On the left, back row, are Brother Ray and Sister Fern Jones, Daddy and Mother. In the front row are deacons and farmers in their Sunday clothes, but it was the women in the back row holding everything together. Church Ladies helped raise my brother and me
Pioneer pastoring is what Daddy was good at. He conducted tent revivals, found followers, raised funds, built churches, grew congregations and then we moved along, back to the revival circuit where Mother sang for large audiences. Whether we were criss-crossing the Deep South or settling in one town for a while, church ladies were the constant.
At any gathering, an All-Day Singing or a regular Church Supper, the food was magnificent. Giant pots of soup and covered dishes with treasured family recipes, biscuits and risin’ rolls and cornbread and Jello molds and tables of baked goods and washtubs full of sweet tea at the end of each table.
Daddy’s sermons mentioned how we need to work down here to gain our rewards up in heaven. He told churchwomen they were earning extra stars in their crowns with their fine cooking. I gave an extra star to the ambrosia. Leslie Ray picked the platter of crispy chicken wings and deviled eggs on the side. Daddy hugged a woman over a pot of pintos with ham hocks. Mother, owner of the family’s most ardent sweet tooth, always started with dessert first.
Our Church Ladies didn’t have Costco or Crock pots, but they turned out food that fed multitudes of believers with plenty to share with backsliders.
Here’s Mother with a song that surely has some Church Ladies in it.
Fern Jones/The Glory Road
When I Meet You