Oak Ridge Reflections 3

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Oak Ridge Church of Christ Meeting House Near French Camp, Mississippi

My two years at Oak Ridge were filled with great memories!

When I saw sister Mildred this week, she reminded me of the time when just before church my zipper broke. I thought it was just down, but panic settled in when I noticed it was broken!  To head to town and back would take too long. So she went to her house around the corner and brought back some pins. I pinned my britches up and preached anyway. I had forgotten all about that. Rod reminded me of the dirt dobbers that would dive bomb me while I preached … often sending me swatting and talking at the same time.

While at the Ridge I dated a pretty girl named Barbara from there and enjoyed knowing her mom and siblings. We were young and it didn’t last long, but that made my time out at the Ridge a fun experience.  Her grandparents were Clyde and Cotton Burchfield. They lived next door to her. Clyde could tell the funniest stories. He told them as true, but I’m not sure you could put much trust in them. Clyde told me once that his wife Cotton got mad at him and to escape her and her frying pan he had to jump through the blades of the window fan. You get the picture.

I often took fellow students with me up to the Ridge on Wednesday nights. Les Ferguson Jr went with me many times. He and Vickie Davis were sweet on one another, but they both found great mates in other people later down the line. There were many great games of Uno and Spades at Vickie’s house. We couldn’t do that at Clay and Helen’s because Clay did not believe in playing cards or fishing on Sundays. He also told me that Sunday work would come to no good.

Sunday dinners were a big deal at Oak Ridge, and I suppose I ate with every family at one time or another. Since we were so far from town, you could count on a large home cooked meal every Sunday. That was some of the best food I ever ate!

The Oak Ridge building was different 25 years ago than it is today. The entire building was the auditorium except for two small classrooms in the back. Today the auditorium is the same, but now they have central air. Back in my day they had two window units. There was no sound system so I learned to preach LOUD in the summertime. In the winter there were two gas heaters, and up on the pulpit it was about 100 degrees!

The bathrooms were down the path. Yes, that’s right, the outhouses were down a path away from the building. I remember on afternoon having to go to the outhouse. While sitting there I looked up and there was one of the biggest wasp nests I’d ever seen! I concluded my business and moved very slowly and never went back!

Nowadays Oak Ridge meeting house has bathrooms, a kitchen, a baptistry, a sound system … modern additions.

The next generation is in place at the Ridge. Though I do not know everyone’s name, Larry and Rachel Black and their family are a strong presence. Gene and Ann Massey are dependable. Rod and Cindy Simmons and their children and grandchildren are part of the core. I’m sure I’m missing others … but there is a set of middle age folks who seem prepared to carry on the traditions of Oak Ridge.

Of course it wasn’t all good times. One Sunday during the sermon I noticed some men standing around outside. I was preaching but wondering why they didn’t come on in. So I eventually stopped and asked them if they needed something. One of the members’ sister had passed away, and they were there to tell him. They were being respectful by waiting outside. It was during my time at Oak Ridge that Floyd and Vonceal Hopkins received the terrible news that their son Keith had been killed in an accident. Keith has been mentioned a few times this week, so I know that no matter how many years go by our children remain in our hearts.

I enjoyed my years at Oak Ridge. They were patient with me, allowed me to make mistakes. They were not critical of my lessons, though I’m sure they could have been. And I join the number of preachers who learned the discipline of coming up with weekly lessons, presenting them to that small audience who had a special mission from God.

More Oak Ridge Reflections tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

John