Members of century-old Low Mosley Baptist in Rutledge have a church family, literally
Every month or so, Darnell Coleman steers his 1971 pea-green Chevrolet Impala onto Davis Academy Road in Rutledge, leaving complicated, suburban life in Conyers behind him.
He rolls down the windows. Smells the fresh air.
“I see the horses, first, and then the church sitting there,” he said. “It’s just like home.”
Coleman, 43, grew up in South Carolina, working in the fields, harvesting tobacco and corn. These days, he can’t get back there as often as he’d like to.
But about 10 years ago he discovered Lower Mosley Baptist Church. One of the members of his Masonic lodge – St. James No. 4, Prince Hall, in Atlanta – visited to preach there.
Now, Coleman, though a member of another church, tries to get to Lower Mosley – his adopted home – every fourth Sunday, when its congregation regularly meets.
“You can feel the good vibe, the good spirits, the welcome,” he said.
“We’re glad to have visitors come to be with us,” explained Maggie Jefferson, who grew up in the church. At 90, she still attends with her husband, Sam Jefferson, 94.
The welcoming church family is also literally a family, she explained.
“Just about everybody is related,” she said.
Her grandfather, Orange Williams, a deacon of the church, was among those who deeded the land for it in 1903, she said. Now, of the 40-or-so-member congregation, almost everyone – Baileys, Bentons, Pearsons, Wades – is related.
Family members come to the church from Madison, from Covington, from Social Circle, many every fourth Sunday, like Maggie and Sam Jefferson’s son, John, who travels to the church with his family from Decatur. Maggie Jefferson's sister, Mattie Lee Williams Bailey – who turned 100 in August and was honored with a special proclamation from the City of Rutledge – still attends with her children. The children of the sisters' two deceased brothers attend as well.
Usually preaching is the Rev. George Brown, the church’s pastor for the last 47 years. During services, the congregation, lacking a piano player, sings hymns without instrumental accompaniment, their eyes closed, feet tapping in unison, faces lifted, voices plaintive but unwavering, solemn but strong.
“They sing the old hymns, all those hymns that we were brought up on,” Coleman said. “It’s how they used to sing in the old African-American churches years ago.”
There are get-togethers and homecomings, anniversaries and cookouts. Coleman’s Masonic lodge has a night of cooking and fellowship out at Maggie and Sam Jefferson’s place – their son John is one of the lodge’s officers. The church has a revival every year, though, due to the tough economic times, it’s now three nights instead of five.
“The church had to cut down since everything got so expensive,” Maggie Jefferson explained.
Through a sometimes stormy sea of years – the original sanctuary burned down at one point – the little church has bobbed along, adapting to the times: a PA system, a new bathroom, central heat and air. To keep it afloat – floors vacuumed, light bulbs changed – everyone pitches in. The deacons will put up the Christmas tree this year and the women will decorate it, just as they have “ever since I was a little girl,” Maggie Jefferson said.
“We’re still trying to make it,” she laughed. “It gets pretty hard sometimes, but we’re doing all right.”
Coleman installed a new furnace in the sanctuary and, though he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself, cooks for Maggie and Sam Jefferson. He’ll often visit with them, talking with Sam about farming or consulting with him about situations at work.
"I'm just thankful for Lower Mosley Baptist Church, the Jefferson family and for God above,” he said.
Printed in the 12-30-10 edition