Yesterday was my last day with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I’ll be leaving for Washington, DC this weekend and starting with the U.S. Department of the Interior on Monday. My boss was in town to outprocess me and we went to lunch afterwards at the Golden Corral across the street. He remarked how good the rolls were there, to which I didn’t offer much rebuttal. As far as I’m concerned, they are the best rolls on the board since Quincy’s Family Steakhouse isn’t around anymore. Thinking about Quincy’s got me to thinking about the good ol’ days when I learning about Jesus and having fun amidst Sunday afternoon fellowships with a man named Birl Jackson and his family. I looked him up today, hoping to add him on social media and to thank him for getting me into the church during my impressionable pre-teen years. I found disturbing news: Birl—or Deacon Jackson, as I knew him—had been shot and killed in a robbery 3 years ago. My heart sank and I immediately thought of him, his family, and my first church home. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: Mount Calvary Baptist Church.
How I first came across this moment? My introduction to Mount Calvary was the result of my friends being members there. They invited me to tag along for a Wednesday evening Bible study. It was actually quite enjoyable. I learned about Jesus and I made a few new friends.
What it meant to me then? Back then, in 1996, my attendance at Mount Calvary was strictly all about hanging with my friends. It was actually one of the few places I let loose a little bit. I clowned around in Sunday school class, made jokes and all…but I got my work done though. I bought chips and candy from the convenience store across the street and snuck them into the sanctuary and ate them during service. I always drew a “shhh” from one of the older ladies seated a few rows in front of us kids. I was young, man. I was being a typical kid of 11-12 years old. A couple of things I did take serious from back then though: (1) my baptism in December 1996 and (2) the crush I had on the pastor’s daughter. That baptism was one of the more seminal moments of my life. For a spell, I ditched my playful ways in church and deep-dived into really getting to know the meaning of being a young Christian. That lasted all of about 1 ½ years until I decided to pull the trigger, regarding how I felt about the pastor’s daughter. I wrote her a note and gave it to her before Bible study class. Man, she read that note and she let her friends read that note and they spent the whole class looking back at me—I sat in the back of the class while they sat in front—smiling and snickering. I didn’t think much of it until after class, the pastor’s daughter came up to me and said “Thanks for the note. It’s nice but I don’t like you”. It happened in front of my friends and in front of her friends. I’m not sure if she meant to embarrass me like that but I was hella embarrassed. I took it in stride in the moment but I cried uncontrollably when I got home. I told my mother I was never going back to that church…and I never did step foot in it again.
What it means to me now? Today, my memories of the Mount Calvary days mean a lot to me…especially with me finding out about the tragic death of Deacon Jackson. In hindsight, it was a very poor decision to just stop going. I shouldn’t have reacted so emotionally…something that’s not easy for a 13-year-old to do, by the way. I do wonder how different life would have been if I stayed and continued to grow as a young Christian. I wonder how much I could’ve grown as a person being around Deacon Jackson and his family all of those Sundays.