Everyone loves to hear the laughter of children, but when an atmosphere is filled with laughter of all ages, something special fills the air.
Even with heavy rain at the Annual Community Picnic at the Old Salem Church on Route 42 last Sunday, those who attended brought smiles, created laughter and seemed to have a joyous afternoon.
For several years now, Jean Bradley and friends have organized an annual potluck where no one seems to meet a stranger.
After the blessing over the food, one gentleman said, “Y’all can stand around, but I’m going to get food! I was taught well around here.”
The people around him laughed, patted him on the back as if to say, “Go ahead, we’re still catching up with each other.”
Food lined both sides of the tables with too many choices to choose from. When children look down the line, and all one hears is “Mmmmmm that looks good!” parents get happy.
“I don’t think they make a plate big enough for all this food,” one man said as he scooped from a variety of bowls. “That’s why we have to come back through again,” added his wife with a giggle.
While people enjoyed their meal and desserts that included banana pudding, homemade pies, cobblers, cakes and the rocky road brownies, the antique logbook was passed along for everyone to sign.
As a girl, Bradley attended the Old Salem Church with her aunt. She continues to put together an annual event for everyone in Craig to attend. “I just like getting people together,” Bradley said.
She thanked many for helping “to rescue me in the ninth hour this year.”
Bradley’s brother, unfortunately, passed this year. She asked Kathy Jones to assist in coordinating with this year’s event and in the future years ahead. In previous years, Jones has helped with the floral décor in the church.
“I was just filling in for Jean since she has had a lot of things to do with her brother,” Jones said.
Jones started helping with the annual potluck when she was a little girl.
“My great-grandma Ethel Caldwell was a member there, and while my mom was at work, we stayed with her during the day. We regularly had to go with her and her sisters Ruth and Gertrude Lowery and clean the church for the services,” Jones stated. “She told us kids we needed to keep it going after they were gone and we said we would.”
After everyone had their fill, people stepped through the rain into the old church that has a warm and welcoming feeling with its antique wooden pews and hanging oil lantern chandeliers. The yellow daisies and country flowers set in urns brought a feeling of cheerfulness to the welcome as they were set in each window and about the church.
Craig Elmore, an attendee of the church for many years, will be 85 on September 3. Everyone joined in to sing him “Happy Birthday” which put a big smile on his face.
Jones, Bradley’s assistant in training, filled everyone in on what had happened in the last year. A special thanks went out to the anonymous person who had the outhouse pumped out.
A special time was noted of those who annually attended the event but passed in the last year. They included Sam Reynolds (Bradley’s brother), Jesse Etter and Virginia Heck. “We miss them being here,” Jones said.
Over the last few years, the old church has needed much work, including an updated roof, windows and some structure adjustments, just to name a few. People have donated freely. The plan is to purchase the small piece of land adjoining the church.
To date, the treasury holds $6,170. A small basket was set at the door for those who wished to donate to help with the future needs.
Ronnie Price and Junior Christian on their guitars, along with Carol Ralph on the piano, played several older gospel songs to the delight of all in attendance.
Some tapped their feet, while others kept the beat with their hand lightly going up and down on their leg. Some had facial expressions that were easy to read of peace and contentment.
Robyn Foster and Robbie Givens joined Price and Christian to sing some new songs. They each performed a solo before the event concluded. Even with the event ended, people stayed and chatted for almost an hour.
The special Christmas service, which is lighted by oil lamps and candles only as the church has no electricity, will be held the first Sunday in December. The gathering with snacks starts at 5:30 p.m. and the service will be at 6 p.m. “We hope you can all come back and we look forward to seeing you again,” Jean and Kathy said.