Another Sunday — Southside I

This entry is part of my series on my on-going “church journey” that I’ll be documenting as it takes place. You can read about other visits with the “journey” tag.

Southside Baptist Church

“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started… and know the place for the first time.” — T.S. Eliot

I first became involved with Southside Baptist Church as a high school student when I went on a mission trip to Cherokee, North Carolina. I began attending the church with my family after that, continuing into the time I spent home from college. When I moved back to Huntsville eight years ago, one of my brothers was still attending Southside, and extended an invitation to attend with him. He left the church not long thereafter, but not before I had settled back in. I attended Southside for another five years after that.

After my divorce, however, I felt like it was time to leave. My sense of my place in the church was very much rooted in my ex-wife, and it was uncomfortable going without her. I wanted to go somewhere that I could start fresh, that people would know me for who I am, not who I’d been. And, at that point in time, Southside was having such major problems at the church that I felt like the church was too hurt itself to be able to really minister to my hurts.

I have a vague memory of going back to Southside for something not too long after the divorce, and it feeling really weird going by myself. The memory is vague enough that it may even have just been during the time before I left to find another church.

The long-time preacher who had been at the center of the divide in the church left around the same time I did, and I’d been curious what had happened in Southside after that division had been resolved, and a new pastor had been hired. But I’d just never made it back. After my journey led me to a Baptist church last month for the first time in over a year, I decided that maybe it was time I revisited Southside.

What I learned is that I’m going to need to go again to figure out what I’d learned. Southside currently has two Sunday morning services; this past week I went to the 8 a.m. service. What I found was not encouraging, and led me to wonder how well the church had survived the divide. Attendance was sparse, and the congregation skewed older than when I had been there before. But I didn’t know if that reflected the church as a whole, or if the two services felt radically different from each other.

Supporting the former thesis were the announcements that the church would be consolidating into one Sunday morning service in two weeks. Also, the preacher was out of town Sunday, but the associate pastor who brought the message talked a lot about the number of people in the church who had talked to him recently expressing fear. Being at the service felt like being an intruder at a private family discussion.

But I’m not leaping to conclusions, so I guess the main purpose of this post is to serve as backstory for the posts I’m going to be writing when I visit again to see what the later — or consolidate — service looks like.

To be continued …

2 Responses

  1. David- what years were you at S’side before? I was there from January 1998 to December 2002, and met my husband there. My parents still go there, so I know quite a bit about what’s happened there.

    From what I know, the earlier service and the later one are VERY different. (It was like that when I was there, too.) I also know that the church is trying to move forward, making a lot of changes, and hopefully things will improve. I’m interested in seeing what will happen now and what your observations are.

  2. Oh, goodness, let’s see — regularly from ’89 until ’92, intermittently for another two to four years after that, and then regularly from Sept. ’02 until Sept. ’07. So we would have overlapped by three months or so.

    I’ve heard good things about the new pastor and what’s going on at the church; I’m hoping to see more of that when I go back again.

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