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Making the rounds is more than meeting and greeting

Updated: Jun 26

My seven-year-old self chafed and twitched as I followed my mom around the circle of seated relatives and older church members. I returned hugs and smiled tightly to exclamations of "How big you've grown since last year!" and "This can't be Jimmy—why, I remember when he was in diapers, seems like just yesterday!"

Much as I wanted to break away and join the other children, I knew the routine: first we made the rounds, greeted both familiar and unfamiliar people, made polite "Yes, ma'am" and "Thank you, sir" remarks, and generally represented my family well to the crowd of homecoming guests.

Later reaching into the ice chest to pull out a bottled cola, a small breeze together with the touch of the ice-cold drink in my hand made the day more bearable. My gaze lifted up and I spied foil-wrapped covered dishes out on the long table beneath the old white oaks and I made note of my mom's white and green bowl with the leaf-pattern. There was the best potato salad to be had; no sense in scooping up any of the other salads before reaching that one. On the dessert table were my grandmother's offerings of chocolate meringue pie and coconut cake toward the back of the sweet treats, and I hoped there would be slices of both for me when I took my turn through the line.

Homecoming service brought big crowds, and my home church pews filled fast. Last-minute folk stood in the back as the building shook with hardy voices raised in song. The piano set the pace, and the young man leading the singing kept time with his feet as well as his hands. One song ending, the young man hollered out a number and we kept the praise coming. The musicians segued from hymn to hymn with only introductory chords, adding a rollicking good time to the order of service. The guest speaker jumped from the front pew to the pulpit with an energy that didn't quit throughout the sermon. Conjured memories incorporated with a sound gospel message were cause for the big group to respond with loud and frequent amens. I sat in the midst, a bit squashed and glad for whoever turned up the air conditioning. I noticed we all formed fans using the programs and kept our arms moving to stir the breeze.

After the service, someone pointed the way to where the feasting would commence. The older members took their places in the big circle of chairs, chatting easily and welcoming everyone "home." When all had gathered, a loud "Shall we pray?" quieted the masses as, heads bowed, we lifted our hearts in true reverence for mercies received and bounties promised.

Do you remember similar summer gatherings? After the big feast, called "dinner on the grounds" back then, small groups wound through the cemetery to the right of the church building, searching out the graves of those gone on before. On the Saturday prior, volunteers spruced up the consecrated lawn, making sure all the markers were adorned with flowers. Toward the back, my siblings pointed out the tombstones of my grandmother's parents Minnie and William Terrell, along with those of aunts, uncles, and kin whose names I had heard only in stories and read in the front leaves of family bibles. We made our rounds through the hallowed ground, drinking in the meaning of family and coming "home."

As the sun slid along the tops of the surrounding trees, my crisp white shirt, my polished black leather shoes, and Brylcreem coiffed hair looked the worse for wear. My family made the day's final rounds, wishing the lingering crowds farewell. I carried rinsed bowls and pans to the car for my grandmother. The tight hugs she gave felt comforting and more meaningful somehow after our homecoming: the singing and gathering, the listening and responding, the greeting and feasting, and the thanking and remembering.

I filed the entire experience in my brain as "homecoming" and knew in real and undefinable ways the meaning of making the rounds and belonging.

Making the rounds is more than meeting and greeting

Witten By Jim Edminson, Editor #HOMEWORD

Edminson encourages others through the Good News of Jesus. Invite him to speak to your church or organization. You can email him at

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