Tennessee Mountain Stories

Priorities of Yesteryear

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas – we are all so blessed and this season should really emphasize that for each of us.  Today I want to share some history and a bit of social commentary which is not our normal theme here but perhaps you’ll have thoughts about it as well.

Two interesting things came before me over the last week that have driven the topic for today’s post.  First, a comment from last week’s story about the mountain midwife mentioned that the people of that era and area were very poor.  It’s pretty easy for us to start feeling sorry for ourselves and think we too are impoverished (especially if we accidentally compare ourselves to other people in our affluent society) but compared to the mountain people of yesteryear we are all living in splendor.

The second interesting point came when researching a little church in Rinnie, Tennessee -  Clear Creek Baptist Church.  It was founded in 1897 as a missionary  outreach of Mount Union Baptist Church – perhaps better known as Campground.  The earliest preachers were circuit riders and I have to wonder if Campground’s preacher made regular trips there to speak. 

One of Campground's earliest church and school buildings

One of Campground's earliest church and school buildings

What a wonderful testimony for that little church that almost 117 years ago they stepped outside of themselves, saw a need to spread the gospel and made it happen!  Their offspring has survived all these years and today still stands spreading that same message of truth to their little corner of the Rinnie Community. 

Most of our churches today have some type of missions program – at the very least, our Southern Baptist congregations contribute to the Cooperative Fund and send money to foreign missions.  And most mission boards have some level of US based outreach.  But how many of us are personally looking around our region and ferreting out dark spots that need The Light then actually doing something to shine the light out there?

I’ve tried to imagine what life would have been like for the members of Campground’s little church in 1897. They eked out a subsistence living behind a mule or a hoe.  They lived in drafty houses, often wore home-cobbled shoes, read by coal-oil lamps and walked most places they went.  Yet these were the people who reached out to a community 15 miles away and founded a new place of worship.

Today we drive to church in air conditioned cars, sit on plush upholstered pews and make our living in relative comfort.  And yet, the Southern Baptist Convention reports that 3500 – 4000 churches are permanently closing their doors each year.  Contrary to Campground’s efforts 100 years ago, we seem to be moving backward!

Over the next week many of us will be thinking about 2014 and planning resolutions.    This information will certainly still be in my mind as I think about my own goals for the coming year and I hope you will think about them too. 

The history of Mount Union Missionary Baptist Church is too fascinating to cover in one small article.  We’ll have to talk more about them.  In the meantime, I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts – just click “comments” below.