Missionary Baptist Churches
Once in awhile I encounter something that I do not understand. This is about one of those things: the Missionary Baptist Churches along US-65.
I deliver to the Deep South. Often, my last stop on that run is near Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The return trip takes me north to Jackson, Mississippi, then west on I-20 to the town of Tallulah, Louisiana, where I turn north on US-65. US-65 parallels the Mississippi River on the river’s west side through Louisiana into Arkansas. US-65 is a two lane road.
Tallulah, Louisiana is a black town; by this I intend there are a lot of black people living there. I have decided this because when I drive through it, I see mostly black people. This is not scientific, I know.
North of Tallulah is cotton country.
Cotton is no longer harvested by hand. A mechanical picker pulls the cotton from the plant and accumlates it in an onboard bin. The contents of the bin are dumped into a compacting machine. That machine presses the cotton into a module. Modules weigh 20,000 lbs. or so. A specialized truck lifts the module and transports it to a cotton gin. The gin separates seed from fiber and prepares bales.
A couple of cotton modules next to trailers.
Photo by: Thomas R Machnitzki nutbush.machnitzki.com/
Slave labor, and after emancipation, sharecroppers, underwrote the cotton growing industry in the United States. Since the mid-20th century, labor has been replaced by machines.
I drive US-65 across this cotton country. At harvest time, cotton modules are seen throughout the fields.
The first time I drove US-65 I noticed the churches. They are small (I’d guess 1000-1500 sq.ft. or so.) Some are built of clapboard, others of brick. They are well kept. And they appear more frequently than gas stations.
These are Missionary Baptist Churches. I can tell you nothing about the theology, except to say that it is a Christian denomination. There is one every few miles along US-65. Many are near only to the fields. And here is the thing that it took several trips down US-65 to register on me: the churches have no parking lots.
My imagination takes off from here. I do not know who constitutes the congregations of these churches, or how these churches serve them. I don’t know how the parishioners get to church. I once saw a church in session; it was a wedding. There were two cars. All gathered outside were black, but can I assume that all these churches have black congregations? You see, I really know nothing.
Yet, from what I have seen I would say these are vital community centers. And as my imagination would have it, an example for Parecon.
A recent ZNet chat was filled with conversation about how Parecon could be imposed. I don’t think it can be. More likely is the practice of Parecon methods by groups for whom "equity, solidarity, diversity, self-management, and ecological balance" are already present.
Perhaps the Missionary Baptist Churches along US-65 are such groups, perhaps not. But that is where my imagination went. I think Parecon will begin in small places.
This is a photo of US-65 looking north from Tallulah, Louisiana.
The Mississippi River is on the right.
Photo is by Google.