The church was, and is, for me, my extended family.

Victoria Gray Adams: I invite you know to come with me to a large rambling farmhouse in Palmers' Crossing, a community of African Americans who live a few miles south of Hattiesburg, MS, on a cold winter November morning, about 1 AM, November the 5th, 1926. Which time, I am told, I made my entry into the human community, after a long and arduous night of labor. I'm told that about that time, Mac and Annie May Jackson were presented with a bouncing baby girl, who they named Victoria. I'm also told that Victoria was a very adventurous person, almost from the very beginning, displayed an oftentimes hazardous curiosity, concerning her environment. Being born in the home of my paternal grandparents seemed to have been a very good place for me to spend my formative years. My grandparents were deeply spiritual in their way of being and were a wonderful influence in teaching my brother, first cousin, and me the importance of being productive, dependable, and responsible family and community members. Two vital factors were involved in this process. The need for an independent spirit, and at the same time, and at the same time, interdependent involvement in our environment. Basic in those teachings were love and respect, for family, for church, and school. The church was, and is, for me, my extended family. The teachings of the church were second only to the teachings of the home. I remember still the mottos that hung on the walls of the one room facility that was known as and still is St. John, St. John in those days Methodist and Episcopal church, which has now evolved into St. John's United Methodist Church. I am convinced that those teachings, and all of the ways that they were taught, impacted my life. I remember that the first one that we had to remember was this motto that we had to repeat every Sunday morning. "What kind of a church will this church be if every member was just like me?" And you know, I can remember very well taking that very seriously. What kind of a church would this church be if every member was just like me? And then later, they moved that one to the side and they put another one up there that said, "Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only." And I can remember vividly that I really took those things seriously all the time, all of the time. So, what I'm saying is we don't know how, at what age, children really begin to understand and respond to the many ways of teaching within the community. It isn't only what we say, it's what kind of d├ęcor, it's what they see, as well as what do they hear and how does it impact their lives. I am convinced that all of those things played a very important role in forming the person that I am becoming. I really believe that.

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