I recently had the opportunity to preach during the 80th anniversary of my home church, Shiloh Baptist Church, in Saraland Ala. That church and its people had a significant impact in my life and ministerial calling. It’s been years since I’ve been back, but it is a sweet homecoming every time I return. Such sweet memories.
Jeanne and I were married at Shiloh. My brother, Rob, and I were ordained and preached from the pulpit that stands just a few feet from the altar where I was saved. One of my fondest memories was having homecoming and dinner on the grounds.
My best friend’s mom would not allow Paul and I to have our “dinner on the grounds” using flimsy paper plates. She brought us sturdy plastic plates that looked to me to be the size of a garbage can lid. And the tables containing the food looked a mile long. The dessert table looked like you had died and gone to heaven for the marriage supper of the Lamb. Paul and I would fill our plates and head off to some Sunday School room and pig out. And that was before we filled those large plates a second time with desserts.
Homecoming was when memories were made.
Homecoming for Tennessee Baptists is coming, and it will be here before you know it. In fact, it will be here in a little more than two weeks when we gather Sunday, Nov. 12, at 6:30 pm at the Chattanooga Convention Center to kick off Summit 2023.
That “homecoming night” has been a staple of our annual meeting since the 2016 Sevierville Summit. The Sunday service was the idea of several pastors in the area who saw a vision of us gathering together as Tennessee Baptists on Sunday evening to worship with a homecoming atmosphere. No agenda. Just preaching, singing and fellowship.
It was a huge success that first year. So much so, in fact, that we’ve carried the recent tradition forward with one addition. We now recognize our Eagle Award recipients — an award extended to an outstanding Tennessee Baptist layperson who has faithfully served God and served others.
This year’s award is a first. We are recognizing several Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief couples who have extended selfless, sacrificial and joyful service to the people of Tennessee and far, far beyond.
These recipients are representatives on behalf of disaster relief volunteers across our state who work as a blue-shirted army to bring hope to those who are hurting. We are asking DR volunteers to come, sit in a special section that we’ll have set aside for you as honored guests, wear your blue shirt and let us recognize you along with the Eagle Award recipients. Your contribution is immeasurable. Thank you.
Bringing our message that evening is Dr. Bryant Wright, former SBC president and current president of NAMB Send Relief. Leading worship will be the praise team from Chattanooga’s Silverdale Baptist, led by worship leader Clayton Freeman.
And what would be a Baptist gathering, and especially a homecoming, be without a mile-long table full of desserts?
You are cordially invited to a time of fellowship in the exhibit hall immediately following the service. This will be the largest number of exhibitors we’ve ever had, so this will be a great opportunity to make connections. Be sure to take the opportunity to browse the exhibitors.
All homecomings generate excitement, and I am excited about this one. I can’t wait to see you in Chattanooga.
It is a joy to be with you on this journey — to Summit 2023! B&R