A Very Special Day and Place

Published 9:46 pm Sunday, October 22, 2023

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There are Sundays and, then, there are very special Sundays. This upcoming Sunday is going to be one of those very special ones. I have been asked to bring the Diamond Jubilee, that’s the 75th Anniversary, message at the church I first attended as an infant.

            Not only did I first attend the church as an infant, I was raised in that small church in the village of Cotton, Georgia. I almost said that I grew up in that church, but that would imply that I am grown up. Don’t think so, that is according to many!

            My calling as a pastor is going on thirty years and I have been serving two small, rural churches for over 23 of those years. I have grown to feel very much at home in those churches and both have great meaning in my life but, generally speaking, there is only one “home” church for a person.

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            I have to acknowledge the blessing of being born into a family for which faith was important. Additionally, my people, as some call their ancestors, were church-going people. I didn’t say perfect people; no one on this earthly side of the Jordan is perfect. Suffice it to say, when Sunday came, we were going to be at that Burns Memorial Church in Cotton, Georgia.

            The church was built in 1947 and, before it was even finished, my father and mother were married there. There was a roof on the church, but the ceiling consisted of just the bare rafters and some hanging lights turned on by pulling a hanging cord.

            Daddy was an iceman and we had a big truck for that purpose. He had a weekly route that he would follow. He would pick up heavy blocks of ice, load up his truck, and call upon his customers.

Depending on how much ice they needed for their iceboxes, he would take his ice pick and strike a hundred pound block of ice in prescribed places and break off a portion. After that he would grab the portion of ice with strong tongs and carry it to their iceboxes. We’ve come a long way, baby!

The big truck was our only mode of transportation and I can remember standing up in the seat of the big truck, pulling up to the church on Sunday morning. Our church was one-fourth of a confederation of churches and we had preaching one Sunday in the month.

Sunday School was every week, as was the midweek Wednesday night prayer meeting. Our family was one of those sometimes described as “when the doors of the church were opened, they were there.”

In those days, revivals were not three night affairs but every night for a full week. It was during one of those revival nights that I remember a humorous story.

My sister and her friend sat on the back pew. As we were leaving the house, Daddy told her, “Don’t take those to church.” Naturally, she disobeyed.

The floor to the church was concrete and sloped as in a theatre. Kathy was on the back row “cutting up,” as usual. You have to be a Southerner to know what “cutting up” means. She had that bag with her that Daddy had said, “Don’t take those.”

The revival preacher was offering the evening prayer when the bag slipped out of my sister’s hand and all those marbles began to run down that sloped concrete floor. It must have taken five minutes for every marble to reach the altar of the church. It was hilarious and, even though that was sixty years ago, it is remembered as if it were only yesterday.

  “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.”