DOTHAN, ALABAMA- Church members at Shady Grove Baptist Church were greeted by some unexpected visitors Sunday at the 11:00 service. A local African-American family visited the church, marking the first time the church has had a non-white visitor since 1978.
Andre Jackson and his wife Cassandra, along with their two young boys Jeffrey and Kevin arrived at the church Sunday around 10:50, just in time to get a seat near the middle of the sanctuary.
"It was such a surprise!" said long-time church member Glayds Henry, a white woman. "We've had several visitors over the years, but few have been so...unexpected."
Whispers flooded the pews as church goers watched the Jacksons walk in. "We weren't sure if they realized where they were," Deacon James McGuffie said. "We were, uh, glad to see 'em, but really, really shocked." Some younger adults immediately went and spoke to the Jacksons, while kids ran over to say hello to Jeffrey and Kevin, recognizing them as classmates. Others in the congregation, we later found out, were nervous of the visitors.
"You can never be too careful," mentioned Rosanne Ard, church member since 1965. "You never know who might be coming to visit with bad intentions." Ard showed concern over what appeared to be the raising of a hand by Mrs. Jackson during a song. "She raised both hands," claimed Ard. "It was very distracting."
When interviewed after the service, Mr. Jackson had nice things to say about Shady Grove Baptist. "The people were friendly. The music was pretty good. But mostly we're just looking for a church that gets out before lunch time."
The last non-white to visit the church was in July of 1978 when a Hispanic family showed up, mistaking the church's 4th of July function for a farmer's market.