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Rural churches anchor communities

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By Brad Bowman

In this issue, I wrote a story about Port Royal Baptist Church.

I conducted interviews, collected anecdotes and researched the church’s history.

What I hope comes out of the story is what a foundation a church can serve in a rural community.

I don’t dare write a persuasive argument for your attendance, but I write this out of my own gratitude.

I don’t think I would be the same person I am today without growing up in a church.

The church served so many purposes in my childhood and my community.

The congregation may have wanted the church to serve as a place of spiritual guidance, but as a child that seemed only to be a byproduct I didn’t fully understand at the time.

The church first taught me music.

I saw grown men and women who would never sing in public proudly roar through hymns to the tenor heights of trumpets unfettered and unabashed.

Despite the out of key notes sung by the old and the young, I saw everyone celebrating music in unison and it made me want to learn music.

Before there was a piano in our home, I could clink on one at church.

I would learn how to sing long before I reached choir or chorus in school. This wouldn’t have happened anywhere else in my town. We didn’t have a music store.

The church taught me about community.

Every potluck dinner, I saw the community come together, eat together and socialize. People would share local lore, tell jokes, share humorous anecdotes and displayed the neighborliness I would aspire for in my own life.

This wouldn’t have happened anywhere else in my town. We didn’t have a restaurant.

The church taught me history.

I learned through church the history of my town. The same people who built it built my church. I would learn where their family farmed and built their houses. I would learn the family history of the congregation.

This wouldn’t have happened anywhere else in my town. We didn’t have a history center or preservation center.

I would later learn world history, but this history I would have never learned at school. It was part of the history of my family and my identity.

With these childhood experiences, the church taught me reverence.

For the things I hold dear, I first learned and experienced at church.

Where else does that happen for a rural child?