Tag Archives: Church

Vicksburg, Mississippi – Margaret’s Grocery & Bible Class

17 Jun

The Reverend H.D. Dennis "God Sent You Here Today!"

“God sent you here today” said Reverend Dennis as he looked at me directly in the eyes with a peaceful and confident stare.  He then looked over to my friend Paul to include him. Margaret stood behind the counter and smiled at us.  She knew that she would have to remain there and interpret as the Reverend began to talk.  Rev. Dennis could not hear well at all, and I was convinced that the battery was always dead in his hearing aid.  It was not long before he was obtaining some loud Amens from Paul and me.  We had to almost yell for him to hear us but he knew he was getting a response and that was invigorating to him.  Since the Rev. could not hear hardly at all his speech was somewhat, okay mostly, garbled.  This is when Margaret would interject her interpretations of his speech.

Margaret was one of the most kind a gentle people that I have ever met.  Her gentle voice was soothing and always pleasant.  Occasionally she was humorous.  On a previous visit with another friend she told me how enjoyable it was to have some country folks to talk to.  She said that even though she loved the many people that stopped most of them were from the city and she felt that country people had a unique richness about them because they were close to the land to other people that worked the land.  I guess she could tell both of us were piney-woods bumpkins from our speech and the things about which we talked.

As the Rev. carried on with his mostly incomprehensible sermon Margaret showed us some items around her place and took particular pleasure in showing us some pictures of her mother.  We did not ignore Rev. Dennis because he did say something we understood every once in a while and we acknowledged that he indeed was correct and that we agreed with him totally.

He told us how the City of Vicksburg had given him an old school bus and that he had turned it into a sanctuary in order to preach the gospel.  I am hesitant to call the bus a church but the Rev. would place people in the seats of the bus and deliver a short sermon to them.  he stood near the drivers seat and left no doubt he was in charge of the occasion.  He was the driver and those in the seats were the students. In fact his whole place along old US Highway 61 was the Church and the bus served its duty as he needed it.

Main Sanctuary at Margaret's

A Typical Southern Grocery and Bible Class Place

As he showed us around his wondrous place he talked that day mainly about the colors of his creation.  His “place” had grown to be world known and everyday people from all around the world would stop and visit.  “Just like those people, said Rev. Dennis, that come here from all over they are of different colors.  The Lord made it that way”.  He talked about the many beautiful colors that God had used in his creation.  “That is why there are different colors here at this place, they are to show that God likes things of different colors and that there is no difference between the black man and the white man and there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile.”  In fact Reverend Dennis encourage all people to drop by his place and take a visit and to hear a little of the Gospel.

Margaret was always near with her loving smile and gentle voice.  Her voice always had a tone of encouragement and love for all who would listen.  Despite their trials in life the Dennis’ were filled with love for other people.

Margaret was first married to another man.  I think she loved him very much and he was married to her when she started with the grocery business.  She said that he had gone through World War Two without a scratch but had come back home and was murdered during a robbery.  The Reverend Dennis was her second husband.

Margaret told us that the parents of Rev. Dennis had died when he was young and that he had to live with a close relative.  She said either a grandfather or an uncle I think.  In any case the man treated Rev. Dennis badly and when he had all that he could stand he sneaked a ride on a train to escape.  He had ridden on the front of the train on top of the “cow catcher” and that he always remembered that ride of 19 miles because it was very cold that night.

Margaret died last year at the age of 94.  She lived a full life and had seen the extremes of sacrifice and the joys of love.  The Rev. Dennis is now in a care facility in Vicksburg.  I have read that a church is supposed to preserve the Dennis place but I do not know if that is possible. It takes a special person to keep a place like that up.  Once his spirit is removed there will be nothing there to keep things in order.

Beautiful Margaret Waved Good Bye As We Left

There are some things I will never forget about Margaret and the Rev. Dennis.  Margaret would never let us leave without a hug and a kiss and a kind comment.  I have to smile though when I remember one thing that the Rev. talked about.  Once he spoke you understood fully why Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans with such fury.  I will not tell you why but my guess is that he thinks that the terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is for the same reason!.

