For longtime Baptists living in the northern part of the county, the arrival of June meant it was time to get ready for Homecoming. Homecoming was a day of special activities at the community church; a time for those who did not live in the community anymore to come back to visit.
Traditionally, each Baptist church in the area had Homecoming on a different Sunday in June. That allows people from miles around to attend all of them. They could visit friends and relatives they might not see but this one time a year. In the days before automobiles, attendees came in wagons, buggies, surreys, on horseback or they walked the dusty roads to the church.
Springhill Baptist Church has its Homecoming the first Sunday in June. Bethlehem Baptist Church at Shady Grove and Bono Baptist always schedule their Homecomings for the second Sunday of the month. Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, south of Wooster, always had its Homecoming the third Sunday while Needs Creek Baptist Church finished out the month, celebrating Homecoming on the fourth Sunday in June.
In the past, Homecoming was an especially important day for the community. Everyone always dressed up for the occasion. Extra money would be earned hoeing cotton so that material could be bought for new clothes. Mothers would sew new clothes for the whole family. Children might even get new pairs of shoes.
Homecoming Day festivities usually began with a morning singing. Invitations would be mailed on penny postcards to singers throughout Faulkner County. Many of the singers prepared themselves by attending singing schools held at various places in the county.
The time of singing was often followed by a time of reminiscing and a few words from the preacher. During this time, the ladies of the church would leave to set out the food for the “dinner-on-the grounds.” For many years it was just that. Tablecloths and quilts would be spread out on the ground. Sometimes church benches would be taken outside to use as tables for the food. In more recent years, Homecoming dinners have often been held in the church fellowship halls or activity centers.
In the past, “fixin’ the dinner” for Homecoming was a family affair. The children would catch a spring pullet for their mother to fry. All sorts of vegetables would be prepared. Pies, cakes and bread would be baked. There was always an abundance of food.
Noontime was not only for eating but for visiting and exchanging news. People shared the joys and sorrows that had occurred in their lives over the previous year. New babies were introduced and condolences were expressed for the loss of loved ones.
After lunch, some would go back in to the church for more singing. Windows would be raised and “funeral fans” would be flapping in the still summer air trying to catch a breeze. The singing would drift outside where the men were discussing their crop conditions under the trees.
Most of these Homecoming traditions are still carried on today but changes have taken place over the years. Pleasant Valley Baptist now holds its Homecoming the second week in July, moving it from the third Sunday to allow families to celebrate Father’s Day. Many of the life-long residents of these communities have passed away so their descendants don’t come as often but Homecoming is still celebrated with dinner and song.