Faith Franklin Baptist Church holds 50th homecoming
Little did I know six years ago when I became pianist for Franklin Baptist Church what a warm and caring church I would be serving. Franklin is so much more than a place of worship. It’s a sanctuary for those who are hurting and a place where anyone is welcome. Founded fifty years ago, three charter members, Wanda Rainey, Doris Straub and Ruth Hartman recently shared their favorite memories.
In 1961, when a survey revealed a need for a church on Hwy 601, members from surrounding churches came together to discuss a possible solution. The Franklin Community Center in back of the Rowan Memorial Park Cemetery became the meeting place. Prayer and seeking God’s guidance for the future were always a part of each service. As interest and funds grew, land beside the cemetery was purchased and the first phase of the church built in 1965.
Ruth Hartman remembers laying the first brick. She also remembers when her two sons were saved and her husband, Clyde, baptized. She said she’s enjoyed seeing the church grow over the years and that it is still growing.
Wanda said, “Even before the first brick was laid members met to pray. We were of one mind.” Although some answers to prayers were more evident than others, Wanda remembers one distinctly. She said, “When the church was first built the drive-in movie theater was across the street. Movies were being shown that weren’t appropriate for anyone to see. Often we’d come out of church on Sunday nights and see inappropriate images. Not knowing what to do, we began praying the theater would close down. It didn’t take long after we started praying until a big wind storm blew the screen down, closing the theater for good.”
A recurring theme expressed by Wanda, Doris and Ruth in their discussion was what a loving church Franklin has always been. Doris said, “When someone in the community has a need, members find a way to meet those needs. Sometimes that means cooking or cleaning for a person who is sick or disabled. Other times it means a visit or a listening ear.”
Gregg Phillips has been a recipient of that love as the result of injuries suffered from a car accident in 1985 that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Growing up in the church, Gregg has fond memories going to RA’s, putting his name in the cement at the playground and mowing the yard as a teenager. Confined to a wheelchair since the age of twenty-three, he said, “Franklin Baptist is a kind compassionate church who not only talks about love, but does something about it. I’ll never forget how everyone reached out to help in my time of need.”
Grace Stodard believes one of the strengths of the church has been strong, caring Sunday School teachers, especially in the children and youth departments. Having two daughters, Christie and Sherri, who grew up at Franklin Baptist Church, Grace recalls one Sunday School teacher in particular who made a difference. She said, “Don Heglar kept kids in his class out of trouble many a time because he loved them and they knew it. He’d say, ‘You can fool your momma and your daddy, but you can’t fool me.”’ Both Christie and Sherri work in church ministry today, with Christie a missionary to England.
As with any church, special memories are often made during times of fellowship and community outreach. Cathy Saine recalls the women getting a little “rowdy” during Fall Festivals. She admits she was the “trouble maker,” pushing and shoving to win Louise Nicholson’s red velvet cake during the cake walks. Cathy said, “They finally changed the rules for fear of someone getting hurt. And, yes, that was because of me.” Her plans are to make a red velvet cake for the homecoming celebration using Louise’s recipe.
Wanda said one of her favorite memories was watching the young boys play football on the front lawn after service each Sunday. Gregg proudly said, “I was one of those young boys who used to play. We had lots of fun playing football after church in our Sunday best. As soon as church was over, out the door we’d go. One Sunday I even tore a hole in my pants.” Thinking back to that day, his mom, Sadie Phillips said, “Yes, he did.”
One of the funniest stories shared was by Doris Straub. Once she opened up, she had everyone in stitches. She shared about the sheep that got away after a live Nativity scene one Christmas. She said, “At the time, Alan Hoffner was dating my daughter, Connie. Each night after the live Nativity he would take the animals to a barn on West Ridge Road using his trailer. On the last night, he took the trailer to my house with the intent of taking the animals to their owners later. The animals included a donkey, a cow and two sheep. Everything was fine until one of the sheep decided to escape, jumping over the top rail of the trailer, taking off down through the woods behind my house. Being dark, there wasn’t much anyone could do, so we decided to pray and wait until morning to find it. Everyone, including Margie Shoaf, was at my house the next morning at 7:00 to help look for that sheep. After quite a bit of effort tromping through the woods, Margie’s sons, Mike and David Shoaf spotted the sheep across a pond. They had to walk across a plank to get to it, and then walk back carrying it. One of the reasons we were so worried was because it was close to shearing time and we didn’t want to have to pay a farmer big bucks for losing his sheep.” As Doris tells the story, she’s laughing and so is everyone else.
During the ’80s and ’90s Ron Saine led the music and will be leading the music again this Sunday for the 50th Homecoming Celebration. Ron was also the lead singer for a men’s quartet that sang almost every Sunday when he was music director. Other members of the quartet were Buddy Rainey, Robert Nicholson and Gary Greene. They were together for almost 12 years, with Jeannette Jones as the accompanist.
All of these stories serve to highlight that Franklin Baptist Church is a place that serves the needs of the people, body, mind and soul. From Rev. Herman C. Absher, the first pastor called to serve, to Rev. Joe Thomas, the pastor now, this church has been a lighthouse in the community. A safe haven where needed, Franklin Baptist and its members plan to light the way until Jesus comes.
If you don’t have a home church, plan to visit Sunday, September 27, 2015 at 10 a.m. for the 50th Homecoming Celebration to experience a warmth and love that will keep you coming back. Former pastor, Dr. Larry Twitty will bring the message. Hope to see you there!
Dicy McCullough is a local children’s author. Contact her at 704-278-4377 or her website, www.dicymcculloughbooks.com