James “Sonny” Conaway, 93, of Anniston has been recognized by his church for 61 years of perfect Sunday School attendance. No matter the obstacles, he finds a way to be in Sunday School.
Once, he was granted a courtesy discharge from a hospital long enough to attend class. Another time, while on a business trip in New York, he walked 22 blocks — one way — to a Baptist church on two consecutive Sundays.
During this global pandemic, Sunday School comes to Conaway’s kitchen table each week, thanks to deacon and teacher David Naugher. Conaway worked more than 55 years at Union Foundry.
Ministry: Faithful church attender
Church name: Golden Springs Baptist Church, Anniston, in Calhoun Baptist Association
Life verse: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.” (Prov. 22:1)
Q: Describe where you focus your greatest ministry efforts.
A: Attending Sunday School, without fail.
Q: Who are or were the most influential people in your faith life? Why?
A: That would be my mother, Era Lee Hardin Conaway, and my father, Henry Lee Conaway. Secondly, it will be my grandfathers, L. Jesse Conaway and James Asa Hardin. I was not sent to church; I was carried. We went as a family. When we moved to Anniston, we still went as a family until I was 21 years old. At that point, I went into the Army and that ended us going to church together.
Q: If there was one thing you could tell your younger self about faith, what would it be?
A: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Without faith, where will you go? To me, you’ve got to have faith. And I am a believer in God.
Q: Have you ever read a book or heard a song that changed the way you think about God and faith? What was it and what did you learn from it?
A: “This is the beginning of a new day/God has given me this day to use as I will/ I can waste it or use it for good. …” (from the poem “A New Day” by Heartsill Wilson). I am a lover of poems. I don’t know where I came across it — somewhere in my late teens or early 20s. That helped me turn my life around. That made me think about what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted it to be successful by being a good person, a good Christian, a churchgoer, a hard worker, a good father and a good husband. Also, “The Bridge Builder” (a poem by Will Allen Dromgoole about building a bridge across a chasm to benefit the next person to travel that way). I read it in school at Spring Garden. It stuck with me for years.
Q: Does your church have any special traditions that mean a lot to you? What are they?
A: The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. I definitely believe in them. We need to share our thoughts of religion to all people.