By Grace Thornton
Special Assignments Editor
It wasn’t my first assignment at The Alabama Baptist, but in my head it was in the early days, because I still felt pretty new to the area the day I drove out to the church.
I’d come to Birmingham right after college in 2003, desperate for a job and so grateful when Jennifer Rash — now editor-in-chief, then managing editor — offered me the chance to come fill in for a couple of weeks for someone who was out recovering from surgery.
That two weeks in the summer turned into a six-month internship, which turned into a job in the advertising department (a fake-it-til-you-make-it situation for me, for sure) that still allowed me to take some writing assignments.
I was out on an assignment that day I met Mrs. Sharon. She was the church secretary and the obvious mama/grandmama to everybody there. Even though I was there to interview two pastors, before I left she had learned my life story and invited me to come back for a church service and lunch at her house.
I went. How could you say no to that? Especially as fresh as I was to adulthood and to the area. I’d loved Alabama so far, but I didn’t have any roots.
For the next year, maybe more, I spent a good number of Sunday lunches with her family, something I will always treasure. I made some good friends at that church (including a second Sharon). Over time, I got to a point where I began to feel like I needed to be a part of a church closer to where I lived, but I would always be more grateful than I knew how to say for my time there — those precious friends had given me a home in a place where I didn’t have one.
That’s what I have felt like in the 20 years since I first came to TAB — that all of you that I get to talk to every day, some on the phone, some at your churches or homes — have made Alabama home.
I’ll never take for granted the privilege of getting to know you, TAB’s readers, and you entrusting me with your stories. I’ve eaten your pie and gotten to hear about your grandkids. I’ve had the privilege of hearing about your joy, your grief, your struggles and the way God has worked in the middle of all of it, for your good, for His glory and for the spread of the gospel.
I haven’t been here the whole two decades — in the middle, I left and went overseas for a few years. But even over there, I still found some of you, even had a roommate who was from Alabama at one point.
Y’all’s reach is everywhere. I love it. And I’m blessed to get to hear over and over and over what God is doing in and through you.
A few months back, I got to see Mrs. Sharon again for the first time in a few years. We met out at the property of that church I went to on one of my first assignments, the one that became one of my very first homes here in Alabama. It was great to hug her neck and catch up.
Lord willing, I’m looking forward to many more conversations like that still to come — more stories to hear and more stories to tell.
I’m so thankful to be a part of the Alabama Baptist family.