Most of us count our blessings as we celebrate Thanksgiving. High on my blessings list is Jake. From the day I met him I knew he and I would be a good "fit."
Perhaps it was because his mother, Brenda Hall, was a BellSouth telephone operator in Columbus for 35 years that he is such a good communicator. Most of us know people hard to talk with, but Jake is definite not one of them.
Jake tells how he came to our church, Heritage Baptist Fellowship. He explains that Baptist preachers are "free agents." Unlike many denominations, there are no bishops to help them find a church.
First acknowledging being led by God, he describes the process he went through. He had completed his training at Columbus College, Samford University and Duke University. That was followed by a prestigious fellowship in Texas.
The month Jake graduated from Samford was busy. Not only did he graduate, he and Erin were married and moved to Durham, N.C.
Following his internship, they moved to Atlanta. There were two reasons. First, it was between both their hometowns. Then, Erin had been accepted to Emory University.
Jake was invited to speak at a meeting of the Georgia Cooperative Baptist Association. Tom Hill, Mary Free and J.R. Huddlestun were there. They were wearing Heritage Baptist Fellowship shirts.
Jake told Erin who they were and that they were searching for a minister. Although he did not know it at the time, one of the Heritage group whispered to the others, "That's Jake Hall." They knew he was searching for a church.
After meeting other church members including Bob and Mary Elizabeth Smith at another state meeting, the search committee and the Halls started "talking turkey." The Rev. Jake Hall became the pastor of Heritage Baptist Fellowship.
Years earlier, it had come as no surprise when Jake decided God was calling him to be a minister. He had been involved in Calvary Christian Church from the "cradle to graduation." Attending both church services and school at Calvary, he jokingly says he was there "six to eight" days a week. Plus, he had grown up surrounded by preachers.
Jake enjoys telling that he was one of 10 honor graduates in his high school. Then he adds there were only 10 students in his class.
When the Rev. Jake Hall became our minister, I was playing the church organ. Notice I said I was playing the organ. To me, that is different from being an organist. Those of us who "play the organ" sometimes play the right keys, but sometimes our fingers land on the cracks between the keys.
On Jake's first Sunday in our pulpit, I realized I had a problem. He had changed things around. Plus, we always sang four congregational hymns, but I could only find three. Later, I realized what had happened. We were only singing three. The "sitting down hymn" was no more.
Thankfully, God had mercy on the church. He sent us Calista Gondry, a real, live, professionally trained organist. With our pianist, Joan Denney, you might say they are a match made in Heaven.
As that first year progressed, Jake had some surprises, too. One of the biggest was the annual church bazaar. Incidentally, Bazaar 2010 just happens to be tomorrow. Be there at 9 a.m. and take care of all of your Christmas shopping in one stop. All of the money goes to helping those in need.
Having a huge bazaar is a gigantic undertaking. Most everyone in the church family participates. After a full year of working, it all comes together on bazaar day. In the spring, preparation for Bazaar 2011 will begin.
Heritage Baptist Fellowship is a working church. One of the newest members, Tamara Garcia, said that is what attracted her to Heritage. She began working as a volunteer last summer in the program providing needy children lunch during the summer school break.
One of the biggest compliments our church has gotten came from someone who laughingly said, "I couldn't join your church, I don't want to work that hard."
So, during this Thanksgiving season I am especially thankful for my top-notch pastor and my hard-working church.
Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska.