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Holding on to our churches - even when the Sunday sales begin at 6 a.m.

By D. G. Martin
Posted Monday, December 27, 2004

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"Open Sunday for after Christmas sale--6am for early shoppers."

Did you see that ad promoting the day-after-Christmas sales? I wonder if you reacted the same way I did--thinking that this is the last straw in the collapse of this religious holiday under the demands of commerce.

"Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy."

"Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy." This commandment is easier for us to keep by insisting that it be posted in public places than by giving up the bargains at the after Christmas sales.

Of course, the day after Christmas is always one of the biggest bargain-shopping days of the year. People pour into the stores. Early hour bargain sessions are customary.

But on Sunday? At 6am?

It hit me pretty hard, even though the old Sunday blue laws have long ago gone mostly by the wayside.

It was just a few years ago when the Ivey's and Belk's stores opened for the first time on Sunday. Some customers were shocked even though there were careful explanations that the stores would be open for just for a few Sunday afternoons before Christmas. Some people remember that the founder of the old Ivey chain, George Ivey, insisted that his stores not only would be closed on Sundays, but that the show windows' curtains would be closed tight.

Although there is a marked decline in the strict observance of the Sabbath, North Carolinians have a strong, maybe even growing, attachment to their religious institutions. A recent addition to the on-line supplement to the "North Carolina Atlas" documents the membership reports of a great variety of religious organizations in the state.

Mary Best, former editor of Our State magazine, has different evidence of North Carolinians' attachment to their churches. She says that the most popular of the single topic issues of the magazine was one that explored the religious faith of the state's people. Best, now the editor of Our State's book division, says the success of that issue of the magazine helped inspire her new book, "North Carolina Churches: Portraits of Grace."

The new book features 80 churches of various Christian denominations scattered throughout the state's regions. The coffee-table-sized book gives at least two pages to each church. When the reader opens the book at random, he or she will find a full color photo of the church on one page. On the facing page, there is a short description of the church and its special story.

Of course, I looked for the churches that I knew best.

*Hopewell Presbyterian in northern Mecklenburg County, where my some of my favorite high school classmates went to church--and where Revolutionary war hero William Lee Davidson is buried.

*Home Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, where the family of Julian Lake, the minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Winston, first introduced me to the Moravian love feast tradition and the beautiful Moravian blessing, "Come Lord Jesus our guest to be, and bless these gifts bestowed by Thee."

* Prospect United Methodist in Robeson County, where the Lumbee Indian members welcomed me a few years ago for Wednesday evening prayer meeting and almost persuaded me that Prospect, rather than Pembroke, is the center of Lumbee culture.

*First Presbyterian in Charlotte, where, as a young boy visiting its Sunday School, I heard the teacher, Bob Stokes, compare Abraham's decision to leave his home to follow God's call, to one that would be as dramatic as if George Ivey were to leave his business behind and move his family to a far-away land. (This was the same George Ivey who actually did obey God's commands by keeping his store's curtains closed on Sundays.)

For these churches and others that I have visited, the new book is a welcome reminder of important experiences. But it is the photos and stories of the churches I have never seen that is the book's greatest gift.

It begins on the book's first pages with "Piney Woods Friends Meeting" in northeastern North Carolina's Perquimans County. I saw a full-page photo of a lovely, simple white frame building that houses a congregation that is more than 200 years old. I also learned that in early North Carolina Quakers found a place to flourish. Even today, North Carolina is second only to Indiana in the number of Quakers who live in the state.

Each one of the 80 churches has a story that gives a new perspective on North Carolina's history and traditions. After reading this new book, I have promised myself that if I am ever tempted to go to one of the "6am Sunday sales," I will, instead, spend that Sunday in one of the many North Carolina churches that has its own special story.

"North Carolina Churches" is currently available only through Our State Magazine (800-948-1409 or visit the web site).


