2017-08-02 / Editorials

Don Lively

244

. ...and counting.

Writers like to use little tricks at the beginning of a piece. Most of the tricks have one objective, grabbing attention, specifically to get readers to wonder, "What did he/she mean by that?"

The purists, the grammar and punctuation extremists, are saying, "How dare he start a sentence, nah, an entire column, with an ellipsis and a non capitalized word?

Another trick.

But, let's concentrate on the first one.

Again, what does the odd title mean?

244...what?

Well, I'll tell you.

It's how many years my little country church has been spreading the gospel in our little corner of the world.

Two-hundred-forty-four years.

Let that sink in.

It means that our congregation has been around since before America was America.

We beat nationhood by three years.

We were begun at a location a few miles closer to the Savannah River than where we now sit. Our founder, the earthly one, not The Heavenly One, was a circuit riding preacher who had to dodge Indians, British regulars and drunken locals throughout his early ministry. We are the second oldest church in our great state and the oldest continuously active one. There's never been a time in our history that we've had to shutter the building.

That's quite an achievement.

Most Southern churches have a yearly event known as Homecoming and this week was ours. We celebrated 244 by having our former pastor return to give a rousing testimonial about God's healing power, he having made a remarkable recovery from a massive stroke. If ever there was evidence of the power of prayer, him standing in the pulpit speaking to many dozens of his former congregants who have prayed constantly for his healing was proof positive.

It's just one of many miracles that have been witnessed over the past nearly two and a half centuries since Edmund Botsford, that previously mentioned circuit rider, crossed the Atlantic, became a preacher and began a long and storied career.

It wasn't easy.

One day, right here in our county, the reverend was under the impression that he had finally gathered together a large group of men to hear his sermon. Dozens were on hand and seemed to be listening intently to his words until one of the men shouted, "The rum is come". Apparently a wagon had arrived carrying a completely different kind of spirits. Mr. Botsford kept on preaching but before long his flock was out of control, cursing and fighting among themselves. One of them even accosted the reverend himself, insisting that Edmund take a drink with him and then agree to come to the man's neighborhood to preach.

"It was now no time to reason, or reprove, and as preaching was Mr. Botsford's business, he accepted the old man's invitation, and made an appointment."

The account does not document whether or not the reverend partook in order to seal the deal.

He was also forced to flee the British army when their forces swept through what is now Georgia and South Carolina.

He outlived his first two wives and married his third during his ministry. He had several children. He rode thousands of miles on horseback and preached hundreds of sermons all over the region.

His church, our church, was first called the New Savannah Church but in a few months it was changed to The Botsford Meeting House. Today it still bears his name, as does another church just down the road, though theirs has a slightly different spelling.

Forty-four years ago your humble scribbler portrayed Reverend Botsford during the 200th Homecoming wearing the whole Revolutionary War era outfit, silk waistcoat and matching knee pants, a three cornered hat, buckled shoes and white knee stockings.

I looked spectacular.

But more importantly I took a serious interest in the reverend's and the church's history.

It's fascinating reading.

There's no telling how many lost souls have come to know Christ at that little country church.

Or how many weddings have taken place there.

Or funerals.

Many people who I grew up calling uncle or aunt, Grandma or Granddaddy, cousin or friend, and, of course, Mama and Daddy, now repose just across the road, in the cemetery.

Well, their bodies are there.

Their souls are in Heaven with Jesus.

And with Reverend Botsford.

I often wonder if he ever looks down on the body of believers that he established all those years ago.

244 years, to be exact.

244

...and counting.

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of two books of Southern Humor, Howlin' At The Dixie Moon, and, South O' Yonder. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com.

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