There are many things I cherish about a small, southern church and Homecoming Sunday. You see, I grew up in Cedar Springs Baptist Church. I have cried more tears there than I can count; and most of my memories in my life I can tie back here too. The church is a mile from the house I grew up in and where I live now too. This is the church where I met Jesus and built my Christian foundation. Honestly, most of the significant memories and life events took place here for me: my wedding, my baby shower, showing off my first born child, my Mama’s funeral. So when people want to know what I cherish about a small, southern church it is simple really…memories.
My parents were the reason I was raised in church. But not just any church. I was raised in a church that taught the Bible, Christ resurrected and the way to Heaven is through Jesus alone. I never recall asking them if we were going to church on Sunday. We knew that we were going, it wasn’t a question. The only way we weren’t going was if we were sick.
Most Sunday nights and Wednesday night prayer meetings we would attend as well. It was really pretty rare for us to miss a service. Sunday School wasn’t an option either. My Mama taught classes for as long as I can remember and my Dad taught a few years too. I have many fond memories of my Aunt June teaching my Sunday school class when I was little. We didn’t have big trips with church, but a drive to the Greenville Zoo was a huge treat that we all loved.
As a child, I remember my Mama teaching VBS and soaking up her lessons like a sponge. And after I was grown I still loved to listen to her. I taught Sunday School for many years when Morgan was a teenager. I would always ask her for her opinion on the commentary I was using or get her help studying for the lesson. After I stopped teaching, I went to her class and could listen to her all day. She was so good at explaining things to you in a way that just clicked.
From the time I was able to walk, I guess, I have been singing in church. Cedar Springs still has the red back hymnals that I love. Depending on the person leading the song, you might guess what it is before they even tell you the page number. Jiggs Beddingfield loved “Power In The Blood“, Douglas Capps still goes with “Just As I Am” for the invitation a lot and the Lincoln Maybin family is partial to “His Love Lights The Way“. Arnetta Mullinax plays the piano at every service and her sister Nola played the organ, and sang louder than anyone else, until a few years ago when her health declined too much. Garland Mullinax leads the songs a lot too but I can’t always predict his selections because I think Arnetta picks them for him. 🙂
So many others have sang songs that touched my heart through the years as well. I used to pretend I could sing as good as Gwen Head, but I never quite got there. Gary Ballard is one of the sweetest, kindest people on the Earth. He has a vision impairment but it doesn’t stop him. I think he can play about any instrument by ear. He knows pretty much every lyric to every gospel song. And he just has a good heart. I worked with Gary at Falling Creek Camp and he kept me laughing and has always been so sweet to me.
Every Wednesday we would have singing practice for the kids or young people before service. Arnetta and Nola would work with us to teach us great songs. My cousin Joyce and I would practice all week to be in top shape for performing on Sunday morning. I bet she and I could still sing most of them, including our favorite, “The Preacher Was A Preaching”. (I don’t know the real name but I know all the lyrics to it! Haha!) It was always a treat at the end of practice to sing, “Down In My Heart” with Nola playing the piano really fast to see if we could keep up.
When Hope was little and I finally got to move out of Etowah and back to Green River, she sang with Arnetta and Nola too. Arnetta took her under her wing and treated her like a grandchild of her own. She taught her old fashioned shape note music and more. It is so amazing to me that it came full circle and she will have memories with the same people I do that impacted my life.
While the preaching was happening, we played a lot of tic-tac-toe. (Obviously, this is in the 80’s, so way before tablets and cell phones.) Don’t get me wrong, we listened but at that young age it is hard to pay attention for that amount of time. At the end of the service an invitation was always provided for a response. If Douglas Capps led the music, most likely we sang, “Just as I Am”.
I can honestly say, I have knelt at that altar more times than I can count. There are specific times I remember having moments of clarity; where I felt Jesus telling me to go and pray. I came to know Christ in that altar. I have prayed there many times to make things right and ask for forgiveness, to pray for someone or just cry to Jesus with a broken heart.
My Mama cooked a big lunch on most Sunday’s. It was rare for us to not have a meal there. Even when she was sick, she tried to cook or have a big family meal. Almost every Sunday night we ate an egg sandwich with an ice cold Coca-Cola, NOT PEPSI. It is funny how you associate food and meals with Sunday and church, but they really go hand in hand for me.
There is on thing about Cedar Springs…everyone knows how to cook. And they have any excuse to have a meal. They still have 5th Sunday dinners at the Fellowship Building. Every year after the Christmas Program, there is a huge meal of pizza and the best snack food and desserts you can find. Easter Egg Hunts after an Easter Picnic and Sunrise Service with breakfast is always a tradition as well.
But the penultimate potluck has to be Homecoming Sunday. This always falls on the first Sunday in July. There is a cleanup the day before and a long table is set up under the trees near the river. Current and past members are invited “home” to celebrate and fellowship. I can’t recall too many times I have missed this event. My mama always made something exceptionally good to eat and a dessert that people would rave over too. My Granny used to cook all of her specialties including her “Mounds Cake” and Italian Cream Cake. But when she took it to the church, she did not use cream cheese icing, to make her baby brother happy.
Over the years, so many people I love have gone on to Heaven. I like to think they were having their own Homecoming celebration while we were enjoying our earthly one. And as much as I love the one here, I don’t it can’t possibly hold a candle to the one we will experience one day when we are reunited with our loved ones who have gone on before us.
There are many things I know to be true about a small, southern church. But without a doubt the thing I treasure the most is the people and family that are there. Even though I don’t go to church here anymore, I know that the people here would help me in a moment of need or without question. They may argue sometimes, but they really are people that love and will help. Isn’t that what makes a church a family?
I am so thankful that I was raised in this church, with these people. Most of my childhood memories are either at church or with people I knew from church. And I wouldn’t change a thing. So, when people want to know the reason I am the way I am today, I know that a big piece of it is because of this small, southern church and all the love and people in it. Do you have similar memories like this? What do you love the most about the church and memories you grew up in?
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