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History and Biblical Interpretation

Last week my family and I took an excursion to Indiana to research our history and visit family landmarks.

We made stops at the two Indiana churches that my Grandfather, the late Rev. Willie R. Thomas, pastored.

My grandfather moved to Indiana sometime in the 1950's after serving in combat in World War II. Unfortunately, he passed nearly a decade before I was born.

Rev. Thomas first served as an Assistant Pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church in Richmond, IN in the late 1950's.

Following job loss on the railroad and having to provide for a growing family, he and my Grandmother, the late Mrs. Ida Marie Hassler Thomas and their three small children, moved to Muncie, IN where he accepted the job as Senior Pastor of Greater Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church.

It is well-understood within my family that the late Rev. C.L. Franklin, Aretha Franklin's father, helped my Grandfather get hired at Greater Pilgrim Rest.

My dad was born on the top floor of Greater Pilgrim Rest, as it was the parsonage.

Allow me to ponder here for a moment...

I wonder what my Grandfather's theology was. What shaped his view of God? How did he interpret Scripture? Having seen the harsh treatment of his fellow African-Americans in Mississippi and Arkansas, how were his beliefs shaped? How closely did his theological, ideological, political, and social views align with the likes of his Civil Rights era colleagues, such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, and Rev. Franklin? How did he learn what the Bible means? What passages of Scripture, what testimonies, and what songs enriched his relationship with Christ?

These are just a few thoughts that run through my mind as, overall, I reflect on how fulfilling and meaningful last week's Indiana trip was. Additionally, I consider it to be both, incredible and wonderful, that Rev. Thomas' children and grandchildren are now pastors, ministers, musicians, and singers- just like he was.

Standing in front of Greater Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church in Muncie, IN. My Grandfather served as Pastor here in the 1960's.


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