Milford Baptist Church in south Cobb had a special guest speaker Sunday to celebrate the church’s 147th homecoming.
Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, whose roots are in south Cobb, spoke to the full house at the church.
Barnes is a member of Marietta First United Methodist Church, but he said his family’s history at Milford goes back to shortly after 1919, when his grandfather brought the family over from Gilmer County, Georgia.
“Within a couple of years, they had established a membership and a friendship that lasted for generations with Milford Baptist Church,” he said. “Milford Baptist Church became their church choice, and today, across the street, grandma and grandma sleep with other relatives for all eternity.”
In his typical style, Barnes had the crowd laughing with anecdotes about growing up in the family store, but he also had a more serious message about a lack of young people attending church services.
“One of the great challenges we face at all Christian churches today is a lot of white hair, or no hair at all,” he said. “At the Methodist church, I sit on the very back row, sit up under the balcony because I figure if the Lord is going to strike me down with a bolt of lightning, he wouldn’t kill those innocent folks above me. I know every bald spot in the church, and at every church I visit, I see an inordinate number of people over 60 years of age. The truth is the young folks do not attend church as we do.”
Barnes suggested that may be because young people are skilled at detecting hypocrisy.
“Maybe young folks don’t come to church because they hear one thing from us old folks and they see us do different things,” he said. “We talk about love, and then we cuss everywhere. We talk about forgiveness, and then we don’t turn the other cheek.”
The former governor gave several examples, including Clarence Jordan, a preacher and scholar from southwest Georgia who believed in the equality of the races at a time when that was controversial.
At one time, Jordan had a preacher from India as a guest and tried to take him to a Baptist church service.
“A group of the deacons met Clarence and this Indian preacher in the yard, and the chairman of the deacons said ‘You know you can’t bring him in here,’” Barnes said.
“Clarence had a Bible in his hand, he said ‘Show me in the book where I can’t bring him.’ And one of the deacons said ‘Now preacher, don’t get started with all that Jesus stuff.’ We gave young folks the right to say they’re a bunch of hypocrites.”
Barnes called for a Christianity that emphasizes love and equality.
“We have to make sure that we return to those basic things that were taught to us as Christians, and that is love, redemption, that Christ died for us and that nothing keeps us from him and his forgiveness. … We must return to that basic faith of everyone being everyone else’s brother,” he said.
Barnes was not the only Cobb luminary at the service Sunday. He was joined by elected officials including District Attorney Joyette Holmes, Commissioner Lisa Cupid and Judge Kellie Hill.
Senior Pastor Rev. Clarence Howard said it is important to invite elected officials to the yearly homecoming in a short sermon invoking Jeremiah 29:7, which tells believers to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
“You as a community of faith, you cooperate and you support those officials in your city because that’s, after all, where it all gets done anyway,” Howard said. “Because with anything from public schools to public transportation is happening locally. Anything from the police to DFACS is handled locally. Anything from zoning to housing is handled locally. … God is saying, ‘As you go into that city, you make sure that you make that city the best it possibly can be,’ and the only way you’re going to be able to do that, is you’ve got to support and encourage those people that can make it happen.”