New Home Missionary Baptist Church

When William M. Bailey filed on forty acres of land about 1890, he set aside an acre on the southeast corner to be used as a church site.  On this site New Home Missionary Baptist Church was founded.  I don't know the beginning date  but would estimate perhaps about 1900.  The church was their when we moved to the farm.  The building was old in appearance.  It was not the original church building.

In appearance, it was one of the most austere buildings anywhere.  There was not one item of   color either outside or inside the building.  The outside was built of unpainted pine planks.  The roof was made of pine shingles, all totally brown.  The few windows were small with plain panes. There  was no water or electricity at the premises.  There was a dug well which had a windless rope and bucket, but the well was almost dry.  Even if it hadn't been, the water was not potable.  No shrubbery  had ever been set around the building, and probably it had not been considered.  The grounds surrounding the building had a few trees, but not even a clump of grass.  In short, the building's appearance exactly matched the area homes, which were also drab, unpainted, and with swept, grassless yards.

The description of the building is not meant to be critical of the builders.  When the economic condition of the area is considered, the building reflected a tremendous sacrifice on the part of the members, who had little surplus of anything to give to the church.  Despite its austere visage, it reflected the best they could afford.

The state of the economic condition of the area could be best seen with the attire of the men   when dressed for church.  They would have on their work shoes, a clean pair of overalls, hopefully a clean white shirt, and a tie.  Only a rare few could afford a separate dress pair of pants or slippers, as  dress shoes were called.  The women would have on long dresses and bonnets since dress hats were to expensive to own.  Children would have on their normal weekday clothes- a pair of overalls and a work shirt.  In summer, almost all children would go barefoot.

The interior of the building was no less drab and colorless than the exterior.  Entrance was through unpainted double doors at the main entrance, with a single side door on each side about two-thirds on the way to the front.  Inside, a double row of unfinished pews was separated by an isle at the center, about four feet wide.  Since there was no electricity, the only light came through the small windows.  Even on a bright, sun-filled day, the lighting was dim.  Heat was obtained in winter from a wood stove located on the right side of the building with the stovepipes going straight through the roof.  In summer, the only ventilation was through the small windows, which were raised.  There were no screens on either the windows or the doors.  On occasion, a bumblebee and other insects would invade the interior.

The pulpit occupied the western end of the building and was raised about eighteen inches above the rest of the church floor.  In the center of the raised area was a lectern.  This was the only color in the room-black!  There was a piano located on the right front, also brown and colorless, except the white keys.  Several key tops had been removed by vandals to make guitar picks.  Usually a container of water sat on, or near, the lectern for the use of speakers.

Since there was no water at the premises, there were no sanitary facilities.  A ladies' outdoor latrine had been constructed about seventy-five yards from the church.  There was no male facility, and this gender simply used the wooded area surrounding the church on one side and on the end.

As you might surmise, the beliefs espoused by the preacher were no less stern and uncompromising than the than the premises were austere.  You either repented and believed, or spent eternity in fir and brimstone.  They did not believe that forgiveness came easily.  There was mourners' bench where repenters went to pray for forgiveness.  Members of the congregation also went to the bench area and prayed along with the supplicants.  All praying was done with the supplicant on his or her knees.  To pay from any other position was totally unacceptable.  the church leaders were all male., and it would have been unthinkable to even consider a woman as a preacher or deacon.  The ladies did lead the singing and, when Sunday School was being held, they taught classes.  Other than this, they were perfectly content with their role.

The members had strict ideas about what was acceptable behavior from each other.  I don't know of any written rules, but in general, most requirements were in the negative.  Some specific “no's” were dancing, card playing, drinking, and cussing [sic]. I remember one member who was severely chastised for dancing.  She was put under the watch care of the membership.  To regain full fellowship, she had to make an apology to the entire church requesting forgiveness.  This was called 'acknowledgment'.

The church practiced three ordinances- baptism, the Lord's Supper (Communion), and foot washing.  I can still remember foot washing day at the church.  Wash pans from home were carried to the church, along with hand towels.  Since there was no source of water at the church, it was brought from a spring about a quarter mile away in the washtubs.  Water was placed in a pan, and the participants would remove their shoes and socks.  With bare feet in the pan, his partner would wash his feet.  I can recall seeing tears course down the cheeks of the participants, so I know it was to them a very moving experience.  So that ladies of the same church could participate in the foot washing ceremony, benches were turned so that they faced each others.  Foot washing was performed only by members of the same sex.

The church was located in an area was located in an area far removed from enough water for a  baptism.  When enough prospective members were available, and the weather was warm enough to permit, a site was selected for the ordinance.  The site would be a lake, a creek, or a river.  They were all several miles away from the church, and attendance would require a long walk, or trip in a wagon, since cars and trucks were a rarity. At the site, the candidates would gather, along with the attending members, at the water's edge.  Prayers would be said, and songs sung with no music.  The candidates would go into the water where the preacher (or preacher) would immerse them into the water.  It was a church doctrine that you must be immersed.  The service would end soon after the last person was baptized, since they were wet and needed to dry and dress. In general, no facilities were available at the site.  If you joined church in late fall, it would be late spring or summer before baptism could occur.

