Memories of the second Sunday in July
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2003
'Tis the season for church homecomings, but few have the distinction of celebrating the event "since the beginning of time."
Elsie Lindsey, laughingly, said that's how long Antioch Church of
Christ has been celebrating homecoming on the Second Sunday in July, however the beginning of its time was 1895.
The Antioch Church of Christ at Shellhorn was originally known as Pottersville Christian Church. Jeff Redmon, Lindsey's grandfather, deeded the land for the church. With a heritage like that, wild horses couldn't keep Lindsey and her family away from the little church in Shellhorn on homecoming day.
The Second Sunday in July is a tradition for those who have ties to Antioch Church of Christ. No matter how tight or loose the ties, everyone comes home on that special day of the year.
Sunday school will begin at 9 a.m. Sunday followed by the homecoming worship service at 10 a.m. and "dinner-on-the-ground" at noon.
"The service won't last that long, but it will take us that long to get our favorite dishes spread," said Lindsey's sister, Jean Bryan. "We take a lot of pride in what we take to homecoming. Always have."
Bryan said her mother would always save her prized little butterbeans for homecoming.
"Homecoming was the biggest day of the year," she said. "We would start getting ready for homecoming from one year to the next. It was our trip to the coast. We didn't know what the coast was, but we new it was something big. Homecoming was our something big."
Back then, "homecoming" started on Sunday and ran all week, a revival of sorts.
"We didn't call it a revival," Bryan said. "Methodist and Baptist called their meetings revivals, but, for us, that would have been unscriptural. We had 'a series of gospel meetings.'"
Lindsey said "back then" it took a lot of folks working like wildfire to prepare for homecoming and the series of gospel meetings.
Getting the church ready meant a workday of sweeping and wiping down the church, sweeping the church yard with a stick broom and cleaning the graveyard.
"We had a toilet in the graveyard - a two-seater," Lindsey said. "Somebody had to clean it out before homecoming and try to knock down the sand spurs so folks could get to it. Shellhorn's sandy soil wasn't good for much except growing sand spurs."
Tables were made from planks on sawhorses and placed under the "big oak tree."
But, work at the church was just hint of the preparations being made at home.
"We always got new a dress, new shoes and a new hat for homecoming," said Lindsey's daughter, Betty Coppage, adding that the new hat came in handy for swatting away the gnats and flies that always came to homecoming on those hot July Sundays when dinner was really
"on the ground."
On Saturday afternoon, a yard chicken would be killed and fried fresh on Sunday morning.
"Mama would kill the chicken, pluck it and singe it," Bryan said. "I can still smell that odor. I don't know how we could eat the chicken that smelled like that, but we could. There would be the most good food at homecoming and we looked forward to it all year."
The food wasn't the only reason the "girls" looked forward to homecoming. Food was probably a very distant second.
"Boys," Bryan said, laughing. "Boys. Homecomings and gospel meetings were our summer entertainment.
"That's when we got to see the boys. We'd go to Ramer, Dublin, Oak Bowery, anywhere we could get."
And, when the boys were coming to Antioch Church of Christ, the girls would double-dip their petticoats in starch.
"We'd have them starched so stiff that the starch would crumble off on the church pews," Bryan said. "But, we looked real cute."
The homecoming preacher usually had a lengthy sermon that kept the congregation away from the fried chicken and potato salad longer than they wanted to be.
"It's good that we didn't have food poisoning back then because it would be so hot and the food would stay out so long that we all would have died," Bryan said.
After dinner and a little time for socializing, everyone would head back inside the church for an afternoon of singing.
"There were no musical instruments. We just sang from the heart," Coppage said. "The church would be so full that the children would have to sit up front on the floor around the pulpit. And we knew that we had better behave or we'd be taken out and, when we came back in. there would be no questions asked."
The week of the gospel meetings meant company in the house.
"Mama usually let the visiting preacher stay at our house," Bryan said. "Usually we had vegetables during the week, but, if the preacher was there, we had meat
— chicken and sometimes roast beef."
desserts," Lindsey said. "We really put on the dogs when the preacher came."
Putting on the dogs meant putting bought sheets on the bed. "We slept on sheets made from guano sacks, but the preacher got bought sheets. We loved for the preacher to come."
The meetings always resulted in a trip to the mill pond for a baptism. Lindsay was baptized in the dark, murky pond.
"We wore white dresses to be baptized, but they put a raincoat on us to come out of the water, because, when the dresses got wet, you could see through them," she said. "Sometimes a woman's dress would float to the top of the water and I can remember the preacher fighting to get the dress down. Sometimes I don't think he tried too hard."
The traditional baptism song was "Shall We Gather at the River."
"As soon as we saw a head come up out of the water we started singing," Bryan said. "I was scared of that dark water and I didn't want to be baptized in it. When my time came, I came to Troy."
Although they are now city girls, their hearts are still tied to memories of the days of yard chicken, gnats and two-seaters in the cemetery. And, on Sunday — Second Sunday in July — they'll be at Antioch Church of Christ in Shellhorn for homecoming.
"And we can hardly wait," the girls said in unison. "Everybody is invited to come and bring your favorite dish to share. If you don't have a dish, come anyway. It's going to be a great day."