Rally Sunday/Annual Homecoming
The grand event
In the Virginia county where I grew up, there was an annual event that took place in every Baptist church in rural areas where there was an African American congregation. This gala was known as the homecoming or rally and was a separate occasion from the church anniversary. The anniversary of a church is the celebration of how many years the ministry has been in existence, A homecoming is an annual event which takes place during the summer months when family, friends, out of town members, and other congregations get together to fellowship. In the church that I attended while growing up, the rally was held on the fourth Sunday in August each year. On that day there would be two services, one at 11:00 AM with the pastor speaking and another at 3:00 PM with a guest preacher and his choir. In between the two services, there would be a gathering in the basement or fellowship hall where everyone would eat. This was some of the best food that you could ever imagine. The focus on the rally actually began the day after the services concluded and culminated on the fourth Sunday in August the following year.
Food and money
The purpose of the homecoming was two-fold in my church. It was to raise money for the church building fund and any unexpected expenses that came along the way. Members would begin putting money in their envelopes and earmarking it for the homecoming and the goal was for every member who could, to have at least $100.00 donated by the following August. This was done willingly because of love for the Lord and His house. There was never pressure, begging, or false promises connected with giving in those days. Even the children saved money with gleaners that held dimes or quarters and gave whatever we could. The second purpose was for out of town church members to come home, and other churches to fellowship with us. There were church members who if they could not attend would still send a generous donation. During Rally Sunday the church building would be packed and it would be a great time of food and fellowship. Most everyone at that time lived within walking distance of the church. In between the services, our homes would be filled with family and friends who came to celebrate with us. The church would purchase the meat and all the Native members got phone calls asking what other dishes they would like to contribute. When we were children and teens my cousins and I would also be excited because the new school year would start sometime within the next week. Classes began on the Monday or Wednesday following the homecoming or the Tuesday after labor day.
On the Sunday of the homecoming, everyone seemed to be on one accord, It was so nice to have friends from neighboring churches to visit and we did the same on their Rally Sunday. The husband of one of my friends would visit during the morning service and in the evening she went to his church because they had their homecoming on the same Sunday. There would be so much food that there was always enough to take home. it was tiring but the women loved setting up everything while the morning service was taking place and then staying behind to clean up. Some Rally Sundays we would be at it from 9:00 AM until 6:30 or 7 PM at night. My great aunt, my grandmother's sister would come from "town" about 10 miles away and try to coordinate everything. She worked in a hotel and thought she knew best how to set the tables and serve the food. It was annoying but most people laughed and let her have her way for this one Sunday. County churches continue to hold their annual homecoming but much has changed. This year the coronavirus will probably put a halt to all of it. Even without the pandemic most of those black communities are smaller in size or nonresistant. Back then most of us lived in homes with no running water and heated them with coal stoves. Out of sheer necessity, practically everyone except a few moved to the nearby city in order to have modern conveniences. Some joined with churches that were closer in proximity to where they were now living. The few that remain in the community have grown older and their children have moved away. The generations who dedicated themselves to this event as part of their service to the Lord have all passed away, except for one or two. Even so, I will always fondly recall the year of preparation and giving that preceded the biggest event in black Baptist churches in rural communities at that time.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Cheryl E Preston