On a sunny Sunday afternoon in March, Prestonwood Baptist Church is hosting a special chicken dinner and chicken wings sale.
The church, located on a quiet, suburban street in the northwest suburbs of St. Louis, offers free chicken wings and a variety of other items.
The idea is to bring some color to the church’s dark and dingy brick exterior, where the color of the church and its members are often overlooked.
“The name Prestonwood means, in part, the house where the children are raised,” says Pastor Steve L. Smith, a minister at Prestonwood.
“There are a lot of families here, and they feel like they are neglected by their church.
It’s kind of the opposite of that at Prestonwoods.”
Smith started the church when he was in the early 20s, in the St. Charles parish in Missouri, after his mother died.
He went on to become a parishioner, and then a minister.
“I started to see my congregation was very diverse, and that was just a blessing,” he says.
Smith and his wife, Lori, are the first black members of the congregation.
The couple met and married in 2003, and have been together for 15 years.
In addition to the special meal and wings sale, Smith will also be hosting a community service at Preston Woods Baptist Church this Saturday, March 23.
Smith has a simple message for his congregation: “We need to work together.
We need to build unity.
We can’t do it alone.
We are all in this together.”
A lot of the community, especially black and brown people, are on the fence about whether or not to attend the church.
Many people, especially younger people, say they aren’t comfortable attending a church that is predominantly white and that has a history of racism.
“We want people to know that we care about each other,” Smith says.
“And we are going to keep fighting until that unity is achieved.”