Sunday, September 20, 2009

Homecoming at a country church

I attended services this morning at a little country church that normally attracts around thirty or so people on a Sunday morning. This was homecoming, so there was more than double the usual congregation. It was the Scottsboro United Methodist Church, where my wife, Sarah, grew up. She was a Scott, for whom the community was named.

This is a rural area on the fringes of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County. The "business district" is the intersection of Ashland City Highway (State Route 12) and Old Hickory Boulevard, a circumferential road that runs around the outer edge of the county. It has a service station/market and a small grocery.

If you head on down Old Hickory Boulevard past the cutoff to the church, you pass through Bells Bend, one of numerous twists the Cumberland River makes on its serpentine path through Nashville. This is a large primarily agricultural area that includes some expensive homes along the river. Metro has developed two city parks in the area.

More recently, Bells Bend has been in the news over a proposal to turn a section of it into a multi-billion-dollar urban development called May Town Center. According to a website sponsored by opponents, the "proposal calls for a city the size of downtown Nashville, with 40,000 workers (downtown has 47,000 right now), 5000 condos (downtown has about 3000, with many vacancies), a 15-story hotel, and all the related amenities - all on 600 acres of cowpasture in Bells Bend."

People in the area banded together to fight the planned development and so far have prevailed. It was approved by the Metro Planning Commission staff but after public hearings was turned down by the commission. The developers are trying to get a rehearing.

The keep Bells Bend as is people say they "have a new cooperative organic farm project, an long-standing commercial turnip patch, two sod farms, free-range chicken eggs, a commercial cut flower business, a number of beef cattle, and an endless array of personal gardens. We have two knock-out city parks, and have had a rare pair of whooping cranes spend several weeks here over the last two years."

Visiting the Scottsboro church gives you an idea of what people in the area are fighting to preserve. These are down-to-earth folks who live in a small community and love it the way it is. My wife grew up with a lot of them and enjoyed revisiting old times. The choir was seven-strong, including the preacher, who joined in the anthem. Two young boys passed the collection plates.

After the service, we enjoyed a tasty meal comprised of numerous meat, vegetable, salad and dessert dishes brought in by those attending. There was enough food for twice as many people as passed through the line. My wife cheated a bit, bringing fast food chicken, but she baked the cupcakes.

You might think such churches are doomed because so many of their members are aging, but this service was attended by a number of young families with kids. It's a refreshing experience to get out of the urban area occasionally and see how life is lived at a slower pace.

To keep this on the mystery subject, Scottsboro is having a Fall Festival on October 24, and I'll have a table there selling my books. It should be a fun day.


Morgan Mandel said...

I hope the locals win out. The only reason such a move to destroy the integrity of the area would be necessary is if the locals were really suffering and needed to make money to make ends meet. Otherwise, I'd say leave them alone and let them enjoy rural life.

Morgan Mandel

Chester Campbell said...

That seems to be the general consensus, Morgan. Another argument against the development is they're trying to make a new downtown in the suburbs. It would detract from downtown Nashville which has been undergoing a reinvigoration the past few years.

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