Why I Honor the Mill Village Church in Our Father: Discovering Family

Northside Baptist ChurchCotton mills were hot, dusty, noisy places. The men and women who worked in them worked hard with few breaks and with no company provided help.  The amazing thing is that workers who were overworked themselves often helped other workers who had gotten behind.  Somehow they were friends with their bosses. The children of the workers and those of the bosses went to school together, played together, dated each other and went to church together.

Sundays brought everyone together in the mill village church. Workers and bosses went to church together. They sat in the same pews and shared leadership positions. They sang in the choir together. There was no mill talk at church. The services, at least at the ones I knew, were upbeat – not in the sense of today’s contemporary worship style. They were positive and uplifting – no hellfire and damnation. Of course during the 1940s and 1950s there was a strong undergirding of patriotism. God was on our side. Congregational singing of the old hymns was robust.

These are the churches of my youth. These wonderful hard working people supported strong child and youth programs. They turned out anytime children or young people were on the program. They encouraged their children in every way possible. Education was important. They sent their pastors to continuing education training during the summer. Religious faculty members from the surrounding colleges were invited to speak or preach. The church and the school were the centers of everything.

In my book, Our Father: Discovering Family, I pay tribute to these churches. I grew up living between the Baptist church and the Methodist church. I truly didn’t know the differences between them until I arrived at college. I am indebted to Northside Baptist Church for giving me a great foundation and encouraging me to grow as a Christian. Our pastors became family friends and came for Sunday dinner. One, the Rev. J. L. McCluney, visited me when I was a student at Mars Hill College. When I came home on weekends are vacations I was always invited to teach Sunday school classes or called on to lead prayer in the worship service.

Our Father; Discovering Family, is published by Wipf and Stock. It is available at most book stores and at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

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Influence of the Mill Village Church Cited in Our Father: Discovering Family

Northside Baptist ChurchThe mill village church that played such a vital role in the lives of its members across the piedmont Carolinas has all but disappeared. One of those churches, Northside Baptist Church, and its pastor are singled out for special praise by Mitch Carnell in his new book, Our Father: Discovering Family. Carnell credits the people of Northside and Rev. Roy R. Gowan for laying the foundation and then giving him permission to explore the meaning of his Christian faith. “Mitchell,” Gowan said one day, “God created all of you. That includes your brain. God did not expect you to turn it off when you come to church. God is not put off by your questions.”

Carnell’s book begins at St. Paul’s cathedral in London and then weaves back and forth in the stages of his life. He began writing the book with two simple questions. How did I get to where I am spiritually from where I started? What am I to do with the rest of my life? According to the author, God had a much bigger idea. He wanted me to discover the vastness of his family. I had to stretch the boundaries of my small town background and open my mind and heart to a larger way of thinking.

Dr. Carnell also gives a great deal of credit to his lifelong friend, the Rev. Ansel McGill who retired as pastor of Parisview Baptist Church in Greenville. He also singles out professors at Mars Hill College and Furman University. His late wife, the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries, questioned all of his assumptions in a loving but forceful manner.

He has now been an active member of First Baptist Church of Charleston for fifty years. He stresses the contributions of its long time pastor, the late John A. Hamrick, to his life. He credits Hamrick and the church’s legendary organist and Minister of Music and Worship, David Redd, for teaching him how to worship.

Our Father; Discovering Family, is available at most book stores, as an ebook from Amazon or Barnes and Noble or the publisher wipfandstock.com. Dr. Carnell is a speaker/consultant in the fields of interpersonal and organizational communication. His website is www.mitchcarnell.com.

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What Writing a Spiritual Memoir Can Teach You

While speaking at the Village in Summerville, South Carolina, Dr. Mitch Carnell was asked  what he learned while writing his most recent book, Our Father: Discovering Family, published by Wipf and Stock.

“When I started writing the book,” Carnell stated, “I had two questions stemming from an amazing experience at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. How did my spiritual development bring me to this point from where I started in a small provincial town in South Carolina? The second question was what am I to do with the remaining years of my life.”

Mitch continued, “As usual God had a much bigger idea. He wanted to expand my vision as to who is in God’s family. God always has a bigger plan than we have. I am reluctant to put words in God’s mouth, but it is as if he were saying, Mitch, you can’t understand me until you know who is in my family.

The process lead me to two conclusions. First, I needed to drastically expand my understanding of God’s family and second God had been preparing me all of my life to be a voice for fostering better understanding and communication between Christians and between Christians and the rest of the world. We need a more civil dialogue and that became my mission.”

The book is best described as a spiritual memoir. Mitch grew up in the segregated South where learning about the brotherhood of man wasn’t easy. He struggled through the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention and a church split. He gives credit to his late wife for challenging all of his provincial ideas in a loving way. Her death was an unimaginable tragedy. Dr. Thomas McKibbens, interim pastor of the First Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island, wrote the Foreword. Don Kirkland, former editor of the Baptist Courier of South Carolina, and Fifi DeGroot, alumni consultant at Mars Hill University, both wrote brief reviews for the back cover.

Mitch is the founder of the Say Something Nice Day listed in the Chase Calendar of Events and the Say Something Nice Sunday Movements.

This is his fourth major book. It follows, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, published by Smyth and Helwys. Our Father; Discovering Family, is available at most book stores and at Amazon.com, Barnes&noble.com and wipfandstock.com.

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Our Father; Discovering Family – Review by Dr. Robert M. Knight

DR.MONTY KnightIf you prefer feeling sorry for yourself, don’t read Dr. Carnell’s book. You won’t like it. Mitch’s T-shirt is meant to read: “Job was a wuss!” If you’re a privileged, totalitarian liberal, you won’t appreciate the book. Mitch’s open mind comes from growing up in the most humble and provincial of circumstances. Go figure. If you can’t find a fight you don’t want to go to, Dr. Carnell is no help in that regard either. He figured out long before most of the rest of us what a trap that is. If you prefer your side of whatever the truth wherever, Mitch Carnell’s book will provoke you by seeing another side of that same truth–there or somewhere else. It’s harder for Mitch, than for his friends, to not love his enemies, even when he doesn’t necessarily like ’em. If the guy just weren’t a Christian, his book might be more useful, at least in the real world. Dr. Carnell doesn’t even confuse institutional church life with the integrity of authentic Christian faith and service . So if you’re looking for an easy excuse to spend your Sundays at Starbucks or the beach, you won’t find “Our Father” particularly supportive.

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