TOCCOA — Many people who live in the city grew up in small towns. Certainly, some of today’s urbanites occasionally long for the more easily managed, non-threatening, friendly, finite slower-paced, non-congested, less-stressful life provided in smaller towns – towns like the Mayberry we have all observed in the black-and-white world Sheriff Andy Taylor shaped so masterfully in the iconic Andy Griffith Show.
And who could ever forget Barney Fife’s (Don Knotts) famous “Nip it in the bud!”pronouncements and watching him rocking on the porch, repeating his “plan” to go downtown, get a soda pop, and head over to Thelma Lou’s to watch TV?
Although Andy Griffith died on July 3, 2012 and Don Knotts died on February 24, 2006, The Andy Griffith Show continues to dominate cable television programming more than five decades after it was launched in 1960. Surely its popularity has continued, at least in part, due the fact that embedded in so many episodes are cherished values and moral lessons that resonate so beautifully in the hearts of millions of Americans.
Mr. Griffith, heavily involved in the writing and in script approval, insisted that each episode include a positive moral lesson or takeaway. The messages he infused in the series are still relevant in 2016, so breakout sessions deal with topics such as fear, lying, friendship, pride, faith, and bullying.
Bill Wheeler, director of the Georgia Baptist Conference Centers, is planning an event at the Conference Center in Toccoa Sep. 19-22 he is calling: “Memories from Mayberry: Timeless Truths from America’s Hometown.” The three-day event is essentially a Bible conference that will feature inspirational preaching and worship, the volunteer Mayberry Choir, Dobro expert and bluegrass legend LeRoy “Mack” McNess, and breakout sessions based on select episodes from The Andy Griffith Show, fabulous home-style meals, comfortable lodging on the Toccoa campus, and much more.
McNess, the Dobro expert, appeared on two episodes of The Andy Griffith Show himself. And for those unfamiliar with the Dobro, it is the general term for a wood-bodied, single cone resonator guitar. McNees, beloved alum of the show and a bluegrass legend, will open the event with a concert.
Debbie Whisenant, creator of the Memories from Mayberry Bible-study model, stated, “People relate to the series, not only for its uproarious humor and innocent spirit, but also because they see themselves in the foibles of its quirky characters. In all this time, human nature hasn’t changed. We still deal with similar daily challenges. We still struggle with personal shortcomings. We still have imperfect relationships. We still want our faith to be stronger.
“The genius of The Andy Griffith Show,” she explained, “is that its practical life lessons are amazingly tied to God’s Word. ‘A friend loves at all times, and a brother is there for times of trouble’ (Prov. 17:17) and ‘Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves’ (Phil. 2:3) are two of many verses that come to mind.
“Our guests have remarked that the best part and welcoming surprise of this event is the presence of the Holy Spirit, making this a spiritual as well as a fun experience.”
Involved with the event since its inception, Craig Hamlin, senior pastor at Heatherwood Baptist Church, Newnan will return to preach at this year’s event.
“Memories from Mayberry is always one of the major highlights of my year and has been such a source of encouragement in my life,” Hamlin said. “Growing up in Mt. Airy, NC (the birthplace of Andy Griffith) and being such a fan of the show, to participate in this conference and be around such awesome people, it puts me right back in Mayberry! To quote Barney, ‘This is big; really big!’”
During the conference Hamlin always enjoys sharing his personal Mayberry connection: his great-grandmother babysat Andy Griffith!
Georgia Baptist Conference Center-Toccoa is an 850-acre campus nestled in the North Georgia Mountains on serene Lake Louise. The rural and welcoming setting is a perfect venue for an encounter with God and for experiencing easy-going Christian fellowship with fellow Mayberry fans.
For information about the event and to register click here or call (706) 886-3133.