Just As I Am

Calvary Baptist Church, West Capitol Street, Jackson. This must have been a newspaper illustration which Sara cut out and saved.

“We went to Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson. When I was nine Mary and I were at church one Sunday when they had an evangelist trying to get more people to join the church. He convinced us that we were going to hell if we didn’t come right down and join. So we nudged each other and down we went to the front of the church.

“After we got home and realized what we had done we were scared to death, especially since we were going to have to be dunked under the water. By that time we had had the fear of water thoroughly instilled in us. Mama got together white dresses though and we made it through all right and became full fledged Baptists, which Mama had ordained that we should be. She never forgave any of us for later leaving the Baptist Church, something which all of us did except Son.”

Dr. H.M.King, pastor of Calvary Baptist when Sara and Mamie took the plunge. The intimidating fellow with the stiff collar is Dr. H.M.King, pastor of Calvary Baptist Jackson from 1912 until who knows when. He was in charge when Sara and Mamie skittered down the aisle, fearing for their young souls, and made their commitment, undoubtedly to the strains of “Just As I Am,” the multi-multi-verse Baptist invitational hymn which can go on practically forever.

Jessie was bereft when all of her children except one married into alternate (and, in her mind, questionable) denominations. Sara and Russell dropped me off at St. John’s Methodist every Sunday morning until the North Greenwood Baptist youth minister moved in across the street on East Adams. He had four boisterous children and that was all it took. The Baptists had GA’s, Training Union, donuts and the ultimate goal of all ten-year-old girls, missionary work in darkest Africa. I was hooked. Jessie was beside herself. Mamie found it the funniest conversion in the history of organized religion and made a huge commotion out of presenting me with a copy of Jesus Was His Friend, a child’s biography of Simon Peter. She then took to calling me “Simon,” and never called me by my real name again. I still have that book, and I still miss my zany Aunt Mamie. And  I do have my doubts as to whether she or Sara, either one, was dunked deep enough in 1930.

Mamie, before she got saved.

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About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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