Thursday, July 25, 2013

Those Places Thursday - Homecoming 2013

Oakman-Ranger United Methodist Church
Oakman, Georgia

It's summer, time to attend Homecoming celebrations at small country churches across the south.  Time to return to the old family church, time to reminisce with cousins, time to pause by graves in the church cemetery, and time to share lots of wonderful food.

Recently my husband and I attended the annual Homecoming Day at a church where a number of his relatives have been active members through the years.  It had been about 30 years since we last attended this special service at the old church.  When I first started going with him to the Oakman Homecoming over 40 years ago, it was primarily about visiting with the cousins our age and sampling all of that unbelievable country cooking.  This time it was a little different.

We arrived at Oakman almost an hour before church started so we drove around the area with my husband pointing out lots of places important to his family.  Close by was the location of the old Post Office where a cousin had been the Post Mistress.  He showed me where an uncle's country store had been located.  We stopped at the old school, now a community center, where several relatives once taught.  Next we drove by the two homes where relatives had lived, one with a fresh coat of paint and a shiny metal roof, the other sitting empty amid tall weeds.  The houses, less than a quarter mile apart, had been the homes of two sisters and their families and were located close to the church.

Cemetery, Oakman-Ranger United Methodist Church

Back at the church, we walked around the cemetery where I took pictures of the grave markers of his Whittemore relatives buried there.  Outside the church, I heard stories about children sitting under trees in warm weather for Sunday School, then moving to sit inside a car for Sunday School once colder weather came.  Inside the church, my husband pointed out the photograph of the old church built in the1870s and reminisced with his brothers about attending church there, a place hot as blazes in the summer and chilly even with a pot-bellied stove in winter.  Today we were thankful for the new church with central heat and air.

During the church service, I opened my hymnal and saw that it had been placed there in memory of one of my husband's aunts, a lady who was always smiling and often played the piano at church.  My brother-in-law was the guest minister, and he shared some humorous family stories as illustrations for his sermon's scripture.  We also enjoyed some beautiful and heart-felt music from members of the congregation.  It was a good service.

The church dinner was as delicious as I remembered.  You could tell that folks had picked vegetables and berries the night before, just to share at our communal spread.  Unbelievably good!

I left Homecoming with an ever stronger sense of the importance of place in our family history, especially a spot where home, church, business, employment and school were all within walking distance.    Some of the memories, information, and photos from Homecoming have been recorded in my genealogy software.  I'm also plotting sites on Google Maps to share in a future post.  And yes, we had somebody take another cousins' picture of all of us.  For a while that Sunday, we were home.

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