For decades, sports fans whose teams are in championship games have seen additional competition via a rivalry between the two cities represented.
So when the Chiefs faced the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV, there was also a competition between United Methodist churches in Kansas City and Tampa.
“We decided to do a friendly competition between Tampa United Methodist churches and ours,” said the Rev. Debbie Hull, a deacon and pastor of children’s and missions ministry at Fairway Old Mission UMC.
Hull envisioned challenging a church in the Tampa area to a one-on-one food collection drive. But the Tampa-area district superintendent in the Florida Conference that she spoke with wanted it to be a district vs. district competition.
“It just got huge at that point,” Hull said.
Once it was tallied a few days later, the Gulf Central District in Florida collected 83,944 pounds of food with 39 churches participating. The KC District collected 275,269 – more than triple the amount – from 15 churches.
“Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl,” Hull emailed. “We won the food drive.”
The competition was personal for one pastor in the KC District.
The Rev. Lora Andrews had a separate competition going on. The senior pastor of Lenexa St. Paul UMC was close friends in Vanderbilt Divinity School with the Rev. Erica Allen, co-pastor of Horizon Church, a UMC in Tampa.
“We love Jesus, we love sports, and we love a good friendly competition,” Allen said in a video she and Andrews posted on Facebook.
Andrews was quick to point out the two churches were not wagering on the outcome of the food donations.
“Maybe for bragging rights is about the only thing, per the Book of Discipline,” she said. “We did joke about it throughout the game.”
The final score was 2,545 items for Lenexa St. Paul, 1,627 for Tampa Horizons.
“At least our church did well” even if the Chiefs didn’t, Andrews said, adding “We’re a bigger church than they are.”
Andrews said the food drive united her church after a challenging year.
“What was really cool was that our churches got more excited about giving — not that they weren’t excited to give before — but this year with the pandemic we were missing so much of the celebration and community feel that the Super Bowl brought last year for them,” she said. “It gave them a chance to cheer on in the church setting, something they hadn’t done much before.
“We got to be in touch with our city and our neighbors, too. It was fun for both of us,” Andrews added.
The St. Paul donations went to Johnson County Multi-Service Center, located near the church, and The Hub Argentine, a ministry of the Kansas City District, located in the former Metropolitan Avenue UMC in Kansas City, Kansas.
“It feels good to scramble to figure out how to get food to all the places,” Andrews said.
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