Posts Tagged With: Bible study

Sunday School at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia

Here’s the bottom line of this blog: If you’ve never attended Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, to hear President Jimmy Carter teach Sunday school, you need to put that on your short term bucket list.

This is a unique experience. One-of-a-kind. Unparalleled. This humble Christian, former President of the most powerful nation on earth and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, stands in front of a sanctuary full (about 300 people) of pilgrims to Plains almost every Sunday. He delivers, without notes, his understanding of a selected Bible text.

Maranatha Baptist Church invited me to preach for them today (April 30) and next Sunday (May 7). Home from my four months in Connecticut, I gladly accepted.

Long an admirer of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, I’ve looked forward to being in Plains at the same time as the Carters so I could participate in Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church. My daughter Julie and I attended the Baptist World Alliance in Birmingham, England, in 2005, and President Carter taught the Sunday school lesson there to a couple thousand of us gathered in a civic arena of some sort. That was a good, but different, experience.

The church members of Maranatha, a small congregation, are the unsung heroes of this ministry. They arrive at the church as early as 5:30 on Sunday morning to begin their hospitality ministry to out-of-town, out-of-state, and out-of-country guests. This morning, worshipers gathered from half a dozen or more countries and twenty or thirty states. The locals are gracious in sharing their church with visitors from afar, as well as with Secret Service agents. Before Sunday school, the church’s guests are given an often-humorous lecture about protocol, what to expect, and what not to expect. No clapping. You don’t clap for your Sunday school teacher, after all, do you? Today, Jill Stuckey gave the speech. She charmed everyone, but she was also clear about appropriate behavior. This is a Baptist church, after all. You can’t be too careful.

After church, members and guests are likely to adjourn to The Cafeteria, a local eatery owned by Jody Monts. I ate supper there Saturday night, pork chops and turnips, and she asked me if I was in town to go to Sunday school. I told her I was preaching. I ate lunch there again today, baked chicken, dressing, collards, and sweet potato pie. There were other choices, but snails were not on the menu if you’re hoping for French food. This is Southern cooking. I’ll weigh four hundred pounds by this time next week.

I’ve not been in Plains for twenty-four hours yet. But I’m enthusiastic about being here. Nearby is Koinonia Farms and I’m going there tomorrow with a church member. I’ll report on the remainder of the week, I’m sure, but I wanted to get this message across:

Plan a trip to Jimmy Carter’s Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. You’ll thank yourself later!

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Going to Church


“Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together” is the quaint King James Bible rendering of a sentiment that has always been important to me.

 Sitting in a Sunday school class recently, with a half-dozen adults and one sleepy teenager, we talked about this passage.  In a blog devoted to travel, I am making an attempt to reflect on all the places I go—whether to Peru or to my back porch.  Since I have been in the habit of “going to church” for 66 years, it seems a worthy subject for at least one blog post.

Early on, I went to church because my parents took me and no alternative existed.  A six-year old can’t stay home by himself.  Later, I went because my friends were there.  Still later, I went because it was a good habit.  Who knows when I might learn something?

 However, my experience is that in our churches we tend to teach our religious heritage and culture, not the Bible. 

I was in a class with 15 college-educated “progressive” Baptists a few years ago when the lesson was on Noah, the Ark and the Rainbow.  The class members were trying to fit all the animals of the world onto the Ark.  They had little success.  I suggested that maybe the story was about Hope and not about engineering.  They seemed relieved.  A conversation about dinosaurs might have been a real problem.

 My last fifteen years prior to retirement, I was the South Carolina “bishop” for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  My joke was that I would preach for free, but that I earned my pay when I attended Sunday school.

  • Example:  One Sunday, in an older men’s class, one of the members was angry because some 12-year-old boy somewhere had folded the American flag the wrong way.  The gentleman had brought enough pamphlets to put in every church bulletin that week so the whole congregation would know the correct way to fold the flag.  He ranted for the first 20 minutes of the “Bible study hour” about a kid’s honest mistake.  I wonder if he might have been as passionate about anything actually in the Bible?

Still, I persevere, because the Bible is usually, sorta, more-or-less, approximately the textbook when we go to church. Who knows, we may actually read a psalm or something.  We will probably say a prayer. 

 Besides, people are there and I need them and they need me.  They even listen to my peculiar views occasionally.  Anyhow, I keep going, and I don’t think I am any worse for it.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Quotations, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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