinary skills,” McRoberts said.
Though held on Election Day, the luncheon was not meant to be a venue for political debate or campaigning of any kind.
"Almost everybody's got their 'I Voted' sticker on, so it's all been done and decided," said 50-year church member Clifford Tompson, 80.
Tompson said he's been to every luncheon and that the event is special because it doesn't happen every day.
"It's always fun, and we see lots of friends—even Presbyterians," he said, smiling at a Presbyterian friend at his table.
“It’s nothing to do with politics,” Mosby said. “It was an excuse to have a luncheon.”
The event is not meaningless, however.
“It’s an opportunity for all of us in the church to work together and get to know each other and to be more of a presence in the downtown area,” she said.
Because the church is located in the district, which is more commercial-oriented than a neighborhood, it can make the church community hard to develop. The women saidthe luncheon is one way to foster the relationship between the church and the community.
“It’s not in a residential area, so we thought it might be a nice way for us to not only work together as a church but to work together as a neighborhood,” McRoberts said.
“It starts a conversation,” Mosby said. “We want to be a friendly church, and we want to serve others, so it gives us the opportunity to do that.”
Mosby's husband, Don Mosby, 76, served chili at the lunch.
"I've been standing in this spot for 13 years," he said with his chin up, chest out and ladle in hand.
Don Mosby has been a member of First Christian Church for 62 years and said about 70 percent of the patrons each year are people from outside the church who look forward to the event.
The women also said money raised from the event will help fund mission trips, projects the Christian Women’s Fellowship pursues, church youth programs and different shelters in town.
“You can be active on any level in the church,” McRoberts said, “and a lot of times people have a tendency to just come on Sunday mornings, and you come back and do that all again next week. When you’re working side-by-side with someone, you just get a chance to bond a little more closely. You get a chance to hear about their grandchildren, their vacations, their likes and dislikes. That’s something that typically doesn’t happen on a Sunday morning."