A year later… it’s still happening

Published 11:03 am Friday, July 27, 2018

by Charles Qualls

One year ago, I ventured to send in my first “Your Turn” guest column to this publication. We had been here a grand total of three months. I was rewarded with a gracious reception by the publisher, Tony Clark. People in town I had not met, as well as those I was still beginning to know, thanked me for the positive words I had to say about Franklin. 

For the curious, that piece was called, “It Happened Again.”  It chronicled the reception that we two newcomers (my wife Elizabeth, me) had sensed here in Franklin. I talked about how happy we were to be here. How we found a quality of life that we had been craving for some time.

Save one lone reader, who somehow thought that what I had to say was insulting, you all seemed to deduce that we like it here. And, then some! That wasn’t hard to do, given that I fawned over our newfound hometown. 

You might be helped to know that we were both born into diminutive towns. Little rural outposts a fraction of Franklin’s size. I grew up on a farm and playing ball. Elizabeth was a “city” girl as much as one can be in Manchester, Ga. We had met at grad school in Louisville, Ky. Although we moved here from sixteen years living in midtown Atlanta, and seven in Greensboro, NC before that, we instantly loved it here.

In that piece, I acknowledged the hardships that especially Franklin had suffered between a mill closure and two floods. I already sensed that current Franklin was a different place from the one I so wish I could have known in another era. However, I also espoused a belief that we might be arriving here at a good time. Franklin seems to be getting to know itself on new, realistic terms now. 

We love how friendly people are here. We find you to be a cooperative people, rather than such rampant competition as we have known. There’s a healthier pace to life here.

Still, though, that “thing” happens to us all too often. 

“You moved here… to FRANKLIN…from Atlanta?”  Then they stare. Often after an awkward silence, the one-word question comes: “Why?!” 

It’s hard to explain. I know what they’re thinking. They are waiting to hear one from a short list of possibilities. Surely, they think, we must be in the witness protection program. Or, one of us at least did something horrible and we’ve escaped to relative anonymity. Maybe there was a career crisis and we had to just take what we could get. As though moving to Franklin is some sort of cosmic penalty-box. 

Let me break down the facts. 

In late 2016, a search committee from your well-respected Franklin Baptist Church contacted me. I was associate pastor at a large congregation in the affluent Buckhead section of Atlanta. 

The pulpit tradition here at Franklin is actually steep. So is this church’s historic sense of Baptist identity. They are known within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (our denominational affiliation) as a solid congregation. 

Over a period of months, we interviewed and got acquainted. Elizabeth and I visited a few times. In March of 2017, I preached here in view-of-a-call and was voted on by the congregation.  They extended the call to me, and we happily accepted. 

In short, we were open to a new chapter of life and Franklin Baptist came along at just the right time. However, our congregation in Atlanta were surprised and we grieved leaving family and friends there. 

In an era where all too many churches are unhealthy, this one isn’t. It would like to live into a new era along with the city. But, it’s healthy. That was mighty appealing. This church has a traditional worship style as its primary identity, and likes to think. We can wrestle with hard scriptures and ask honest questions here. Our particular kind of Baptist affiliates ecumenically on the local level, and that’s who I’ve been at every stop. 

When you ask us so emphatically why we would move here, unconsciously you betray that you don’t believe in our city of Franklin. Elizabeth and I have relocated here, heart and soul. If you don’t believe in Franklin, it’s going to be awfully hard convincing new businesses and potential residents to do so. 

I have no plan ‘B.’ This chapter of our life is the only plan. We live local and shop local. Come see us at the church. Be a part of what we’re doing. Say hello to me in town. But please don’t ask, because we’re here now. Happily, so. 

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.