It is a routine part of every meeting. Somebody picks up the membership list and calls the names. Or perhaps they look around the room to note who is here and who is not. How ever done, the result is the same: a checkmark appears beside the name of every one present, a record is made, and the books are stashed away until next time.
At least once a year we elect somebody to do this. Nobody really wants to do it—not at the club meeting or school class or church. Nobody really thinks about it. And nobody knows what happens to all those records.
Yes, they get reported to the regional manager, or the school office or somebody who gets paid to keep track of all this and report it to who-knows-whom at some later date. And who cares?
Until 81 years later when somebody goes searching for clues to a life well lived and after scrolling through census records, thumbing through history books, and flipping through stacks of pictures a specialist in the field of saving stuff and things hands you a book with these words: “This might help you.”
I was that somebody this week, and Christina Clary was that special person. She earned a graduate degree in library science at the university and was hired by the Daviess County Public Library to do exactly what she did for me.
“I found this in the storage room back there. Somebody brought it in, but we have not had enough time to catalogue it. There is lots more stuff back there.”
She pulled a large, flat book from the clean white sleeve and handed it to me. The title was not too promising: Improved Six Point Sunday School Record For Secretaries of Sunday Schools Not Departmentized. It was bright gold lettering on a faded black cover. I not sure that “departmentized” is even a word—not now, at least.
Perhaps then; and then was 1939. The Sunday School in question belonged to the Sorgho Baptist Church in western Daviess County. It was established, I learned later, in 1884. The original church building burned in 1923 and a new facility constructed the next year … during my dad’s first year of life. No telling what records of attendance, achievement, and historic significance were destroyed in that fire.
And no telling what happened to the Sunday School records for all the other years. Tossed here and discarded there. Forgotten by most and ignored by all. Except this year: 1939.
The World War began in Europe. An earthquake killed 30,000 people in Chile. Gone with the Wind premiered in Atlanta. LaGuardia Airport opened in New York City. Regular Television broadcasts began. And Tom Moody celebrated birthday number 16 in Daviess County, Kentucky.
Now I know where that celebration occurred. Because on page 9 and line 15 of that Sunday School attendance book is written the name of the person I have loved all my life: Tom Moody. He is listed as 15 years old and living on Route 1 in Stanley, Kentucky.
Column seven is titled “Christian ?” and 14 of the 17 names have a mark that means YES. That means each of these 14 teenage boys and their teacher have, as we say in the Baptist church, made a profession of faith and been baptized.
Where and when that happened—I do not know, not yet. I will, at some point; because somebody, somewhere kept a record of that, I am sure. It may be in the newspaper, or the church history, or on some long discarded and scarcely noticed scrap of paper. I will find it, like I found this notice of his enrollment in a Sunday School. I will know the name of the evangelist who preached the revival meeting and I will know the place where his pastor, Rev. N. L. Baughn of Sorgho Baptist Church (1936-1941) led him into the water, dipped him all the way under, and raise him up (as Paul the Apostle wrote centuries ago) to walk in newness of life.
My dad Tom Moody did exactly that until the day of his death in 2013. He walked in newness of life, the Christian life, for which thousands of people are forever grateful, and I am one of them.