I am thankful for the times that I stopped and visited with Margaret and the Reverend.  Things do not stay the same forever and now I know that a colorful part of our Southern heritage has gently faded into the past.

Rodney, Mississippi – Presbyterian Church

16 Jun

Just getting to Rodney can be an adventure.  We had no idea where we were but we turned up in Rodney. It was easy though to see how isolated and difficult it can be to find this place. Rodney is in Loess hills that are on the edge of the Mississippi River and valleys and gorges have formed that can be confusing and treacherous. The small roads cannot be much larger than a single vehicle and I say that because in going there and coming back I did not encounter another vehicle so I am just estimating. The small town was mostly the remains of an older town with some buildings in decent shape but with most not suitable for visitation. A few people do live in Rodney as do some loud mouth barking dogs.

Articles and books about Rodney abound so I will not go overly in depth in this post. In the future I plan to make a number of postings about Rodney. For this posting I will limit my discussion to the Rodney Presbyterian Church that proudly displays a cannon ball in it’s facade.

There is a historical feeling about this church and that was very apparent as I circled the church looking in the windows. Despite all the history associated with Rodney, and this church, my thoughts could not stray far from the events that happened on Sunday September 13, 1863. Those that did not attend church that day missed the most exciting day in the history of the church. Some of those that first attended that day probably wished they had never set foot in that church.

The US Gunboat “Rattler” was on duty in the Mississippi River to prevent activity at the port of Rodney and to report on Confederate activities in the area. Seems like duty on that ship was growing routine and the sight of nicely dressed women going to church must have created excitement on the boat that day. On the other hand there was a passenger on board from Red Lick, Mississippi that was headed back North. Mr. Baker had just resigned his position as the Presbyterian Pastor in Red Lick. He was a Northern sympathizer and was on the ship as the guest of Master Fentress awaiting passage to the North. Knowing that Mr. Baker was on board the Rattler the Pastor of the Rodney Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Robert Price, invited Pastor Baker to deliver the message on that day. Pastor Baker accepted the offer and extended an invitation to Captain Fentress and Ensign Strunk. They with about 20 sailors set out for services with Rev. Baker.

Cannon Ball Lodged in Front Facade of Rodney Presbyterian Church

The call of duty should have prevented the acting master and some 20 odd crew from abandoning ship for the pews of the Church that day. It seems that the Union sailors had just settled down into their pews for a day of worship and were finishing the second song. Then in walked Lt. Allen of the Confederate Calvary. He was not looking for a seat but strolled up to the pulpit and after apologizing to the minister he announced to the congregation that the church was surrounded by his men and that the Union sailors were under arrest. A small melee broke out and some shots were fired. Most of the congregation sought safety under the pews while some fled from the church. One elderly woman stood on her pew shouting “Glory to God!”

Once the skeleton crew on the Rattler learned of this fiasco they began lobbing shells into town. As the cannon balls flew through town one of them hit the church and stuck into the exterior. Not to be out ordered and out gunned Lt. Allen sent word to the Rattler that he would start hanging his prisoners if the shelling did not stop. He informed the Rattler that the towns people had in no way played a part in his actions.

The next time that Master Fentress was heard from he was in a prisoner in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. He had written a letter to Admiral Porter explaining the events of that fateful day. The Rattler became a laughing stock and it’s fate was spread far and wide. However the ships notoriety did not last that long because on December 30, 1864, the Rattler hit a snag in the river and sank.

I wonder if Pastor Baker delivered a message that historic day and if he did what did he talk about? A interesting day I must say. Having half the congregation arrested, others diving under pews and some even firing shots. Then on top of that having cannon balls rock the Church. I guess that would drive an elderly lady to stand in a pew and shout “Glory to God.” One thing for sure is that the Spirit does work in mysterious ways in Rodney.