Services were held each fourth Saturday and Sunday of the month.  Periodically, Sunday School would be started, but invariably it would cease for lack pf attendance.  Sunday School generally lacked the whole-hearted support of the church leadership.  There was a general mistrust of Sunday School literature since it was not biblical.  The feeling was that the Bible was the only true authority.  Any other study could not be trusted.

Services were scheduled to start at eleven o' clock A.M. on the fourth Saturday and Sunday, but the starting time was usually ignored.  Services would begin some fifteen to thirty minutes late.  There was no scheduled stopping time.  Worship would usually continue until every preacher present had an opportunity to preach.  Long prayers were the order of the day, and sometimes a prayer would last at least fifteen minutes.  I remember one brother who prayed so long when called upon that I dreaded to hear him asked to pray, especially at the end of the service.  There  was almost always more than one preacher present for services.  Since most had been somewhat isolated working on their farms for a month, they were delighted to have an opportunity to do the preaching they felt called to do.  When the pastor finished his sermon, he was required by custom to ask each visiting preacher if he had anything to say. Almost invariably, they would say, ' Yes, I would like to say a few words,' and then would present another sermon, prepared in the past month.  This would continue until each preacher had his opportunity.  The services  almost always continued for two hours or more.  Young children's stomachs had long since been felling neglected.

The highlight of the church was the annual revival.  Services would start on the fourth Saturday in August and would continue, usually for a week with an eleven A. M. and a seven P. M. beginning.  Each revival services started with prayer, and the singing of two or three hymns.  This was followed by a testimonial service, where each member was encouraged to stand and give a testimony of his faith.  Many would stand and only say' I love the Lord and thank him for all he has done for me.  Others would give specific areas where they knew the almighty had altered events.  Some testimonies were long, while others were very short.  The leader (usually the pastor) kept things going by saying,'who will be next? Don't miss this opportunity to stand up for your Lord.'

Evening revival services were an exciting time.  The church was packed with people, crops were laid by, the people longed for companionship, and had an opportunity to see all their friends.  Before and after services, men could discuss crops, problems with animals,drought, farming methods, or whatever.  Their ladies would have a chance to talk to friends they hadn't seen for months and learn about canning, cooking, sewing, and childcare.  The churchyard would be filled with wagons and, fortunately, there were many trees that could be used to tie the mules.  There were only a few cars or trucks and each of these would be a visitor .  Virtually no cars or trucks were owned by members.

Since it was August, all the doors and windows were open, hoping to catch a cooling breeze.  The ladies almost all had funeral company fans which fluttered back and forth in front of their faces.  Since there was no electricity, an incandescent lantern was hung in each window area, giving surprisingly good light.  As the service continued, one member would occasionally check the lanterns, and they would flare brightly when repumped.  The services were spirited with good singing, and the testimonial service gave every one a chance to participate.  Finally, at the conclusion, the alter call would be given, with the plea for the lost to come forward and be saved.  Generally, at the beginning of the alter call hymn, the lost men and boys would rise together and exit the church, congregating in the church yard, hopefully, with a view of the interior to stay abreast of whatever was happening.

The church building was much more than a worship area since it was available as a meeting area for community needs.  For more than fifty years, it served as the polling area for Beat Fifteen in Blount County.  Each May the democratic primary was held there (there was no Republican primary and a few Republicans).  The runoff was in June.  Then on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, the general election was held also giving the Republicans an opportunity to vote.  In the thirties (about 1935) the county health department used the building as a location to give shots to immunize against typhoid fever and smallpox.  I also recall the boiling alcohol used to sterilize the needles as they were used over and over.  I also still recall what a terribly sore arm I had from the dull needle.

The church was also available for fledging preachers to use.  I remember that a neighbor announced he had received a call to preach.  Out of curiosity, a good-sized crowd showed up for his initial sermon.  I also remember that, just after the beginning of World War II, another area person received the call to preach.  Since he was a prominent person, the church was filled on the occasion of his initial sermon.  In fact, as far as I know, it must have been outstanding, since it may have been his only sermon.

As previously stated, the church was never locked.  In fact, the doors and windows had no locks in them.  The only damage I ever knew was the removal of a few ivory key tops from tops from the piano to make as guitar picks.

The church was a very democratic institution, electing its pastor annually.  Specifically, I recall an election that occurred in the mid-thirties.  The pastor needed an affirmative vote to continue another year.  Since he was the only non-member present, my father was asked to tally the votes.  I remember him saying the pastor was continued for another year by a vote of 'Eighteen- Yes, and Seventeen, No.'  He continued and performed the same good job he had in the past.  He lived some distance away and rode the bus into the area each month.

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