Sweet Home Alabama

Dr. Ray Pritchard

I am writing this note from my brother Andy's home on a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River in beautiful (and steamy) Florence, Alabama (located in northwest Alabama, where Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee all come together). Yesterday we left Oak Park about 7:45 AM and arrived here about 7:20 PM. That's at least an hour longer than usual, but instead of coming down on I-65 as we usually do, we meandered through eastern Illinois on I-57, then cut across on I-24 to Nashville where we picked up I-65. That added about 35-40 miles to the length of the trip, plus we made a few extra stops along the way.

We're in Alabama this weekend because it's Homecoming Sunday tomorrow at the First Baptist Church of Russellville, about 20 miles south of here. Russellville is my hometown, that's where I grew up, and the First Baptist Church is my home church. That's where all the foundational events of my life took place. Toinght there will be reunion party (organized by Rick and Lynn Suddith) of lots of folks who grew up at First Baptist in the late 60s and early 70s. Most of them were in their late teens the last time I saw them. I imagine we've all changed a bit since then. Tomorrow morning Sunday School classes will be suspended so we can all meet in the sanctuary at 10 AM for the worship service. The "Christian Persuasion" reunion youth choir will be singing along with Paul "Fire" Lynch who grew up with all of us (as much as any of us have grown up) and went on to perform over 1000 concerts with the groundbreaking Christian contemporary group Truth. I'm bringing the morning message. Following the service, we're having "dinner on the grounds," a great Southern tradition.

Victor Hugo said we spend the first forty years leaving home and the next forty years going home. And Robert Frost famously said that home is the place, when you go there, they have to take you in. A dear friend reminded me of that this week. She said that after all the stunts I pulled growing up, I ought to be glad they will take me in. She's right. I'm glad my friends have either forgotten a lot or have charitably decided to look the other way. In any case, I'm glad to be coming home this weekend.

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