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The pews may look empty, but they're full to me

By By Sherry Digmon
Sometimes we get a second chance in this life.
I've been extremely fortunate in the past year in that I've gotten two second chances.
One is that I was able to come back to a job I love.
The second is that I returned to Bethel United Methodist Church, the little white church out on Highway 21.
Sometimes you just go along in life, and the Lord lets you "butt with your own head," as my granddaddy used to say.
Then, I think maybe the Lord says that's enough and He thumps you on the back of the head and gets your attention.
If you were raised in the church and later leave it, you'll feel that need to get back. The Scripture says so, and in my case, it was true.
After 30 years out of the church, I wanted in.
I was raised in Bethel Church. Grandma, Granddaddy and I sat in the same place on the same pew all my young life. I sat between them, leaning on their everlasting arms, you might say.
After I left Atmore, I didn't go back to Bethel much. The last time was in 1984 for Grandma's funeral. Granddaddy and I sat beside each other, without Grandma for the first time. He died six years later.
When I started going back to church last year, I visited several churches. But I didn't plan to go back to Bethel. Too many memories.
Last fall, by chance, I did go back. The feeling of walking through that front door was overwhelming.
Some of the same folks are still there. Thirty years later, they are still keeping the faith.
With open arms, they welcomed me back.
And with open arms, they bid me stay.
We are few in number. Sometimes I can count Sunday morning attendance on my two hands.
We don't always sing real pretty. But we're sincere. And sometimes the old songs make some of us a little too teary to sing.
Sometimes we cry together. And we laugh often.
If you don't go to church now, and you live close to your home church, go back. I'm sure you'll find open arms. There is reassurance in getting close to the Lord again, but there is also joy in getting back with people who have known you all your life and who are glad to see you on Sunday morning.
If you don't have a church, come to Bethel. I guarantee you'll find open arms.
Most Sundays, I'll be there, fourth pew on the right. In the same spot where I sat decades ago.
The pews may look pretty empty, but believe me, they're full.
Sometimes I hardly have room to move for Grandma and Granddaddy sitting so close to me.
Published Sept. 26, 1999