Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Weave Shop Ran 24 Hours a day in World War II

My father died during the great depression in 1932. When the Japanese attached Pearl harbor in 1941 and President Roosevelt declared war, my mother worked as a weaver in the Osprey Mill in Porterdale Georgia.
The Cord Weave Shop looms ran 24 hours a day During World War II to weave the heavy cloth used in making truck and tank tires.

Mama, an intelligent and hard working woman became quite expert as a weaver in the Cord Weave Shop. She seemed to be one of the few people who knew all about how to thread the warps and looms to begin a new supply of heavy cord material.

As I understand it, when a bolt of cloth was cut off the looms to be bundled up and shipped out, a new bolt of cloth could be begun in a relatively simple way. But to begin a different width of cloth required the loom to be threaded in a different way.

During World War II, with so many men away in Europe or the South Pacific, the word went out to recruit everyone who would work in the textile plants. I worked for a few months and was assigned to work in the Cortd Weave Shop and saw for myself Mama was exceedingly knowledgeable about all the workings of the warps and weaving of the heavy cloth.

Mama was no longer young and had deep concern her two youngest sons who were everseas in the Army. My brother Tom was in the Army Infantry in Europe and Jack was in the Army Air Force serving in the South Pacific. Mama was working in the Textile plant Mondays through Friday. She handled the massive looms with energy and skill. The woven cord was used in the production of tires for trucks and tanks as well as for tents.

Long after Mama retired and was no longer on the payroll, on several ocassions the Bibb Manufacturing Company officials sent a car to her home on Hazel Street to take Mama back into the Osprey Mill to thread the looms for a new batch of cloth. She was always happy to go back into the building to thread the looms and teach the skill to other weavers.

I do not remember that Mama was ever paid for this service. But to Ieula Dick Baird, the lady who collected food for families "out of work, " the women who helped deliver babies or visit the sick when the need arose, the lady who told me we came for "good stock," this deed was typical of her. So going back to her old job in the Cord Weave Shop to help someone learn the skill was just another neighborly thing to do.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Bible

The Christian Bible include the books of the Hebrew Bible, but arranged in a different order: Jewish Scripture ends with the people of Israel restored to Jerusalem and the temple and the Christian arrangement ends with the book of the prophet Malachi.

When I was a child, I learned to name all 66 books of the Christian Bible in order from Genesis (The first book of the 39 books of the Old Testament) to Revelation (the last of the 27 books in the New Testament.) As with most things we learn early, I can still name the 66 books of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

The Old Testament or the Jewish Bible, or Tanakh, is divided into three parts:

1. The five books of the Torah ("teaching" or "law") comprise the origins of the Israelite nation, its laws and its covenant with the God of Israel;

2. The Nevi'im ("prophets") containing the historic account of ancient Israel and Judah plus works of prophecy; and

3. The Ketuvim ("writings"), poetic and philosophical works such as the Psalms and the Book of Job.

Christian Bible is divided into two parts. The first is called the Old Testament, containing the 39 books of Hebrew Scripture.The second portion is called the New Testament and contains 27 books. The first Four, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are The Gospels , telling the story of Jesus. A Physician named Luke writes the book of Luke and Acts, telling the story of the early church and the conversion of Jewish persecutor of the church named Saul who was converted in a vision of Christ on the Damascus Road and became the great apostle Paul. Paul became the preacher to the Gentiles and the author of most of the New Testament.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


My mother, Ieula Ann Dick Baird was born in 1885. She was married to Benjamin Wilson Baird in 1903 and widowed in 1932.

Mama was only 18 when she married this man in his 40s. I suppose psychologists would say she was looking for a “father figure” as her father had died when she was only two years old. However, It proved to be a very happy marriage.

My father (a devout Christian and articulate churchman) became seriously ill with a heart-kidney ailment when I was eight and died when i was nine. Papa had been bedridden for nearly a year before he died. Mama cared for him tenderly. She adored this man and he treasured her. She grieved his passing as long as she lived.

I have seen the love in her eyes as she stood looking at his framed picture on her mantle above the fireplace. I remember all the positive words she told me about him as I was growing up.

A few years before she died, my mother told me this story. She said she had cried inconsolable for many days after my father's death and had not been able to sleep. Then one night, Papa came back to her in a dream that seemed to her more like a vision.

Mama told me how he talked with her, telling her all about heaven and the music in heaven and the hymn that was being sung when he arrived in his Heavenly Home. Then he sang the amazingly beautiful hymn to her (my parents both loved to sing).

My mother said she thought it was the most wonderful hymn she had ever heard. She told how she had joyfully sang the words over and over in her dream and felt sure it was a song she would never forget!

Mama told me that after singing to her the beautiful hymn being sung in heaven when he arrived, Papa put his hands on her shoulder, as he had done many times in life. Papa then told her of his love and told her to dry her tears and go to sleep, because he was alright and she would be too.

