It happened again…

Published 10:51 am Wednesday, November 8, 2017

by Charles Qualls

Hello Franklin! I’m the new pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. 

Even though I arrived in early April, I suppose I’ll be “new” for a long time given that I moved here from somewhere else. Oh, yeah. The somewhere else is midtown Atlanta. For the last 16 years, I had served a church in the Buckhead community, which somehow makes me cool to a few, and probably pretty suspect for others. 

My wife and I couldn’t be happier to be here. We both were born in smaller towns, even though my little home of Roswell, Georgia (population 2,400 when I was born,) mushroomed into a city with 100,000 people. Atlanta just swallowed it up, and waved on the way by. We were so over the traffic, noise and strife of the city when we moved here from midtown. 

Yes, I miss Taqueria del Sol, half-inning commutes home from Atlanta Braves games and movie theatres you can dine in. But I also love friends who share fresh corn, deer grazing in my backyard and traffic jams that mean I was about the sixth car to arrive at the traffic light. We came here because in the Baptist world your Franklin Baptist Church is more highly respected than you know. The ideological, theological and (yes) cultural matchup we feel with this warm congregation is what brought us here. 

Franklin, I just need one favor from you. And, I don’t feel like it’s a big one. Because yesterday, it happened again. So, here goes with the favor: stop apologizing for yourself.   

I know you endured hard times. Never would I want to underestimate what it has taken for you to recover from two floods and a corporate merger that shuttered for a while the paper mill. The grit and determination you mustered in each of those is truly heroic. However, as I pointed out recently in my pulpit, the result is a city that still feels sorry for itself all these years later. 

It would be tone-deaf of me to not acknowledge genuine hard times. It would be downright insensitive to not acknowledge your rightful nostalgia about a different era. But when folks around town consistently ask us, “Why in the world would you move here from Atlanta!?” it’s a little off-putting.  Actually, it’s a real downer. Like I’ve been demoted, punished or somehow banished by coming here. Truth is we chose to move to Franklin. Ask my pulpit committee.

So, please own what you have. Run your businesses with pride, and ask your employees to, too. I’d love to invite you to wake up to the quality of life you offer and the friendliness that is all too unique these days. You have a city that is squeaky clean and appealing to the eye, with a downtown that is revitalizing. Economic diversity seems to just be blooming. You have beautiful neighborhoods that are a joy to see. You are generous in spirit and you take good care of one another. 

We find those qualities awfully appealing. I wish you did, too, as much as we do.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. He is the author of eight books and several curriculum pieces. His wife, Elizabeth, is Collection Development Manager for the Blackwater Regional Library System. Both are natives of Georgia.