Sunday, June 10, 2007

Homecoming at Midway

(Sabbath Blog #21)

The church of my childhood was the Midway Baptist Church, located on City Pond Road just off Georgia Highway 36 about four miles outside of my hometown of Barnesville. Lord willing, I will have the chance to write many posts over the years about my experiences at that church. Today I want to talk about the annual Homecoming celebration which always fell on the second Sunday in June.

Homecoming at Midway was about music. Most years we had no preaching on Homecoming Day. Preacher Bill (who will be the subject of his own post someday soon) seemed to enjoy the day off. What we did have was Gospel singing. Midway was a center for Southern Gospel singing. We held a Gospel sing one Saturday night a month. On Homecoming Sunday we’d have anywhere from two to four singing groups come in. Typically, one group would sing in the morning service and then all the groups would perform during the afternoon. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, we heard such groups as the Crossroads Quartet, the Canadians, and the Melody Makers. Most of the groups were not headliners; they made the rounds of the churches that liked to hear such music. Most of them seemed to my youthful eyes to be earnest enough about what they were doing.

Homecoming at Midway was also about food. For years, the food-laden tables were lined up right out in the open in the church’s back yard. At some point in the early ‘70s, a National Guard engineering unit build a long shelter back there, which was nice, church/state concerns notwithstanding! To me, the amazing amount of food was a foretaste of the glory divine that I anticipated the great messianic banquet being. There was fried chicken, deviled eggs, pickled peaches, baked ham, pork & beans, pecan pie, and coconut cake. But above all else, there was barbecue and Brunswick stew. Sometimes, the men of the church would labor all night on Homecoming Eve to cook the hog; sometimes, the church would hire the job out. Either way, the meat was delicious. There were four aluminum washtubs on the tables: one for the barbecue, one for the Brunswick stew, one for the sweet tea, and one for the lemonade. Goodness, it was good.

Homecoming at Midway was also about atmosphere. People sat around in the yard on folding chairs that they would take from Sunday School rooms. There they told tall tales, gossiped, and just chatted, all the while trying to cool themselves with funeral home fans. Folks meandered in and out of the sanctuary during the afternoon singing; nobody was surprised or offended if someone nodded off in the heat while listening to the music. Children played on the swings. Folks who had enough got in their cars and left. Folks who went to their own churches in the morning drove up in their cars for lunch and the afternoon singing. Midway was always a laid-back church but things were especially laid-back on Homecoming Day.

If my memory serves me well, the last Homecoming Day that I attended at Midway was thirty years ago today. I guess that they’ve been having it every year since. Yesterday, I looked at the church’s website and saw that today they are having Homecoming at 10:30 featuring the Southern Gospel singing group the Diplomats. It’s good to know that some things never change.

This job I have requires me to work on Sundays so I can’t be there. I sure do hope that somebody will eat some barbecue for me!

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