Mama said, for the first time since her husband's passing, she went soundly to sleep in peace, still feeling his hand on her shoulder and singing the words of the hymn over and over.

My intelligent and practical mother awoke refreshed the next morning and remembered the story above as I related here. But she told me she could not remember a word or a note of the hymn heaven was singing when her precious husband arrived there.

She remembered only that it was the most beautiful hymn she had ever heard!

The Apostle Paul wrote: “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the human heart what God has prepared for those who love him."

(1 Corinthians 2:9).

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Pioneer Clergywomen,

Georgia Harkness, Ruth Rogers and Me.
I went back to school after my children were grown. In one of my early history classes at Georgia State University, a professor showed a great deal of interest in a paper I had submitted and asked, “What do you plan to be?”

The question of “to be” was unexpected. I had “already been.” I was an older “sometimes” student, having now raised seven precious children was now pursuing a hobby of "education."

However, when the question of “to be” came up, for strange reason I thought about Georgia Harkness and Ruth Rogers. I suppose they were the only woman theologians I knew about at that time. Far back in the recesses of my mind I must have been slowly preparing for Christian ministry.

As a lifelong Methodist I had read Harkness articles and had even filed some of her work when ministry for me was beyond my thoughts or wildest dreams.
Dr. Georgia Harkness (photo left) was the theologian who kept holding the Methodist General Conference’s feet to the fire until in 1956 they voted for full ministerial rights for all qualified women. Her many books and articles as a Professor of Theology provide a wealth of information about her long career as a theologian, author, and clergywoman.
Harkness believed and taught that women’s rights is more than a matter of justice, It is also a theological issue. What does the church really believe about the Christian God? The theological themes that Harkness expresses in her writings were also lived out in the experiences of Ruth Rogers and other Christian women who spent much of their talents and energy in trying to find a place to serve in answer to a strong calling from God.

On the issue of ordination for women, Harkness believed that ordination with all rights and responsibilities belonged to women as well as men and offered three reasons. Her first reason was a Biblical one. In Jesus Christ all barriers that separate persons from one another have been destroyed. She quotes Paul’s well-known passage in Galations that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galations 3:28)

Harkness further noted that ordination for women could be argued from a “practical” standpoint. She pointed out that a portion of the church’s constituency was alienated and the gifts and graces of women were being lost to the mission of the church to the world. The third reason as a spiritual one. Harkness pointed out that the richest and most intimate experiences in the life of the Christian are those that have to do with church membership, the sacraments, marriage, baptism, and bereavement. She said that so long as a person is debarred by reason of gender from acting as an agent in the church in these high spiritual moments, no matter what other opportunities are opened to her, she is debarred from the largest Christian service.

Yet, Harkness remained aloof to issues regarding inclusive language. The personal nature of God, for Harkness, seem to demand a personal pronoun reference. She said, “I see little sense in trying to change the terminology of the ages.”

At the heart of her theology seems to be a “responsible concern for persons everywhere and in every condition.” This includes men! Her idea of the partnership of the sexes emerges whereby the goal of shaping society in the direction of the kingdom of God relies upon mutuality and good will between Christian men and women.

In that same historical year of 1956, Dr. Ruth Rogers was the first woman to be ordained elder in the North Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church and my husband, a rising senior at Chandler School of Theology was ordained deacon.

Although my husband and I had sat in large Methodist conferences with her, I had never met Ruth Rogers until I, as Atlanta-College Park District Communication Chairperson in 1988, interviewed her for an article in the Wesleyan Christian Advocate.

The Rev. Dr. Ruth Rogers(photo to the left -made in 1958) believed, as do I, that the call from God is what makes a preacher, not whether one is a man or a woman. The deaths of two close family members had a great impact on her. Ruth Rogers had adopted a nephew, but in 1945 lost him at the age of 14 to bone cancer. Among his last words to her, “Aunt Ruth, you are going to have to do my preaching.” Then in 1947, her beloved mother died in her arms saying, “Don’t you see Christ? I can see him. He’s right on the edge of a crowd . . . He’s opening the eyes of the blind. "

After her son Billy’s death, Dr. Rogers did a great deal of thinking “and more praying” about it, but was not quite willing “to take on the enmity...” to answer the call to preach. But after the experience of Christ at her mother’s death bed, Rogers, who came from a family of Methodist ministers, said: “I felt I had to tell the story whether I wanted to or not.” After she preached at a District Conference, the vote was unanimous to accept her call. But she was to learn that the “enmity against women as preachers did not stop there.

When I interviewed her, Rogers was 84 years old and walked on crutches because of a fall on ice at the front of a church some years before. But she still had a twinkle in her eyes and a lovely smile and she indicated to me that she has forgiven those who rejected her for whatever reason.

And I? I was a happy wife, a devoted mother and an enthusiastic teacher of Woman's mission studies and Sunday School Bible lessons! I was unaware that Georgia Harkness and Ruth Rogers were paving roads over which I would one day be called to travel.

