CHURCH IN THE PINES

A History Thereof

        HOW DID ALL OF THIS COME TO BE - CHURCH IN THE PINES AND ALL?  WELL, IN THE EYES OF A CHILD, THEN, AND AS RECALLED BY MUCH LESS, (AND EVEN GRAYER) MATTER - IT GOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS.       

 

        OUR LITTLE CHURCH IN THE PINES BEGAN IN 1953, UNDER A SMALL, PINE STRAW COVERED ARBOR, ON THE SHORELINE (750 MI) OF A YET UNDISCOVERED (5-10 YEAR-ROUND INHABITANTS) AND RATHER NEW LAKE MARTIN.

        THE LOCATION OF THIS NOW WELL-KNOWN FACILITY WOULD, THEN, HAVE BEEN DESCRIBED AS BEING SOUTH OF THE OLD KOWALIGA BRIDGE (NEW BRIDGE OPENED IN FALL OF 1975) AND ACROSS THE ROAD FROM TOPPY AND CHARLOTTE HODNETT’S KOWALIGA RESTAURANT, GROCERY AND CABINS (BUILT 1952, BURNED JUNE 1999, REPLACED JULY 2000).  IN 1959 RUSSELL LANDS ALSO BUILT TOPPY A SPORTS SHOP ON THE SITE OF THE OLD LEE PARKS’ STORE.  BO JORDON (WWII HERO – FIGHTER PILOT) RAN THE REPAIR SERVICE ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE SLOUGH.  PARKS’ STORE AND THE SPORTS SHOP WERE CO-LOCATED ON THE PRESENT SITE OF THE NEW (AND GLAMOROUS) KOWALIGA MARINA SHOWROOM.  BO’S PLACE (IN A DEEP FOREST, AS REMEMBERED) WAS REPLACED BY THE CURRENT (AND RATHER MUNDANE) SERVICE DEPARTMENT.   

 

        JULIA RUSSELL ORGANIZED AND CONVENED THE FIRST SERVICE WITH THE HELP OF THE REVEREND DUNCAN HUNTER.  SID JAY WAS THE FIRST ORGANIST (1954-1963).  OVER TIME, THE LITTLE CONGREGATION GREW AND GREW - DOVETAILING NICELY INTO THE MORES OF THIS CLOSELY KNIT LAKE COMMUNITY OF THE EARLY FIFTIES.  THE FIRST SETTLERS OF THIS SOCIAL ORDER ARRIVED AFTER ”THE WAR” (LATE FORTIES).   

 

        THIS NEW FORM OF WORSHIP WAS SOON VIEWED AS A BIT OF A MIXED BLESSING BY THE SMALLER AND SOMEWHAT MORE VIVACIOUS OF THE FAITHFUL; WEIGHING IT, IN THEIR OWN WAY, AGAINST THE SLIGHT PROBABILITY OF “BIG CHURCH” (ALL THE WAY BACK IN TOWN- DEPARTURE: 8:00 AM SUNDAY?).   

 

        CHURCH IN THE PINES BECAME, PRETTY MUCH, A CERTAINTY; A GUARANTEE, NONE-THE-LESS, OF REMAINING “DOWN AT THE LAKE” ALL DAY ON SUNDAY. (YOU COULD ALWAYS TELL THE “WOULD BE LOCALS” BY THEIR UNBELIEVABLY NAÏVE FAUX PAS: “ -- UP TO THE LAKE------” (WE CAME DOWN TO THE LAKE - FROM ALEX CITY) .

 

        MISS JULIA’S (BIG MOM MA) NEXT “SERMON” SOON BECAME THE TOPIC FOR THE WEEKEND, SAME BEING EAGERLY ANTICIPATED BY ALL - SOME, HOWEVER, WITH MORE ENTHUSIASM THAN OTHERS. THE CONCERNED:  MOST CHILDREN, ALL OWNERS OF “BUZZ-SAW” OUTBOARD MOTORS, YANKEES AND OTHER GENERAL TRANSGRESSORS, ALL EASILY SPOTTED BY THEIR UNEASY GAZES OR FIXED STARES - SYMPTOMS OF THEIR UNWITTING ATTEMPTS TO WILL AWAY THE INEVITABLE, PUBLIC CONDEMNATION OF THEIR (PERCEIVED) TRANSGRESSIONS.   

 

        ALL OF THIS ASIDE, THE SERVICES, WITH TIME, TOOK ON A NON-DENOMINATIONAL AND EVER MORE SOPHISTICATED FORMAT. AREA MINISTERS, MEANWHILE, COVETED AN INVITATION, AS THEY WERE WELL FED AND ENTERTAINED AT THE LAKE “CABIN” OF A PROUD MEMBER OF THEIR FLOCK.   

 

        REPEAT REQUESTS WERE ACCEPTED AT ALL COSTS, AS THE MINISTERS HAD, UPON THEIR FIRST DEPARTURE, BEEN PRESENTED WITH SEVERAL BROWN PAPER SACKS, CONTAINING THE UNOPENED OFFERING. THE RELATIVE WEIGHT OF THESE CONTAINERS SOON BECAME THE SUBJECT OF BRAGGING RIGHTS AMONGST PARISHIONERS OF SOME OF THE ‘BIG CITY’ CHURCHES.  A MORE STANDARD FORM OF REMUNERATION LATER REPLACED THIS PRACTICE.   

