I had the honor and privilege of attending President Jimmy Carter's Sunday School Class at Maranatha Baptist Church as a guest of one of the Church members, Jan Williams, known locally as "Miss Jan".
Maranatha Baptist Church was founded in 1977 by a splinter group from Plains Baptist Church over the issue of allowing African Americans membership to the Church. According to their website,
"Maranatha Baptist Church was born out of the desire to see the kingdom of God instilled in Plains, Georgia."
As of April 2017, Brandon Patterson is the Pastor at Maranatha. He is finishing Divinity School at McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta. Prior to the Sunday School lesson, Brandon took a little time to share his story. Would you believe he is only 23 and just became engaged? He is incredibly enthusiastic, energetic and entertaining. Most important to note, however, is that he is a humble and compassionate human being.
They passed the collection plate around during "orientation" for everyone to take a moment to see the initials carved on the bottom "JC".
We were asked if we might know whose initials they might be. :)
After Miss Jan and Miss Jill (Jill Stuckey) conducted orientation, during which they explained the etiquette of attending Church with President Carter, the work of the Carter Center, and they shared some interesting Carter history, Pastor Brandon took to the podium to share his story.
Then, President Jimmy Carter came out to teach his Sunday School lesson.
At first, he spoke a little about current events and the work of the Carter Center, and then dove into the Bible lesson. The words that struck me the most were, "If you had a business partner who thought only of what was best for you, wouldn't you want that person as your partner?... That is God." Although we have the gift of Free Will, God continues to love each and everyone of us unconditionally. A great message for everyone.
After the Sunday School Lesson ended, we stayed for the worship service.
Brandon spoke about "Heavenly Habits" and how we should all work towards converting our negative habits to positive habits. The lesson reminded me of the seven virtues: Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Justice, Prudence and Temperance. If we could all exhibit a little more kindness, respect and love towards all we meet, what a wonderful world this would be.
I neglected to mention that after Sunday School, President and Mrs. Carter were seated just a couple of rows in front of us.
We were entertained by the choir.
And, Brandon led us through the closing prayer.
For those who stay for the worship service, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter will pose for a photo with you on your camera or cell phone.
We were told to have our camera or cell phone ready, not to talk or touch the Carters, and the photo would take about 4 seconds. It is extremely generous of President and Mrs. Carter to take the time to allow everyone to have a personal memento of their visit to Marantha Baptist Church. It is also extremely generous of all of the Maranatha Baptist Church members to go out of their way to accommodate so many guests.
Here's the photo of my visiting family with me and the Carters. It was a wonderful experience, one I will always treasure.
Here is the most up-to-date information on attending Sunday School provided by the Church :
Arriving at the church on most Sundays no later than 6 a.m. will usually get you a seat in his class. (They never know how many buses or groups may be arriving.) There have been many Sundays that before 6:30 a.m. they have had enough guests to fill all the seats in the sanctuary and by 7:30 the overflow room. The sanctuary holds 280 people and the Fellowship Hall will hold about 140 guests.
When you arrive at the church and enter the parking lot, each car is given a number for the lineup. This number if for everyone in the car. You may remain in your car until line up time
They usually begin lining up by number order around 7:30 a.m. and enter the church around 8 a.m.
Everyone goes through a security check before entering the church. The following is a list of items to NOT bring with you into the church:
DO NOT bring a knife, clippers, scissors, lighters, tweezers, mace, back packs, camera bags, large purses or bags into the church.
You may NOT bring anything to give or show to the Carters or ANY books written by the Carters into the church.
The Carters do NO autographing at church.
There is NO opportunity to talk with the Carters.
Do bring your camera and/or cell phone into the church.
The seat you have for Sunday School will be the same seat that you will have for the church service.
You must stay for Sunday School and the Worship Service to be able to have a picture made with the Carters.
Everyone is welcome to come and worship at Maranatha Baptist Church.
For more info, you may call 229-942-4141 – Jan Williams
Since we know that guests staying with us to attend Jimmy Carter's Sunday School class will have to leave for Plains very early (it is a 15 minute drive from our home), and they will be missing our 3-course breakfast (served in the dining room 8 - 9:30 a.m.), we have been providing a "to go" breakfast to be enjoyed in your car as you wait to line up. "To go" breakfast is comprised of muffins, yogurt and hard boiled eggs. Fruit and snacks are always available along with soft drinks and bottled water.
Remember, if you are arriving at Maranatha Baptist Church around 6 a.m., you will have 1.5 hours before line up time and 4 hours before President Carter teaches.
Thank you for visiting the Americus Garden Inn Bed & Breakfast blog. I look forward to sharing more about our wonderful home and area very soon.