How can I briefly tell the story that led to my identity as pastor and as theology student? (photo taken in 2004)The path that led to that incredible day in December, 1986 when I first stood in the pulpit of a United Methodist Church as “pastor” and to a bewildering day in Chandler’s Commons in August 1987 as “student.”

Go with me briefly to my childhood. I am nine years old and my father is dying. He has been ill for a year with a heart and kidney ailment. He is a committed Christian. Earlier, he had put his arm around me as i stood by his bedside and told me to never leave our yards without "leave" from my mother. Then he reminded me to always tell the truth and went on to explain the importance of truth. I am profoundly impressed by the faith my wise and good father lived. I am thinking, “When I grow up, I want to be that kind of Christian.”

I found it interesting to note that both Georgia Harkness and Ruth Rogers were also profoundly affected by a dying parent’s last words and/or actions. Harkness had told in her autobiography about returning home to nurse her father in his final illness. He had asked about her many successful books and remarked, “. . . but I wish you would write more about Jesus Christ.” Harkness understood these remarks to be a “directive from an eternal realm” and saw this experience as a turn in her thinking and writing to a more “Christ-centered approach to religious truth.” (Gilbert, p. 18)

Two years after my father’s death, I was sitting with my mother in a worship service at our small town Methodist Church, the same church in which I had been baptized as a small baby. The congregation was singing an old gospel song entitled “At the Cross.” The song later fell into disrepute because of an offensive verse that went like this: “Would he (Christ) devote his sacred head for such a worm as I?” The Hymnal committee later deleted “such a worn as I” and substituted “sinner such as I.” I do not know about changing the words of a poem after the author's death but I ,along with the hymnal committee did not know any “worm like” people. We didn’t even lock our doors at night in my home town. The Psalmist had written that we were created just a little lower than angels!

But one phrase did capture my attention during the singing and I began to ponder the first theological question I ever remember giving thought to. It is a big one. As the singing continued, I was listening to: “Was it for crimes that I have done, Christ died upon the tree?” I thought, “How could my sins today have anything to do with the death of Jesus on the cross nearly 2000 years ago?” Yes! The mystery of God in Jesus Christ became a real part of my life ... my story.”

This was before Hitler, the Holocaust and World War II. The New Deal was beginning to work. Education was going to do away with crime, disease, and discrimination. Later, when I read about the extent of Hitler’s crimes I thought back to that day in church. “Is it possible,” I thought with great sadness, “For human beings to act like ‘worms?’” The jury is in. Education and prosperity are not enough. Germany and Japan excelled in both education and prosperity when they plunged us into World War II. Only Christ can solve our sin problem.

Becoming a preacher is the last thing I even expected or aspired to do. Charles recognized my call to preach early on and mentioned it to me before i said anything to him about it... in 1975. He as pastor and the church (Park Street UMC) recommended me for license to preach, which was then and still is the starting point for Ordained Ministers in our United Methodist Church.

Charles began to have health problems and after a second heart attack and bi-pass surgery he retired on disability in 1983. A year later the District Superintendent needed someone to fill in at Rico Church in Palmetto and called one Sunday morning and asked Charles to go down that morning to preach and conduct the service. He did and kept preaching every Sunday except on two occasions when he asked me to go down and preach.

Charles preached his last sermon the first Sunday in advent in 1986 and 3 days later "went home to be with the Lord." Two weeks later the D.S. called me and told me the congregation had asked to have me appointed to finish the conference year. The Bishop and Cabinet agreed. Would I do it? After much prayer, I knew this was an open door the Lord wanted me to walk through.

In spite of grief and responsibilities, I began as their pastor the 4th Sunday in Advent and continued to serve as pastor at Rico while I started and finished the work for a Master of Divinity degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory.

During my years of "telling the good news of Jesus" behind a pulpit instead of a Sunday School classroom or a Missionary platform, I have sought to learn how to communicate this good news of Jesus. The love and power of God in the hearts of people is able to bring people together across all kinds of barriers as Paul tells tells the people of Galatia in Galations 3:22-28. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female ; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. "(Galations 3:28)

Ordination is not a right to which any of us, male or female are entitled. It is an unmerited call and an unexpected gift of the Lord's mercy. It is not a call to authority but a call to service.
Gilbert, Paula Elizabeth. Choice of the Greater Good: The Christian Witness of Georgia Harkness. Graduate School of Duke University, 1984.
Harkness, Georgia. Religious Living. Association Press, New York, 1957.
Harkness, Georgia. The Church and Its Laity. Abingdon Press, New York, Nashville, 1962.
Harkness, Georgia. Grace Abounding, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1969.
Harkness, Georgia. Christian Ethics, Abingdon Press, New York 1957.
Harkness, Georgia. The Ministry of Reconciliation. Abingdon Press, New York, 1971.
Harkness, Georgia. Women in Church and Society: A Historical and Theological Inquiry. Abingdon Press, Nashville. 1972.
Johnson, Helen. “Georgia Harkness: She Made Theology Understandable.”