Churches featured in "North Carolina Churches"
listed by County

Holy Trinity Episcopal, Glendale Springs, Ashe
St. Mary's Episcopal, West Jefferson, Ashe
All Saints Episcopal, Linville, Avery
St. Thomas Episcopal, Bath, Beaufort
Republican Baptist, Republican, Bertie
Village Chapel, Bald Head Island, Brunswick
Luola's Chapel, Orton Plantation Winnabow, Brunswick
Basilica of St. Lawrence, Asheville, Buncombe
First Baptist, Asheville, Buncombe
Chapel of the Prodigal, Montreat, Buncombe
Waldensian Presbyterian, Valdese, Burke
Mariah's Chapel, Grandin, Caldwell
Ann Street Methodist, Beaufort, Carteret
Milton Presbyterian, Milton, Caswell
Concordia Lutheran Church, Conover, Catawba
St. Paul's Episcopal, Edenton, Chowan
Christ Episcopal, New Bern, Craven
First Presbyterian, New Bern, Craven
Little Tabernacle, Falcon, Cumberland
Evans Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion, Fayetteville, Cumberland
St. John's Episcopal, Fayetteville, Cumberland
Post Chapels, Fort Bragg, Cumberland
Grove Presbyterian, Kenansville, Duplin
Duke Chapel, Duke University Durham, Durham
Calvary Episcopal, Tarboro, Edgecombe
Wait Chapel, Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, Forsyth
First Baptist, Winston-Salem, Forsyth
Home Moravian, Winston-Salem, Forsyth
St. Philips Moravian, Winston-Salem, Forsyth
Basilica of Maryhelp of Christians, (Belmont Abbey) Belmont, Gaston
Dormition of the Theotokos, Greensboro, Guilford
First Presbyterian, Greensboro, Guilford
Our Lady of Grace, Greensboro, Guilford
Pleasant Ridge United Church of Christ, Greensboro, Guilford
Deep River Friends Meeting, High Point, Guilford
Bethany United Church of Christ, Sedalia, Guilford
Church of the Immaculate Conception, Halifax, Halifax
Barbecue Presbyterian, Barbecue, Harnett
First Presbyterian, Waynesville, Haywood
Episcopal Church of St. John in the Wilderness, Flat Rock, Henderson
Providence United Methodist, Swan Quarter, Hyde
Church of the Good Shepherd, Cashiers, Jackson
Hannah's Creek Primitive Baptist, Four Oaks, Johnston
Queen Street Methodist, Kinston, Lenoir
Brevard Chapel United Methodist, Denver, Lincoln
Rock Springs Camp Meeting Ground, Denver, Lincoln
Tucker's Grove Camp Meeting Grounds, Machpelah, Lincoln
Gillespie Chapel, Cartoogechaye, Macon
Church of the Little Flower, Revere, Madison
St. Jude's Chapel of Hope, Trust, Madison
Bear Grass Primitive Baptist, Bear Grass, Martin
First Presbyterian, Charlotte, Mecklenburg
Hopewell Presbyterian, Huntersville, Mecklenburg
Toe River Free Will Baptist, Huntdale, Mitchell
Shiloh Methodist, Troy, Montgomery
Village Chapel, Pinehurst, Moore
First Baptist, Wilmington, New Hanover
St. James Episcopal, Wilmington, New Hanover
Chapel of the Cross, Chapel Hill, Orange
St. Matthew's Episcopal, Hillsborough, Orange
First United Methodist, Elizabeth City, Pasquotank
Piney Woods Friends Meeting, Belvidere, Perquimans
Concord United Methodist, Concord, Person
Church of the Good Shepherd, Tryon, Polk
Sandy Creek Baptist, Liberty, Randolph
Sandy Creek Primitive Baptist, Liberty, Randolph
Prospect United Methodist, Prospect, Robeson
Philadelphus Presbyterian, Red Springs, Robeson
Grace Evangelical and Reformed (Lower Stone), Rockwell, Rowan
Zion (Organ) Lutheran, Rockwell, Rowan
Soldiers Memorial A.M.E. Zion, Salisbury, Rowan
Old Bluff Presbyterian, Wade, Sampson
Grace Moravian Church, Mount Airy, Surry
English Chapel United Methodist, Pisgah National Forest, Transylvania
St. John's Episcopal, Williamsboro, Vance
Christ Episcopal, Raleigh, Wake
First Baptist, Raleigh, Wake
Holland's United Methodist, Raleigh, Wake
Grace Episcopal, Plymouth, Washington
St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal, Blowing Rock, Watauga
Eureka United Methodist, Eureka, Wayne
First Presbyterian, Goldsboro, Wayne
St. Paul's Episcopal, Wilkesboro, Wilkes
Union Grove Amish, Hamptonville, Yadkin

*****************************

D.G. Martin is the host of UNC-TV's North Carolina Bookwatch, which airs on Sundays at 5:00 p.m. This week's (January 2) guest is Jim Early, author of "Tar Heel Barbecue."

Programs coming up:

January 2: Jim Early, Tar Heel Barbecue

January 9: Lynn York, The Piano Teacher

January 16: John Dalton, Heaven Lake

January 23: Chuck Stone, Squizzy the Black Squirrel

January 30: Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianities

February 6: Sheila Kay Adams, My Old True Love

 
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Holding on to our churches - even when the Sunday sales begin at 6 a.m.

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