Guest Column

Church life in days gone by

by Norma Haynes

Many hours have been spent by so many interested people in bringing to our community the memories of days gone by, when the Battle of Brown’s Mill was fought right here. These dedicated folks have created opportunities for all of us to learn the history of the early businesses that helped make this town a thriving one, and now the members of the various churches are working to bring the history of each church to the Court Square on Saturday.

It has been a wonderful experience for me to be a part of this exciting project. As I worked on this, it brought to my mind the wonderful memories of growing up in the old sanctuary of First Baptist Church. In my early childhood, church was central in our lives. I well remember every Saturday night I had to polish my white Sunday shoes (in the summer) and wash the shoe strings if my shoes needed strings. I don’t even know if they make shoe polish anymore. I guess they do. I do remember a white-headed man who sat in front of me in church. He had a bald spot in the top of his head, and he always painted that spot with white shoe polish to match his white hair. You polished your shoes on Saturday night so they would have time to dry by Sunday morning. Of course, in the winter I wore black patent leather shoes, and I only had to shine them with a cloth.

Each Sunday morning, my mother got up early and cooked bacon, eggs and homemade biscuits, and we all got ready to go to Sunday school. I always had to memorize a verse from the Bible, and we had to say that “Memory Verse” every Sunday morning during assembly. During the course of my youth in Sunday school, we memorized the books of the Bible, and we had “Sword Drills.” I always carried my Bible to Sunday school, and the teacher would line us up, each with a Bible, and she would call out a scripture verse, and the first one to find it got a star. We were always so proud to brag on how many stars we had by our name on the chart. We also got stars for perfect attendance, and we were given little envelopes in which to put our offering each Sunday.

After Sunday school, we went into the sanctuary for the church service. I can well remember being pinched by my mother for not paying attention, and I was scolded if I didn’t sing the hymns. I was in the youth choir, and we had practice every Saturday morning, after which we all hurried to the Alamo Theater to catch the latest cowboy movie. I was well into my teen years before I was allowed to sit with others my age in church. Until then, we sat as a family.

Sunday nights were special for us. There was always a church service on Sunday night that the whole family attended. Before the church service, I attended BTU, Baptist Training Union. There, we were assigned “parts” of a lesson to learn and recite the next Sunday night. To this day, because of that training, I have never minded speaking in front of people. We always tried to hide behind somebody to keep from being assigned a “part,” but invariably, we were always caught. As my teen years came along, we were blessed to have a wonderful woman who was as close to an angel as I had ever known. This dedicated lady bought a building behind the church, turned it into a youth building, and every single Sunday night before our church service, she served us either hamburgers or hot dogs. She would drive around the town and pick up those who had no transportation and bring them to the church. She made our religious experience one of joy, and how we loved to sing the hymns as one of her friends played the piano after we had our supper. Along with my parents, this wonderful woman influenced my life more than any other.

I realize that times have changed in every aspect of life, and as I have gotten older, I am more aware of just what advantages we here in Newnan had with the wonderful people who made up our churches in every neighborhood.

As we explore the histories of the churches here in Newnan, we look back on the sacrifices that were made by so many dedicated, loyal people who were instrumental in creating these wonderful buildings. And, although the order of worship has changed and the work inside the churches has changed, we are blessed to continue to minister in so many ways to so many. When we take the time to review the history of our own church, we find that selfishness had no place; giving and loving were keys to the workings. I feel so blessed to have been brought up in a loving, giving, caring church and to belong to one right now. Thanks to all who have spent time preparing for the upcoming Church History Day on the Court Square.

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