Evening of Thursday 9/13/18
We pull into the small parking lot for Glory Bound Baptist Church and are immediately greeted by parishioners at the door for the Thursday evening service.
Our experience at Glory Bound is like nothing I’d ever been a part of. Our group outnumbers the locals in the already small church, and we find out early in the service that there was a recent death among the usual churchgoers. Their family is not present at the service we attended, but their presence is palpable as an elder of the church, John Fox, calls on the members of the community to come together to support the grieving family. They immediately make plans during the service to put together their money to buy the decorative flowers for the top of the casket. This is only one of the powerful moments we witnessed during the service.
When the preacher takes the pulpit, his extraordinary passion takes the breath away from my classmates and I, and we are left speechless. The Baptists in the room, however, are moved to words of affirmation towards the young preacher. Emboldened by the reinforcement, the preacher moves down to the first pew and shuffles down the line shaking hands with his brothers while continuing to preach enthusiastically. When he is finishing up, catching his breath and wiping the sweat from his forehead, he admits that he does not even remember much of what he just spent the past twenty minutes preaching about, but that he knows it was the Word of God that he had to say.
At the end of the service, all the Rockets in attendance, along with Bob, our Mountain manager, stand in the front of the church and form our own choir. We sing for the Baptists just as they sang for us at the beginning of the service. I look out at the congregation and hear Fox give us the same affirmation that was given to the preacher as we sing “Amazing Grace,” “The Summons,” and a McNick favorite, “Down to the River to Pray.” I couldn’t help but smile as we finished up singing and it felt like we were our own dysfunctional liturgy choir but we sang from the heart and that’s what matters.
Following the service, we are welcomed into the Fox household, offered water bottles and an endless supply of sweet tea, and treated with first class hospitality. We stay late into the evening talking about anything and everything including why we all wanted to go on Appalachia, and what we want to study in college. It was cool to think about all the previous McNick groups that had sat in that same living room talking with the Foxes and all the groups that are still to come and join in on our Appalachia family.
Back at the Glenmary retreat house, we stayed up late into the early morning hours unpacking the full day we’d just experienced. Liz Huber, along with many others, express sadness in looking ahead to graduation and knowing everyone will be going away on our own paths. Andy Ey responded to this sentiment by saying, “You’re not going to lose this community. You take it with you.” Talking about our Appalachia group specifically, he goes on to say, “I don’t think you could pick out of a hat a more diverse group of people.” To me, this is part of what has truly made our time on Joppa Mountain that much more rewarding. We are able to reach outside of our own comfort zones and expand our social circles to include those who we may have never talked with before. Living together in community, free of technology and distractions, I believe has enabled us to both form new bonds and strengthen existing ones exponentially.