As the new moderator of CBFGA, my hope is that we can return to normalcy in our churches during 2022. Zoom and livestream are wonderful tools, but oh, isn’t it grand when we can meet face to face and give our warm hugs of Christian fellowship! We can see smiles in the eyes above the masks but not that facial smile. Recently after serving remotely only on a committee with a church member I did not know, we met in the parking lot, without masks. Her first question: “Who are you? Are you Norma? I have not seen your face before.” Now you may be wondering, how did she not know a fellow church member with whom she was working on a committee? Well, my church, Scott Boulevard Baptist Church in Atlanta, had merged with First Baptist Church, Decatur, in August 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, while we were not meeting in person. For five years, Scott Boulevard had been sharing a worship space (the chapel), a Sunday School room, and office space at First Baptist, Decatur. We had been meeting members of First Baptist in the hallways, and some even visited our services occasionally, but unknown faces were covered with masks. We have come to realize as a merged church that we need more than a simple commercial directory as we get to know one another. We need to know a little information about each other to start and share in conversations and to meet the needs of our members.
So, as the new moderator, let me introduce myself by answering the question, “Who am I?”:
I grew up attending a small country church, Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church, in Southern Illinois — at Fairfield, midway between Evansville, Indiana, and St Louis, Missouri. A few years ago, the church’s minutes were shared with my family. It was awesome to see the beautiful handwriting of my grandfather as he wrote the minutes. My dad attended Sunday School for over sixty years without an absence! One Sunday, the church even brought Sunday School to him in the hospital. During those early years, I learned the stories of the Bible, the old country gospel songs, and that I was going to be hit by a train and die before I got home if I did not come forward at the altar call and repent! Of course, in the countryside between home and church there were no trains, only cows and fields of corn and soybeans. But there I also learned to serve the church and the community with the talents God had given me. My dad was an excellent example of being a giving soul, of being kind and serving others. The message at his funeral was Hebrews 11:4, “By faith he was commended as a righteous man.”
On to my path of service: I attended Southern Illinois University, where I was active in the BSU and often went with a team on weekend revivals. I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education and taught in Carbondale, Illinois. My husband was working for the Baptist Book Store, and we were transferred to Georgia. After staying home with my oldest son, I returned to work with the DeKalb School System, where I taught at various times grades 1-5, science lab, and Title 1 Math for 17 years. Then I spent six years as instructional and discipline assistant principal and my last eleven years as a principal. In DeKalb County, I always worked in the economically disadvantaged parts of the county. It was wonderful to watch students and teachers bloom. My last couple of years, my school was the DeKalb Elementary School of Arts, and I especially enjoyed working with my young students from Section 8 housing. I received my Specialist Degree in Educational Administration and completed the course work and comps for my Doctorate at Georgia State University (always the procrastinator). I taught senior adults in Sunday School (weekdays with children were enough) and was on the deacon council, but I did not become active in other church ministries until after retirement.
Then for seven years I cooked Wednesday evening meals at Scott Boulevard Baptist, and I worked hard on the committee to sell our church facility. Our church became a part of CBF from the beginning. Dr. John Finley was our pastor at the time. For several years, I was chair of the Deacons at Scott Boulevard — no one else would take the responsibility at the time! Those were interesting and exciting times.
In retirement, I have enjoyed traveling near and far, watching my sons Keith and Heath become mature and nurturing fathers and leaders, tutoring, being a care giver and taking on too many responsibilities. Keith and his five children live in Hillsdale, Michigan, where he is a band director. Heath and his family live in Greenville, South Carolina, where they are members of Augusta Road Baptist Church, and where he serves as a deacon. Currently, I am the State President of Georgia’s outstanding women educators’ group, Alpha Delta Kappa. I serve on the Elaine Bryan STEAM Foundation and am chairman-elect for the deacons at First Baptist Church, Decatur.
It is a pleasure to serve as Moderator of CBFGA. Jody and the staff are great leaders for our state, and it is a Godsend to have the organization of CBF. I am proud to be a part of CBFGA and CBF and therefore in an umbrella organization that welcomes all God’s children.
Blessings, and GO and BE the presence of God.