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Family Reunion

November 8, 2005

Sunday was a family reunion of sorts, a day celebrating God’s goodness, sustaining power, and a small piece of my family’s heritage. Josh and I went with my family to the First Baptist Church of Perryville for their 50th anniversary celebration. I remember going to the little red church when it was in “downtown” Perryville. I’d sit in a slippery wooden pew eating cheerios and raisins my mom packed for me. I remember “Uncle” Claude giving me hard candy from his pocket every Sunday. I remember Jimmy Collins, a large man with a buzz cut and suspenders saying, “Hello Gummer!” (I don’t know how I got called Gummer and neither does he. We imagine it was because I didn’t have any teeth at the time he first got to know me.) I remember being mad at my dad because he told me to be quiet and biting his arm and being taken out of church and spanked. I went there until I was six and we moved to Tennessee.

But then we came back when I was twelve and they’d sold that church building and were meeting in the high school auditorium. And I was still there when the new church building was built in 1989-90 and was there for the first Sunday in that new, beautiful building. It was built by all the church men, who together took off one week of work to start the project and every Saturday thereafter was spent at the site until the church was built.

Part of the service looked back on the church’s history and giving thanks to God’s faithfulness. Three people started the “church,” which was actually a non-denominational “Sunday School plant” (as opposed to a church-plant) out of Havre de Grace Baptist Church and later it grew into a church body. It was started by two men (one of which was Uncle Claude) and my grandmother, Nanny Gilman. Her real name was Frances Gilman but everyone called her Nanny. Now only Uncle Claude is left. He’s still giving out candy to the kids, I saw him slipping candy into their small, eager hands.

It was good to see Perryville’s pastor of fifteen years, Pastor Gauger, and his wife, Linda, who slipped into the service late, because she’d already spent an hour or so serving at Perry Point, a veteran’s home, where she helps lead worship by playing the piano. Linda, who’s graduate degree is from the Peabody, is a fabulous musician and the most humble and gentle of ladies. Her face always radiates joyful kindness, despite the fact she’s in constant pain due to an ongoing and mysterious illness that sometimes means she is so weak she has to stay in bed. They have been consistent life-examples of service.

The testimonies added to my appreciation of this church of my childhood and youth. Tearfully, a huge man gave testimony to God’s grace during the building project of the new church. A lady gave testimony to the church’s work in local, state, national, and international missions and church partnerships. The goal in the next few years is that fifty percent of the church budget will go “for the good of others” and not be kept for themselves. There was a great deal of testimony to prayer, and how each hope, plan, and decision must be soaked in prayer first.

After the service we had lunch in the fellowship hall; green beans, au gratin potatoes, and roast beef was piled onto plates which groaned under the weight of generosity. There’s never been any church that could beat the Perryville ladies when it came to good cookin’, and believe me, I’ve been to a lot of churches in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Tennessee! By the end of our time there, I’d been hugged to death; even by people I didn’t know and didn’t know me! Perryville was always the “hugginest” church I’ve ever been to, which might just be the legacy of my Nanny Gilman, who exuberantly hugged and kissed everyone, man or woman, young and old.

After leaving we went to the graveyard to visit my grandparent’s graves, as well as the grave of Johnny, my mom’s brother who was killed in a tragic accident when he was nineteen. The graveyard was smaller than I remembered. I used to play in it and look at the old mossy headstones reaching back to the late 1700’s with fascination. Across the street from the graveyard was Nanny and Pop-pop’s old dilapidated house, where they used to live and we used to visit. It looks pretty much the same as it did then, but with less trees. It’s old, tired, faded, and worn out. After a visit to their house, Nanny used to run behind our car as it exited her driveway, throwing kisses. I’d look out the back window and wave. “I’ll pray for you,” she used to say, “everyday of my life.” And sometimes, I think she still does.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2005 11:48 am

    Your memoirs are the best, Danielle. I can picture almost every detail.

    I went to Harford Baptist as a child and there was an elderly man (at least I think he was elderly; he might have been 50!) His name was Mr. Krueger. Fred Krueger (yeh) to be exact. He was there every Sunday handing out candy. It didn’t matter if you’d been bad or good (he often had to persuade my mom that I “deserved” a piece of candy after church) You’ve inspired me to write a slice of life about him and his wife and my memories of that precious time.

  2. November 8, 2005 2:37 pm

    So, that’s where you were! 😉

  3. November 8, 2005 4:40 pm

    I know, I totally forgot I wasn’t going to be at church on Sunday, sorry for the misinformation!! Anyway, I’m sure you had your hands full meeting all the other bloggers. We’ll try next week, I promise! It’ll be easy to spot me because I’m singing on the worship team.

  4. November 9, 2005 2:49 pm

    I had an Uncle Claude, too, at my Baptist church growing up…go figure. Only, it was his son-in-law who handed out the candy! I can’t even remember his real name b/c we just called him the “candy man”. 🙂 Must be something w/ the Baptists and candy.

  5. November 9, 2005 4:18 pm

    Candy, the Protestant vice of younguns everywhere.

  6. November 11, 2005 1:42 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful time. You did a wonderful job describing your time, I can picture it in my mind. Nice to meet you, I hope our paths continue to cross in this blogging world!

    Anne

  7. November 12, 2005 11:21 am

    How wonderful! You did a great job recapturing the experience.

  8. November 15, 2005 11:50 am

    Absolutely beautiful. Of course we had our own candy lady at church. She would get crates of certs delivered to her house and hand them out to the kids every meeting. In fact, one little girl thought for years that the name of those little round mints was “nancys” because the women who handed them out was named Nancy. Oh, I hope I’m like her when I grow older.

  9. Amy Lee permalink
    November 20, 2005 5:34 pm

    Your memoirs, are just as beautiful as you….this one even moved me to tears.

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