Memories: An Interview with James Noel
James joined Holly Grove Christian church at the age of 11 in 1931. During this time his family lived near “Peter’s Mountain” on Factory Mill Rd. and attended Hopeful Baptist Church. James, at 11 years of age, came to the conclusion that it made no sense to ride by one church to attend another, so he started walking to Holly Grove. James still had to help “hook up” the horses for the family’s ride to Hopeful even though he walked to Holly Grove. Following his joining our church, James remembers being “dipped” (Baptized) at Shelton’s Mill to begin his life as a Christian.
When asked of memories of our church, James remembered the old wooden church building and how the men performed all the maintenance. One of his many tasks in maintaining the church involved sanding the floors. James remembers he and Rev. Farris working on this task and at one point they had a very steep area to sand. He remembers they devised a scheme using a rope to suspend the sander while James pushed the sander as he maintained his balance on the steep area. He remembered Rev. Farris as a leader and how driven he was to make the church successful by not only preaching but “doing”. He and his wife Alice recalled how Preacher Farris was constantly starting and finishing projects. They remembered how in 1953 they added the Baptistery to the old church building. James enjoyed working with Preacher Farris and they remained life long friends.
Over the years James held almost every position of leadership at the church. He was an Elder or Deacon from 1953 and did a lot to keep the church running. James and Alice feel it is important for people to work hard to make the church successful and to always be willing to respond to the needs of the church. James also felt is important to spread God’s word with your actions. They did say our neighborhood is blessed with its share of volunteer organizations (Fire, Rescue, Ruritan, and other churches) making it difficult to get people to find the time to help, but the church should always be number one on the priority list. He and Alice remembered the old days when the church was the social epicenter of the neighborhood and how the annual week-long Revival and “Day Long meetings” would pack in the people.
When asked about happy times in the church, James indicated “everyday is a happy day in church”. But after a moment of reflection, he remembered the fun the group would have at Craig Springs. He remembers the weekends the men and women of the church would pile in their cars and go to Craig Springs to winterize a cabin. He remembers the coffee Andrew Lloyd would make (strong but good) and how they would work hard during the day to get the cabin sealed up for the coming winter. But once the hard day’s work was done, all would gather around the camp, drink coffee, and tell stories. James fondly remembered the wonderful fellowship of this experience and some of treasured members who have passed on.
James also remembered the softball teams of the past years and the girl’s team in the 60’s was one of the best teams fielded in the area. He recalled it was hard to get the girls focused (with Mary Alice and Gwen on the team this is understandable). He recalled how much fun they all had playing together and how one afternoon Pam Hart was rounding third while he was coaching the base. He feels he must have gotten too close to Pam and that she almost “flattened” him going home. James summed up the experience stating how important it is to do fun things with the young people of the church and how these activities keep the members excited about church and result in a very active membership.
When asked what James liked most about the Church today, he didn’t hesitate long and responded, “the Bible study”. He felt the Bible study did a lot to better his understanding of the Bible and enjoyed the fellowship with the other members. James recalled the days when Elpis, Springfield, and Holly Grove all shared a preacher and felt, as many of us did, how lucky we were to have Rev. Dusenberry.
James was always and early riser and felt it was important to start church right on time. James also closed the church after the services, and immediately following the service he was efficiently waiting for the last member to leave so he could shut the door and get on with the rest of the day. James remembered one instance of some complaints while he was Superintendent of Sunday schools. Under James leadership, the congregation would only sing the first and last verses of songs during services. Well, one Sunday James got wind of some members who thought this was not right and the songs were too short. The following Sunday he and the organist (Carolyn Bagby) picked the longest five verse songs they could find in the hymnal and had almost and entire service of song. James said no more complaints came from the congregation following that Sunday.
It was a pleasure interviewing James and Alice for this issue of our newsletter. James’ interview pointed out to me the main ingredients that have kept our church successful, and will continue to maintain that success, involve hard work, a sense of humor, and dedication to spreading God’s word through our actions. James and Alice are cornerstones in our Church’s membership, that over the years, have impacted almost everyone who attended Holly Grove. We, as members, should learn from their experience and try to maintain the traditions and momentum they and the other members of our church have passed down. So, when the work of Volunteering seems hard to bear or life just doesn’t seem to be going the way we want it to, we should remember James’ message of dedication and to keep pushing forward.
(This interview was conducted by Byron Wilson prior to 2005, James has since passed away)