Leaning on the Everlasting Arms - Church at Mont Helena Plantation
"Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" was first published in 1887 and has been a permanent entry in Christian hymnbooks for as long as I can remember. It was written by Anthony Showalter and Elisha Hoffman and according to the Wikipedia entry was based on a verse of scripture, Deuteronomy 33.27, "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms," from which Showalter was inspired when writing letters of consolation to two of his former students when their wives had passed away.
Throughout the Mississippi Delta are many places of worship, many that have been neglected and left for nature to reclaim. One particular church that has always fascinated me and that I have photographed many times is the Methodist Episcopal church that stands on Mt Helena Plantation near Rolling Fork, MS. As I thought about the photograph in this post, that song came to mind and I began to imagine the joy and celebration as well as the trials and tribulations that must have been a part of the life of this church that was built in 1878. In my mind I can hear the ringing of the church bell in the steeple announcing the beginning of the service or marking of an event, and the singing of old plantation hymns and spirituals passed down from generations prior.
In early November, my good friend from Delaware, David Wolanski, came down and we spent a couple of days photographing in the western part of the state. One of the places he wanted to go was the old church and we almost allowed the weather to thwart our efforts but in the end we drove through heavy rain to arrive at the location of the church. I had never seen the church other than on a sunny or cloudy/partly cloudy day and to see it in the hard driving sideways blowing rain that when we let the car window down it blew in and covered over half of the dashboard of the car, was in one simple word.... amazing.
Just like in life, over the years this church has stood many trials, not just with the people that attended here but with nature's storms and other natural events. It is gradually leaning more and more to the south and east, and one day I will go there only to find the church no longer standing.
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