Il Parabrezza (The Windshield) Post 5

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 Since the mid-20th century, labor has been replaced by machines.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.

US-65 out of Tallulah, LA

This is a photo of US-65 looking north from Tallulah, Louisiana.

The Mississippi River is on the right.

Photo is by Google.

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