Smith Lake Baptist Church holds inaugural Betty Smith Memorial Chili Cook-off

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Smith Lake Baptist Church held its inaugural Betty Smith Memorial Chili Cook-off on Feb. 11, bringing the congregation and community together for a night of fellowship and food. (Cheyenne Sharp)

CRANE HILL, Ala. – Some say that laughter is the sound a healthy, thriving congregation. If that holds true, Smith Lake Baptist Church (SLBC) in Crane Hill is the pinnacle of health and happiness as chatter and giggles wafted throughout the building recently.

The congregation gathered in the church’s fellowship hall in remembrance of Betty Smith, a longtime pillar of the church and honorary grandmother to all. Smith passed away in December, leaving  holes in the hearts of her fellow parishioners.

Denise Owens-Edmisten, a relatively new member to the church quickly noticed the void left by Smith’s passing, immediately searching for fixes and solutions. Knowing that nothing could replace the presence of the late congregation member, she turned to an age old solution for a broken heart – warm, hearty food and pure and simple joy. Thus, the inaugural Betty Smith Memorial Chili Cook-off was born.

“We needed a ‘happy’ after Ms. Betty Smith passed away right after Christmas. She was such an integral part of our church that it just deflated everybody and we needed a ‘happy,’” shared Owens-Edmisten. “The church is dying; we live in a world that’s dying. Anything that can bring us together for fellowship, allowing us to invite others, that’s why I wanted to do this.”

Bringing people together in joy and fellowship was Owens-Edmisten’s plan for the night of Feb. 11 and it was a smashing success; friends sat across from strangers who became family, and church pew-pals occasionally made the rounds, doting on the younger generation.

Owens-Edmisten took the floor once again to explain the judging process to the judges who were ready to dive in, saying, “The categories are Most Unusual, Hottest and Best Overall, so taste wisely.”

One parishioner in the crowd questioned Owens-Edmisten’s choice of categories, asking, “Most Unusual?”

“You never know, someone could have brought possum chili!” Owens-Edmisten quipped as the crowd laughed.

In the end, the winners of the inaugural Betty Smith Memorial Chili Cook-Off were Donna Mills with Best Overall, Denise Owens-Edmisten with Hottest and James D. Williams with Most Unusual.

Smith Lake Baptist Church is located at 18585 County Road 222 and can be reached by phone at 256-747-2777.

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