Former President Jimmy Carter speaks on Sunday, Oct. 17 in Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. Mercer University students with Baptist Collegiate Ministries travel to Plains to play music for Maranatha Baptist Church and to see the Jimmy Carter sites.

Jenna Eason

Mercer fellas play for Jimmy Carter at Maranatha

October 29, 2015

The preacher at Maranatha Baptist referred to them as the “Mercer fellas.”

The group of students that performed at former President Jimmy Carter’s church actually go by the name of the Royalty. And Katie Hague, who performed a solo piece later in the morning, doesn’t qualify as a fellow.

The students all travelled to Maranatha Sunday, Oct. 18 to take part in the church service, as well as to learn more about Carter’s life.

The crowd at Maranatha has grown in recent weeks with reports of Carter’s declining health. They flock from all over the world.

People are lining up at the doors of the tiny baptist church in the wee hours of the morning to be able to reserve a seat in the sanctuary for the worship service.”

“That’s what surprised me about it. There was a lot of variety,” said Joseph Peters, a sophomore at Mercer and a native of Nashville, Tennessee.

“When I first got there, I saw a license plate from where I was from. I was like, ‘is someone like following me?’” he said.

People are lining up at the doors of the tiny baptist church in the wee hours of the morning to be able to reserve a seat in the sanctuary for the worship service.

The sanctuary itself isn’t anything particularly special. It looks similar to other small southern churches. The carpet is an olive green, with a lighter green shade on the walls. Stained glass windows line the room, each with the same pattern of amethyst diamonds.

The pews are a dark wood that creaks with the weight of the curious. Some are there to see the former president. Others have been going there longer than he has.

College students from Macon were there for a variety of reasons.

Chris Fuller, the campus minister for Mercer’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM), has been bringing students to see the church for several years now. He said that the trip seems to primarily attract international students who are fascinated by the idea of a former president living less than two hours away.

Fuller partnered with the BCM at Wesleyan College to take a group of about 20 students to Maranatha. Five of those students led worship for the congregation while Fuller preached the day’s sermon.

“It went exactly as we expected,” said Daniel Kimmel, a sophomore at Mercer. “Chris Fuller kinda prepared us that it was gonna be a pretty small sanctuary, pretty small building, but it was really . . . it was just awesome. It was just cool to see the people that came from all over. People from New Zealand, Canada, everywhere.”

The group of guys that led the main worship service started playing music together in a BCM bible study last year. They’ve started to lead worship at Mercer BCM nights but never performed off-campus before their production in Plains, Georgia.

“This is really our first ‘outing,’ like, outside of Mercer,” Peters said. “So us getting together as a group doing something like that in front of a president is something really special—something you don’t get to do everyday.”

Katie Hague is a junior at Mercer who had a solo performance after Fuller’s sermon. She said that she really didn’t focus on the former president.

“I didn’t, really, you know, look at Jimmy Carter when I was singing. I just kinda looked over everybody, but it was a cool experience,” she said. “I guess it didn’t really seem that different from singing in front of any other group of people.”

The majority of the worship service was made up of traditional baptist hymns with the exception of two pieces. Hague performed “Grace” by Laura Story, and the boys wrapped up their set with “Lay ’em Down” by Needtobreathe.

That song in particular meant the group had to beat a cajon, clap a little, and yell, which seemed to take some patrons aback. But the guys pressed on.

“It’s kind of our theme song,” Kimmel said.”That’s the one I knew we had to do.”


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