In July 2015, the moderator, elders, delegates, and congregation of the Dix Fork Old Regular Baptist Church gather around to close out a river baptism with prayer. Just out of sight, Sister Ruth Vanhoose stands soaking wet in the small gravel lot, wrapped in a towel, her clothes trying to dry in the July sun. She was surrounded by blood kin and church family, on the banks of Big Creek in Pike County, Kentucky. Minutes earlier, in a public declaration of faith, she cast off her former self of 84 years, and was baptized in this small, quiet stream.
I attended the service prior to the baptism and with the permission of the moderator, recorded the service, which included incredibly beautiful lined-out hymnody singing. This is a tradition of singing, worship, and baptism that is slowly fading away like many other parts of mountain culture.
In That Beautiful, That Blessed Forever
I sometimes think it's too good to be true When they talk of life's fair river Of that city so bright, where there is no night In that beautiful, that blessed forever.
And I sometimes ask when I'm weary and sad, That the golden gates were nearer, But I know I can wait for a joy so great In that beautiful, that blessed forever.
And I sometimes ask, when I think of the end, Will the Lord on me have pity. Will He bid me come to His own dear home, To His own everlasting city.
And I sometimes grieve for the friends I must leave, For the bond is hard to sever. But the joy is so sweet, when I know we shall meet, In that beautiful, that blessed forever.
And I sometimes think of the dear old Saints, On the banks of Jordan's River, Who with weary hearts are waiting to depart, To that beautiful, that blessed forever.
And I sometimes pray on my toilsome way, For the faith of the true believer, Whose hopes shine bright, as the stars of the night, In that beautiful, that blessed forever.
Roger May. Charleston, West Virginia.
Heard Tell is an audio component of the Looking at Appalachia project. We seek to expand the project to include other ways of sharing stories. We encourage the submission of interviews, field recordings, soundscapes, etc. inspired by photographs from the project as well as other regional influences. We hope to use this platform to expand our community, encourage collaboration, and get to know our neighbors better. Learn more about how to submit here.