Harlem's Baptist and United Methodist churches have sat next to each other for more than 70 years, separated only by a field bearing three crosses.
Last year, the two churches filled that field with people from all over the community for Sonfest as a big-bang start to Mission 1:10, a community outreach ministry aimed at making a difference in the community and bringing different people together, said the Rev. Roger Vest of Harlem United Methodist Church.
"It is a community celebration," Vest said. "We want to get people together. We have a wonderful field right next to the church. A lot of folks work together. They go to school together. But then they don't socialize together. We break into our little groups, our own churches. This is just a way of bringing people together and enjoying the community."
That field will be filled with gospel and fellowship again Saturday for the second annual Sonfest. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., local entertainers, including Promise Land Singers, will perform.
Vest said the event will feel like an old country fair complete with a sack race, egg toss and three-legged race. Food and arts and crafts vendors will sell their wares.
Harlem's bakers will compete in a cake and pie bake-off at 1 p.m., where anyone can purchase a slice of their favorite sweet treat. While adults snack on cake or sing along, children can make their own fun in the children's play area.
At 6 p.m., church choirs from around the county - including Piney Grove Baptist Church, New Holt Baptist Church, New Hope Baptist Church, Second Mount Moriah Baptist Church and Dearing Full Gospel - will take the stage for a few songs each with community worship and prayer in the breaks, Vest said.
The day's events are free and open for the public.
Harlem Mayor Scott Dean, who is a member of Vest's congregation, said the gathering of all residents in a fellowship atmosphere has made amazing improvements in relations between races.
"We, as a country, have spent 30 or 40 years desegregating the schools," Dean said. "But on Sunday morning, we are still segregated. And this has helped us a lot to break down some of those walls a little bit. We are communicating a lot more, and I have never felt more welcome than at some of the African-American churches in town."
With money raised at the first festival and through others fund-raisers, the joint ministry has purchased four truckloads of excess produce from Golden Harvest Food Bank for $150 each and distributed it to needy families. Vest hopes to begin a state-funded Summer Feeding Program, which will provide hot meals for children who are offered free or low-cost lunches from the school system, Vest said.
Everyone involved said they will just be happy recreating the magic of last year's Sonfest.
"It was great," Vest said. "We think there were probably around 1,000 folks that came. We had a lot of different groups that sang and ate. It was a beautiful day."
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