a song that we heard on the radio when I was a child. It
was about "the church in the wildwood, the little brown
church in the vale" and when I heard it, I always thought
of the church we knew as Bethany. Bethany was a small
church, white in color, two rooms in size, with an outhouse
and a small family cemetery. It was not in a vale but it
was our church.
Bethany began as Bethany Congregational Church but the merger
of two denominations in the 40s made it Bethany Congregational
Christian Church. It was truly a family church, having
been established by related families in Upson County, Georgia,
the Blacks, the Holloways and the Colquitts, with some other
family names such as McDaniels, McEacherns and Moores. If
there were 50 people there on a Sunday in our youth, there was
Bethany was too small to support a full time pastor so an
itinerant preacher came every 4th Sunday of the month to
preach to his flock. Over time the membership was
actually often made up of Baptists, Methodists and
Presbyterians. The families needed a regular worship
experience and they attended - and usually joined - other
congregations in town. On the 4th Sunday they went to
Sunday School in town and drove out to Bethany for the worship
Of the preachers who served Bethany in my youth, I remember
only one by name and he was Rev. Shepherd. There was
regret when he had to move on because he was loved by many but
he probably got a new assignment to be a fulltime pastor.
Regret - but also gratitude that he would not have to be
on the road and could serve some fortunate pastorate.
Bethany had no staff so maintenance was done by the men and
women of the church. A spring housecleaning and a fall
housecleaning were routine. The stove had to be
installed for winter and wood cut. The pews were dusted,
the floor swept and repairs done prior to the 4th Sunday.
Leaves were raked, grass was cut, windows washed
(occasionally) and the out house restocked with newspaper for
necessary service. The cemetery always got close
attention and is still maintained by family.
There was one Sunday every year when the church was packed!
That was the 4th Sunday in June. This was a
perfect time for a reunion, for that was what it was. The
days were usually sunny, though very warm, school was
out and families could travel. Not as hot as July and
August and the flies not quite as prolific. New fans
were brought in from the funeral homes so everyone could have
access to the cooling breeze that a small piece of cardboard
The week before, local family members were busy with food
preparation and the ones that lived away from Upson County
made plans to be up early on Sunday to drive to Thomaston.
Some had to buy ice and to stock up on supplies that
could travel well. After so many years of doing this,
you almost always knew who could be counted on to bring what.
Uncle Carlton watched for any huge watermelons that came
to his store. Ice cream churns were cleaned and ice
cream salt purchased by several in the church. Aunt
Frances made, among other things, her famous caramel cakes.
Gallon jugs were set out for the iced tea and some
thought of lemonade. Everyone had a specialty that must
be there because cousin so and so would be disappointed if
that was not on the table.
Fresh vegetables, sliced tomatoes, pimento cheese sandwiches,
fried chicken, potato salad, chocolate cakes, coconut cakes,
spice cakes, apple pies, lemon icebox pies, you name it.
If it was delicious, you could count on seeing it on the
tables that were set up under the trees after church. No
one ever left hungry!
The 4th Sunday in June was about food, food and more
here to continue)