Athletes gather to fraternize | Religion

The Lenoir City First Baptist Church held its annual wild game supper and sports banquet on Saturday.

Church members and guests had the opportunity to learn about gun safety, talk about fishing and stock up on wild game including venison, wild hog, fish, thighs of frogs, chicken and moose stroganoff.

FBC has hosted the outdoor sporting event for about 17 years, said Dick DeMerchant, senior adult and church-wide activities pastor.

“It’s a popular event that fills a need for hunters and anglers,” he said.

DeMerchant said the mission is to reach people who love hunting and fishing but may not have fallen in love with Jesus Christ.

The church organizes other activities, including the June cruise, to bring church and community members together in popular activities.

The event featured interesting things to do and see.

In the back of the parking lot near the sports fields, Jim Orlowske, a member of the FBC and volunteer hunter safety instructor, operated a clay pigeon thrower. He and Bill Badaux braved the rainy weather to give participants the chance to shoot a shotgun at a moving target.

After receiving instructions on the safety and operation of the 20-gauge pump, Dennis Barth took some shots on orange flying discs. Both discs landed continuously on the field. Barth said he didn’t think he was going to hit the targets, but he appreciated the chance to try.

Other shooting sports were demonstrated indoors.

Bill Smith, a National Sporting Clays Association instructor, showed Kaylee Olsen how to hold, aim and fire a Daisy BB gun at a line of balloons tied to a blanket at the end of a classroom. After a few tries, she was breaking balloons. His brother Hunter was next to try.

To learn more about the great outdoors, one had to get some gardening tips from University of Tennessee principal and agricultural extension agent Neal Denton. Jeff and Pat Boyd listened intently to Denton as he described soil conditions and planting schedules for different garden plants.

Pat asked about planting tulip bulbs. Jeff said he had more fun smashing balloons with the BB gun in the next room.

The upstairs hallways of the hall were lined with exhibits of taxidermists, cutlers, and gunsmiths like Vaughn Loveday, known nationwide for his authentic hand-made, muzzle-loading flintlock guns.

Dewayne Pressley of Lenoir City marveled at the craftsmanship of a curly maple flint and asked how long it took to build one.

“I don’t pay attention to how long it takes,” Loveday replied.

Anthony Chitwood, wildlife officer for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, was busy around his table answering questions about hunting and fishing seasons and handing out pamphlets describing native fish species.

“Tennessee has more species of freshwater fish than any other state,” he said.

But the biggest gathering took place in the hall where guests feasted on a variety of wild game after a prayer led by Senior Pastor John Hunn.

Hunn added words during the prayer for those fighting in Eastern Europe. “When there is no peace anywhere on the planet, it is worrying,” he said.

Tony Brock, an FBC member who attended the dinner with his son Michael and grandson Landon, filled his plate with wild pork tenderloin and venison. He said he’s been attending the event for as long as he can remember, both for the food and the camaraderie.

Michael said he donated some of the venison from a deer he harvested with a bow last year in Clay County.

Hunn said the event was a great way to bring the community together. People from diverse backgrounds can find common ground and purpose by sitting together to eat. He referenced the story of the prodigal son, in which after the son returned home, his father threw a big party to celebrate.

Having lived and pastored churches in Montana and Alaska, Hunn said he has great respect and love for the outdoors and nature as the ultimate manifestation of God’s power.

“Psalm 19 tells us that all creation is a reflection of the work of the master of creation,” he said.

Hunn said one of the important messages conveyed by celebrating the outdoors is that we need to respect and be good stewards of nature.

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