CHARLESTON (AP) —
On sunny days, the Rev. Archie Snedegar and parishioner John Cox climb into a 1924 Model T Ford and drive around Charleston’s West Side visiting folks.
The car captures attention, which is exactly what Snedegar and Cox have in mind for a new outreach program of Calvary Baptist Church.
“John has a Model T and I have a ministry,” Snedegar said.
The pastor said the ministry would not attract nearly as much attention in a traditional vehicle.
They visit church members who have been ill or the elderly who have a hard time getting to church. The visit always includes prayer and invariably, a conversation about the car.
“It goes 45 miles an hour at top speed,” Cox said. “I’ve got a bigger carburetor on it than came on it. If it can’t go up a hill, I turn around and back up it.”
On a recent day, the pair maneuvered a West Side route with a stop at the home of Mary Lucas.
“I’m only 92,” Lucas said. “I’m still young.”
During a front porch visit, she looked at the car and noted, “It looks pretty old.”
Lucas lives with her son and daughter-in-law, Roger and Deborah Lucas.
Mary Lucas is a Union Carbide retiree, a good pianist, a longtime member of Calvary Baptist — and a proud mother.
“Roger is my only child,” she said. “He never drank or smoked. He has been one fine guy.”
After an uplifting visit at the Lucas residence, Snedegar and Cox climbed into the Model T to head for the home of Jack and Jean Ann Hartley.
After inquiring about the age of the car, Jack said, “1924? That was two years before I was born.”
Jack retired from the U.S. Navy after serving as a pilot. He noted that Jean Ann had the responsibilities of home and children whenever he was away. She has an impressive collection of miniature houses and also loves a 9-foot-tall Christmas tree covered with ornaments. The houses as well as the tree stay out all year long.
“I’m 87,” Jack said. “The tree is too heavy to lift” for storage in the attic.
The couple married at Calvary Baptist in 1951 and Jean Ann’s mother was a charter member.
Snedegar wanted to stop by the Hartley home and check on Jack after recent surgery.
He noted that all of his parishioners are interesting and fun. “I am the luckiest guy in the world,” he said.
When Snedegar came to Calvary Baptist a year ago, there was talk of closing the church because of declining membership.
“There has been a 180-degree change in attitude,” he said.
New people have been attending and attendance is growing, he said.
“I explained that at 76 years of age this could be the last church I serve. I’m willing to stay to get the church revived and rejuvenated. I’m willing to commit the last years of my life to this church,” he said.
After 50 years in the ministry, he is still excited about his work.
“I’ve never had so much fun or enjoyed the ministry so much,” he said. “I am on call 24 hours a day. The sermons are all new. I do research every week. We try to reach out to the elderly. We have a radio broadcast at 10 a.m. on Sundays.”
A group meets the third Friday of each month at 11:30 a.m. in the fellowship hall for a meal and a program.
He sees new life in the church.
“Closing the doors is not an option,” he said.
Charlotte Ferrell Smith writes for Charleston Daily Mail