It was Homecoming at First Baptist this weekend and with it came reunions with old friends, great singing and preaching, a look into our past, and mountains of good food. You can’t find better food than that prepared by our own Southern cooks, and we ladies always want to be sure we have enough. Did we ever! We could have fed several other churches after we all finished. Tables the length of our stage were covered in luscious cakes and pies. I was tempted to start there, but common sense made me go through the meal lines first. I was full long before dessert, thank goodness. I won’t go into the specific foods; it would take up the whole column to list them. Suffice it to say that everything I tried was delicious.
On Saturday night we gathered for a low-country boil and fish fry—more good food and lots of it. You know that we Baptists have a reputation to maintain when it comes to eating. We do it well and often.
The wonderful food was almost as good as seeing old friends. Julian and Lisa Griner were back for the day. They were a part of this community and our church family for about 4 years back in the ‘80s, and as Julian pointed out during his sermon, once you’re family, you’re always family. We all become a part of each other as we meet week after week to worship and to share each other’s joys and burdens. That’s a beautiful concept.
So many of the children we watched grow up came back today, all grown up, and bringing their own children. Proud grandparents beamed all over the church. We practically didn’t need any electric light. What a reunion.
When I saw the tent going up Friday afternoon, I looked it askance, but we needed it as we overflowed the social hall Sunday. The day was beautiful and cool, perfect for “dinner on the ground,” as promised. When I saw that phrase in “The Messenger” a few weeks ago, it took me straight back to my childhood and homecomings at Union Springs Baptist Church long ago in the ‘50s. In those days dinner really was on the ground under the pines. Men set up long wooden tables outside, and the food that ladies had prepared since early morning covered those tables. They didn’t have crock pots like the one that cooked my chicken all night Saturday night so it was ready when I got up to finish my casserole Sunday morning. My mother didn’t have the electric chopper that prepared the onions and celery for me this morning. Many things were less convenient back then, but those cooks produced feasts nonetheless. I’m sure it took a little more effort, but the food was just as wonderful.
Even as a child though, I always wondered why we had to have Homecoming with its dinner on the ground in the middle of the summer. Even under the trees it was hot and buggy. That’s not a typo, folks. I’m talking about the flying pests of the South. Some folks spent big chunks of time waving fans over the tables to keep the flies at bay. Fortunately, the adults didn’t trust the children with that task. Those events form an indelible image in my mind.
Writer Kim Holloway says that if you want a true taste of Southern cuisine at its finest, try to finagle an invitation to a dinner on the ground. She says she’s partial to the Baptists, but is fairly sure a Methodist spread might do. You’ll find a worthy display of casseroles, meat-flavored vegetables, and homemade Dixie sweets like a funeral spread – with the added perk that nobody actually died. I think she’s onto something.
As a child I most looked forward to the food and the singing of a Homecoming. I saw through a glass darkly. Today, I realize how wonderful and important it is to have a church family—people who care about each other and share burdens and joys, who try hard to be Christ-like. And as I eat my salad tonight to atone for my dinner, I’ve already added Homecoming 2012 to my cache of good memories.