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Perspective

In Sutherland Springs, a pastor envisions a ‘beacon on a hill’

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS — Sitting among an overflow crowd during the dedication service of the handsome new First Baptist Church building in this tiny South Texas community, listening to Gov. Greg Abbott, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and other dignitaries congratulate the congregation for its faith and fortitude in the face of unspeakable horror, I got to thinking about the congregation’s humble origins. I know about those origins, because in 1996, on the 60th anniversary of the church’s founding, a member compiled a brief church history that included delightful reminiscences from a few who had been there almost from the beginning.

A woman named Joe Faye Hudson, for example, reaching back “into the hinterland of my memory,” recalled that the church’s only “air conditioning” came from cardboard fans a funeral home had donated. “Every time we met during the abysmally hot summers, the little white fans would be fanning furiously,” she wrote.

Hudson’s sister Vada recalled that a member would provide the preacher a large pitcher of ice water and a glass when he launched into his sermon; the rest of the congregation would sit and “salivate.” She said he would “rear back and hold our feet to the fire, then stop and pour a glass of water and drink it while the message sunk in.”

Joe Faye Hudson was 13 when she committed her life to Jesus at an outdoor summer revival. She was terrified of walking down the aisle, so her friend Esther went with her as “my morale support.” Sister Vada followed.

“Phew! What a relief it was to know I would not be going to that place ‘where the worm dieth not’ and you burn forever and ever and ever eternally,” Hudson recalled.

“I was almost drowned in the Cibolo when I was baptized. To...

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