Update: An earlier version of this story insinuated LaGrange fell under Georgia’s “gnat line” before an alert reader in the area informed us otherwise.
LAGRANGE — Though without shape, a smell contains the power to make things move.
On a hazy June evening, for example, pastors and their wives arrive at 1301 Washington Street, home of Troup Baptist Association, to a hickory-sweet aroma. Thanks to the friendly, air-conditioned confines of the fellowship hall, they won’t have to battle the Georgia heat and mosquitos. The talents of ribmaster Jerome Shipman, pastor at New Macedonia Baptist Church, serve as the main event for the main course. Attendees appreciate the side dishes, but they’re not the main feature.
Each year, Troup Association hosts two Rib Days for local pastors. One takes place for full-time vocational ministers while another is for those in part-time positions. The reason for two events speaks to the scheduling differences. Those at full-time positions get together at noon on the first Monday of June while the second meeting takes place on the final Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m., when many pastors are finished with their full-time secular jobs for the day.
“It’s just a time of fellowship and eating,” says McCulluogh. “They get to know each other and, in talking, realize they face a lot of the same issues in ministry. They realize they aren’t alone.”
A local funeral home, McCullough adds, covers the cost of the event, making it free for attendees.
An opportunity for community
McCullough joins others in witnessing a greater number of bivocational pastors. Thus, there’s a great need for ministering to the group and providing opportunities for community. And while eating plays right into a church/Baptist stereotype, is anyone complaining? Especially when the draw is ribs?
Discussions at the event range from serious to silly, with laughter being a consistent factor alongside a need for wetknaps. Actually, the conversations grow organically as do the resultant connections.
“Pastors have gotten together and decided to collaborate [in ministry] after this,” McCullough states. “I’ve had several churches plan revivals and singings together because in this atmosphere they get comfortable with each other.
“This last spring, three churches decided to have a three-day revival event where each church hosted a night and rotated speakers and choirs.” For example, he added, on Sunday night host church #1 would have pastor from church #2 preached. Each church’s choir also took part at a different location. Responsibilities switched out the next two evenings.
Rib Days may not feel like a training event. However, it can serve as one of them offered to pastors by Troup Baptist Association. “Next month I’m bringing in some of my experienced, retired pastors. They’ll answer questions and be a resource for these guys,” McCullough says.
That one won’t feature ribs, but it’ll include pastors who first got to know each other while finishing a plate of them.
“Many of them, especially the bivocational guys, get encouraged because they find out others are facing the same challenges in ministry. All they have to do is show up and realize someone cares about them.”
It’s an important step, he asserts, to making things move.