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Look for a multimedia presentation including interviews, music and more online at http://youtu.be/RWpqUPvaDiM
Ladies wore fancy hats, ushers were clad in white, and the choir was in colorful African garb in celebration of Black History Month.
It was a typical Sunday morning in February at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church on U.S. 17 near Calabash.
In the midst of morning singing and prayers, church pastor Douglas Moss emerged at the pulpit to launch the day’s announcements and message:
“Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!” he greeted.
The day’s initial scripture came from Galatians about the fruit of the spirit, followed by morning announcements. If anyone had a word to say, they could do so at this time.
“I’m glad to be here today,” said one lady, rising from her seat in the congregation. She brought a message from a home-bound member grateful for “all you do for her—and continue to pray for her.”
“Praise the Lord!” Moss responded. “God bless you. Praise the Lord! Everything is in order.”
At this historic church that’s nearing its 80th birthday, Moss expressed gratitude for those like longtime church member, Sister Arvella Marlowe, who “help do the work that’s needed—amen!” he said.
Marlowe has attended the church since she was a little girl.
Situated in the bend of U.S. 17 just south of the Hickmans Crossroads intersection, Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church was established in 1934, according to an inscribed marker at the front entry of the red-brick church.
Church members said it started in the area so people wouldn’t have to walk so far to services at older sibling church Pleasant View Baptist, 6.5 miles away on N.C. 904.
Now, church members are trying to raise money for their new cemetery just across the highway, because Pleasant View Cemetery on Old Georgetown Road is filling up.
Remembering the past
A bound book with laminated pages pays homage to Pleasant Grove church members who have gone before, many of them with familiar last names of local families—Randall, Frink, Gause, Jenrette, Stanley, Marlow without an “e” as well as Marlowe with an “e.”
There are photos of the senior choir, clad in red robes, on a trip to Melbourne, Fla., as well as members’ return in regular street clothes as they get ready to board a Trailways bus back to North Carolina.
And photos of the ushers on that same trip in their dark suits for the men and white dresses for women.
There are pictures of longtime member, singer, church leader Arvella Marlowe in her graduation cap-and-gown and when she was elected church choir director in 1985.
Now, at 76, Marlowe’s deep voice resonates as she leads the senior choir in singing, hand-clapping, rafter-raising gospel tunes like “Nobody Else But Jesus,” to the beat of skilled keyboard player Tora Bessent.
Marlowe said her mother took her to the church when she was a little child.
“I got converted in 1948, and I’ve been going ever since,” she said. “I just love the church.”
Church leaders who have gone before them left an example for younger generations to follow, she said.
The retired, lifelong cook—for Brunswick County schools as well as Ella’s Restaurant in Calabash and Pleasant Grove Church—says she can accept any job at the church as long as she’s working “because I love the Lord.”
And she says she doesn’t sing just to be singing.
“I try to be led by the spirit when I do sing,” she said. “I try to give God the glory, whatever I do. I’m not a perfect person but I try to give God my best.”
Black History Month is important to the church and young people, she said, because of what their elders experienced in the church.
She remembers when Pleasant Grove had no electricity and a potbelly stove to keep warm.
“Just the things we went through, our folk made better for us now,” she said “I like to celebrate what they have done for us—not only the people in my church, but throughout the world. They didn’t have much to offer, but they willingly shared what they had.”
Marlowe said that also holds true in the songs they sing and scriptures they read to this day.
Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.