Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 8, 2013
ENOCHVILLE — The Rev. Curtis Davis hasn’t rung the bell at his Old Pathway Free Will Baptist Church since a robin built a nest on top of it several weeks ago.
The cast-iron bell is bolted to the railing of the front deck, and the nest, which now holds some just-hatched baby birds, is well within an upward reach of most congregation members.
But Davis, 77, and his own flock leave it alone. They have a special church, which Davis fashioned three years ago out of a three-bedroom, double-wide trailer in his back yard.
The robin and her family just make it more special.
Davis, a custom cabinetmaker by trade, has been preaching for almost 28 years at places such as Mount Olive, Westside and Oak Grove Baptist churches.
“Finally, I decided I’d like to organize one of my own,” he says.
Davis named his church Old Pathway for a passage from Jeremiah, in which the Lord says, “Stand you in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls.”
On Sundays at Old Pathway, you can park in the grass, if you want. Most people wheel in off Carter Drive, whose crumbly condition resembles an old pathway.
Davis has plans to bring in stone to provide more formal parking, while also covering a bare spot near the street. His own house stands on the hill above the church and faces Spring Garden Avenue.
Davis’ black dog, Flash, resides in a pen attached to the west side of the trailer. Flash barks at strangers but tolerates all the churchgoers, whose Sunday numbers usually range from 15 to 25.
Davis says his church started out with 6 people.
A friend made him the wooden cross for the top of the church.
A family connection with a tree-cutting service helped to take care of some old sweet gums that were a nuisance.
Across Carter Drive, Davis is gradually clearing out some of the pines to create a park in the future.
“It’s a work in progress,” Davis says of the grounds outside, “but it’s going to be fine one day.” He motions to some donated flowers sitting along the mobile home’s foundation he has been meaning to plant.
Inside, the preacher knocked out a wall and transformed the front living room into a sanctuary. He sawed through old pews and made the smaller sections form short rows on each side of the room.
The framed religious pictures on the walls are really jigsaw puzzles lacquered together.
Davis preaches an 11 a.m. Sunday service. But he also holds Bible study at 10 a.m., and he always makes a pot of coffee. The church goes through a lot of coffee. Many members like to take their cups onto the same deck where the robin has been nesting on the bell.
The church kitchen is spacious and provides another good gathering spot. The pastor proudly points out the kitchen’s dishwasher, microwave and stove and the heating and air-conditioning available throughout the mobile home.
“It’s got everything you need,” he says. “It’s got it all.”
Davis has kept both bathrooms in working order, and he also has set aside a furnished bedroom, in case any church member needs a place to stay for a few days, for any reason.
The mobile home once belonged to and served as home for Davis’ daughter and her family. The land was his. When Davis first formed Old Pathway, he rented a small building on 22nd Street in Kannapolis for $50 a month, but soon the rent increased to $150, and he looked for a better option.
In three months, he raised the $46,000 he needed for the mobile home. As owner, he doesn’t charge the congregation a salary or a monthly lease, but it must pay the utility bills and insurance.
“I am completely happy with it,” Davis says.
Once a member of the Genesis Gospel Singers, Davis still sings at church on occasion, but he leaves more of the music to members Kathy Gales and Jean Hodge.
A karaoke machine also is available. Davis has keyboards, too, but no one to play them.
Davis thinks he might fashion an office some day out of one of the mobile home’s remaining bedrooms. There’s no rush.
Meanwhile, he continues to enjoy his little church and the years he has left with his wife of 58 years, Mildred.
As for the robin, Davis says he has yet to build a sermon around the bird’s presence this spring.
But one is percolating, like the coffee pot does every Sunday.
“I’ll ask the Lord what he’ll have me do about this,” he says, looking up toward the nest.
Try this: God’s wonders happen in all kinds of places.
Old Pathway Free Will Baptist Church is located at 508 Carter Drive (Kannapolis mailing address). Pastor Davis’ telephone number is 704-938-4053. Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or firstname.lastname@example.org.