Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Explore! Gotta Have Faith

I like to sporadically drop French terms into my everyday English vernacular. I use the term bon vivant to describe my philosophy on life… after all it was one of my icons, Andy Warhol, who said that everyone needs a philosophy. For a very awkward two years a few years ago I used a tout alors in place of "see you later," I will be the first to assure you that the term doesn’t make you sound cool or sophisticated; it actually makes you sound like a character from a National Lampoon Vacation movie. I will however, quickly admit I use the term gourmand to describe my love of food. It seems rather odd that I remain so skinny while I spend such a great deal of time consuming, contemplating, or searching out food. I suppose my use of French my may come from my six, yes six, dreadful years of "learning" the French language, or it may come from my fascination with Ina Garten; but the truth is, my knowledge of food far outweighs my knowledge of the French language. That tidbit is one that I am quite proud of. This summer, the quest for being a gourmand has led me across the south. A few weeks ago, a person I went to high school with and I made the trip to Savannah for Paula Deen’s fried chicken and sweet tea with a sprig of mint in each glass. However, this past week it led me to my grandmothers where we spent a Monday evening discussing the foods that make my family who they are. There is a general unspoken rule that to live in that house you have to be able to cook. A couple of weeks ago I went in search of my hometown. This week I wrap up that quest. For not having a restaurant Centertown sure has a reputation for good food. I’m a Baptist, which that statement in itself will tell you that I love food. Baptists and fried chicken go together like peanut butter and jelly or heartbreak and a good country song. There is never a reason not to have a fellowship meal, a potluck, or a covered dish dinner. A new preacher, a new baptistery, a birthday, a new light bulb in a Sunday School room, all are a cause for a potluck. I was corn fed on sourdough bread baked by Dorothy Brown, Italian Crème cakes baked by my aunt, and deviled eggs. I grew up learning the VBS songs written by Lifeway and crafting cowboys from coat hangers, and rain-sticks in crafts led by Susan Hines. The Baptist in me is blood deep, and the view of faith is something I have long realized is very strong in the county. Every Sunday that I’m home I have a strict routine. I start my Sundays with a bowl of Lucky Charms, I read the newspaper, which is limited to the comic strips of the Peanuts, Garfield, Ziggy, and my favorite Doonesbury; my reading also extends to the sale ads for Target and Best Buy. I like to stay on top of the upcoming music releases. My routine then goes on to Centertown Baptist Church, where I sit on the back pew with my cousins Charles and Becky Berryman. This week this column is being written from that pew. In the church the pews are bright red to match the carpet, the hymnals, the chairs, and a few people’s tempers. The verses of Amazing Grace bounce off the high ceilings and fill the sanctuary with the words of John Newtown. While I will be the first to admit I am not the best Baptist, nor am I a person to openly discuss my views on organized religion, I will be the first to recognize the belief in something higher that is a binding cord in the community. My exploration would be incomplete without examining the impact of faith in Ohio County. This summer we have criss-crossed the county photographing church after church. These are the places that open their doors to the communities they serve and act as a safe haven for those in need. In Lexington I go to Southland Christian which has 15,000 members. I love the church and it is my favorite church to attend. At the church there is greater sense of worship and less a sense of pomp that has largely driven me away for organized religion, but has only made my faith in a higher power stronger. With the debate of ceremony and worship styles aside, the small churches that dot the landscape of Ohio County possess a quality that Southland with its massive size cannot. The sense of community that is felt in our churches is indescribable. In times of need the members are the first to pull together, the first to be knocking on your back door with a covered dish, or the first to visit at the funeral home. There is great comfort in this. When my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer two years ago the people of our church, and my grandmother’s church, Centertown United Methodist Church, were constantly calling, sending cards, visiting and vigilantly making sure we all knew that they were always there. At Southland I always leave the church with a sense of hearing an excellent message, but I never feel like I am actually connected to anyone beyond the people who are riding with me. The senior minister, Jon Weese, comes on stage in jeans and has a casual attitude towards his messages. Naturally there is a large band and the aesthetics of the stage change weekly. These are qualities of the church that I think are awesome, but they do nothing to encourage the sense of community. Faith in our community is something that goes beyond blue jeans, and large bands, for the area it seems to be something that is deep rooted and is engrained into the people. Faith in the community, to me, is kind of like the scene from Talladega Nights where Ricky Bobby, played by Will Ferrell, is praying. His words are far from reverent and stereotypical of prayer but they get the point across, are heartfelt, and most importantly, are free from the reigns that are so often held tightly on religion. Many of our churches stress the importance of being reverent and following archaic rules of decorum, but to me it seems that in the words of Miranda Lambert ,"'Cause I heard Jesus, he drank wine and I bet we'd get along just fine" ,the church is about coming together as a group of people, no matter the background or the lifestyle and having that common shared bond of the belief in something greater. Life sweet tea, my aunt June’s stories of old Centertown, and my use of French words I love my church. Growing up with the Reneer Twins, Helen Holden, Virginia Stenburg, and all of my Ashby family that has attended the church I have learned the importance of the sense of community that is found in the local churches. I learned at an early age how to arrange a potluck table and have been made acutely aware of the importance of not ruining the carpet on the Fellowship Hall floor. My Sunday morning routine always draws to a close as we leave little white church and head to Los Mex for lunch. Like the staple dishes of a good potluck cover a banquet table my fellow Baptists, from Beaver Dam Baptist, fill the restaurant. It never fails that we run into some Westerfields, Kings, and Taylors, and I know they are all well skilled on good food.

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