 

        THE MOST UNIQUE ASPECT OF THIS LITTLE BROWN CHURCH WAS, HOWEVER, THE FACT THAT MANY OF THE CONGREGATION ARRIVED IN A RATHER MOTLEY COLLECTION OF WATER CRAFT.  ALL OF THIS BEING TO THE UTTER ASTONISHMENT AND SHEER DELIGHT OF THE YOUNGER SET, MANY MANAGING TO REMAIN ABOARD OR, IN THE CASE OF THE MORE INCORRIGIBLES, THEREABOUTS.

        OCCASIONALLY, IT WAS ALL TOO MUCH FOR SOME OF THE UNINITIATED YOUNGONS.  EXPERIENCE GENERALLY PREVAILED, HOWEVER, WITH THE LOT, DOGS AND ALL, BEING ANCHORED A SAFE DISTANCE OFF SHORE. ALL IN ALL, THOUGH, THE SERVICES CONTINUED TO GROW IN ATTENDANCE AND SUSTENANCE.   

 

        IN THE EARLY DAYS THE PROPERTY WAS OWNED BY “RUSSELL MILLS” AND IN 1956 THEY WERE, SOMEHOW, PERSUADED TO CONSTRUCT A LARGE, OPEN, A-FRAME BUILDING TO REPLACE THE PINE STRAW COVERED ARBOR. AESTHETICS, HERE, LOSING OUT TO THE PERPETUALLY SOUGHT AFTER CURE FOR THE PERSISTENT RED BUG (CHIGGER) PLAGUE.   

 

        THE CRITTERS WERE SOMEWHAT DISADVANTAGED BY THE IMPROVEMENTS; AS THEY, THEN, HAD TO COMPLETE AN ARDUOUS CLIMB FROM THE PINE STRAW BELOW, VIS-À-VIS SIMPLY HAVING RAINED DOWN UPON THEIR UNAPPRECIATIVE HOST, FROM THE OLD, STRAW COVERED ARBOR.

 

        ANOTHER “SURE CURE,” THE CUMBERSOME, STRAIGHT BACK BENCHES (REQUIRING AN ADDITIONAL CLIMB FOR THE BELEAGUERED CHIGGERS), HAD TO BE STORED IN A NEAR-BY-SHED - CLEANED AND REPLACED EACH SEASON.   

 

        IN THE MID-70’s RUSSELL LANDS, INC. TOOK OVER RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PROPERTY. THE CHURCH WAS THEN RENOVATED AND PERMANENT BENCHES WERE INSTALLED - AN ACT, THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WHICH WAS FULLY APPRECIATED ONLY BY THE GROUND CREW (THEN, EASILY IDENTIFIED BY THE SCRAPES AND SCARS ON THEIR AGING HANDS).       

 

        IN 1987 MRS. RUSSELL ASKED LUANNE RUSSELL TO BEGIN COORDINATING THE SERVICES – WHICH SHE DID FOR MANY YEARS THEREAFTER AND CONTINUES, TO THIS DAY, TO ADVISE MANAGEMENT IN REGARD THERETO.

        DURING THESE NEAR FIFTY YEARS A NUMBER OF OTHER INDIVIDUALS MADE PERSONAL SACRIFICES FOR THE CAUSE.  SAM BRADSHAW AND JOE RICHARDSON WERE THE SONG LEADERS FROM THE EARLY DAYS.  LATER BUDDY WILLIS ALTERNATED AS MUSIC DIRECTOR.  IN THE EARLY 80’s PERCY YEARGAN BECAME THE LEADER OF THE SERVICES.  HIS WIFE, THELMA, WAS ALSO A GREAT SERVANT.     

 

        LEON BAKER HAS BEEN A STALWART COMMISSIONAIRE FOR MANY YEARS AND MRS. JOHN ALLEN JONES HAS BEEN A FAITHFUL TUTOR - TRAINING COUNTLESS YOUNG OFFERING MANAGERS, MOST OF WHOM WERE HER DIRECT DESCENDANTS.   

 

        IN 1963, FRIENDS OF THE DUNN FAMILY CONTRIBUTED THE ALTAR STRUCTURE AS A MEMORIAL TO WILLIAM RANSOM JOHNSON DUNN, III  -AND TO “ALL WHO LOVE THE LAKE.”

 

        RUSSELL LANDS DONATED THE ENTIRE PROPERTY TO CHILDREN’S HARBOR IN 1989; SUBSEQUENTLY, SAME WAS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF Adelia McConnell Russell.     

 

        IN 1990, CHILDREN’S HARBOR PUT ON THE MANTLE OF RESPONSIBILITY, NOW PROVIDING YEAR-ROUND SERVICES, EITHER IN THE CHURCH IN THE PINES (FROM MEMORIAL DAY THROUGH LABOR DAY WEEKEND) OR THE CHILDREN’S CHAPEL (FOR THE REMAINDER OF YEAR).   

 

        CHURCH IN THE PINES IS ONE OF THE MOST UNIQUE WORSHIP SERVICES IN THIS COUNTRY AND IT IS DEEPLY EMBEDDED IN THE HEARTS OF HUNDREDS (FOUR GENERATIONS NOW) AND REVERENTLY REMEMBERED BY THOUSANDS. INNUMERABLE COUPLES HAVE BEEN MARRIED IN THE TWO FACILITIES, AS WELL.   

 

        NOW, LET US, EACH AND EVERYONE, DILIGENTLY STRIVE TO PROMULGATE THE VIRTUES OF AFORESAID INSTITUTION, AMONGST THE HITHERTO UNENLIGHTENED.