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Story by Jeannie Dortch. Photos by Jeannie Dortch and Win Grant.

Remember that the person who plants few seeds will have a small crop; the one who plants many seeds will have a large crop. You should each give, then, as you have decided, not with regret or out of a sense of duty; for God loves the one who gives gladly (2 Corinthians 9:6-7, Good News Translation).

sacristyA fifth generation member of First Baptist Church, James Barrett Walthall (1926-2005), Jimmy, “is an example of the incredible influence one person can have over the multitude,” Jim Flamming (FBC’s Pastor Emeritus) commented. Jimmy considered FBC his second home and its members his second family. He never married, never learned to drive, but lived close enough to church to walk, and that he did often. “Few days went by that Jimmy did not spend time here doing the little and the overlooked,” said Dr. Flamming.

Donna Fetrow, Jimmy’s niece, remembers him as “a true southern gentleman who lived his faith. He was always ready with a smile or kind word, involved in every facet of church life from placing bulletins in the pews or flowers in the Sanctuary to counting the offering, and even changing the letters on the sign at the corner of Monument and the Boulevard.”

Though better known for the insignificant duties he assumed, Jimmy served as Sunday School Director, Church Treasurer, Deacon Chairman, Baptist World Alliance Ambassador, and Church Historian.

Lu Treadwell, one of FBC’s newer members, first heard Jimmy’s name through Usher Larry Gable. Larry wrote, “Jimmy would always place the deacons’ offering trays in proper position wearing his white cotton gloves. He once told me he would never enter the Sanctuary without wearing a coat and tie in honor and respect for God.”

The more Lu learned about Jimmy, the more she felt a connection. Lu believes, “It is a gift to be able to prepare for worship, a good thing at a soulful level because it is a time to feel closer to God. As a lifelong Baptist, my experience has always been with a more formal worship style, and I sensed that appreciation in Jimmy too.”

Walthall GuildLu formed the Chancel Guild in August 2014 to prepare the worship area for Sunday services, and, when needed, for weddings and funerals. She was surprised to learn that FBC did not have a sacristy, a place where sacred items used in worship are stored, but discovered that Jimmy kept the necessary items in random places around the church. Learning this, Lu approached the Worship Team to ask about a storage room for this purpose.

The Ministry of Communication gave up the room it was using for the Duplication Ministry, near the Sanctuary, to house the chancel implements and paraments—hanging fabric, banners, or table coverings. These vary with the season, but are used in worship each Sunday. Paraments are rooted in Old Testament tradition and coordinate with the lectionary: white for Christmas, Easter, weddings and funerals; purple for Advent and Lent; green for Ordinary Time and sometimes Epiphany; and red for Pentecost—the only color that FBC has not yet procured.

Walthall GuildBecause Lu felt Jimmy did everything that the Chancel Guild is doing, she thought it only fitting to rename the group of dedicated volunteers the Walthall Guild in memory of someone whose reverence for the church resonated with her own. Lu feels strongly that “any new tradition that we add to worship, whether it be incorporating the lectionary, observing Lent, or deeming the use of a sacristy as special, enriches and broadens our experience of worship while deepening our understanding of Christianity as a whole.”

Author’s note: A dedication of the Sacristy in Jimmy’s honor took place Sunday, October 18. Walthall Guild members: Lu Treadwell, Chairman, Jenny Beale, Susan Brown, Beverley Hundley, Jane Nott, Bucky Neal, Martha Pugh, Sandra Saunders, Martha Grace Washington, and Hanna Zhu. Beverley Massey and Maureen Lipford served as founding members. Rotating teams of two serve each week.

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