06
Mar
10

The light at the end of the (dirt) road

Sometimes you can find the most incredible things at the end of a dirt road.  

After an assignment at the Aiken County Audubon society out in rural Beech Island, I passed the most lonely looking dirt road I’ve ever seen.  The kind that goes on and on for what seems like a mile before gently sweeping off to the right.  A small white sign with an arrow said: Susan Union Baptish Church. That “h” is not a typo.  Seriously.

Lewis Jackson enters Susan Union Baptist Church during a revival service, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009, in Beech Island, S.C. The building was built in 1896. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Ever the adventurer (ha) that I am, I took the turn.  Two miles later the road ended at a small wooden building covered over with low hanging trees.  It took me a second to realize that it was the church.  I though to myself it had to be abandoned, but noticed small air conditioning units in two of the windows.  The front door had a small rusted out light over it with spider webs hanging from all directions.  It was summer, and the mosquitos were unbearable.  But the place had so much character, I had to do a story on this church.  Who went to a church this far out?  How many?  Is it a traditionally black church, like so many of these rural churches, handed down through the generations from slave ancestors?  I had to find out.   

I backtracked to the only house I had seen from the dirt road, about a mile from Susan Union.  A very nice older couple answered my knock on the door.  The wife told me they didn’t really know that much about the church, just that they think they meet on the first Sunday of every month and that they have revival services at some point in the year.  I’m thinking to myself that this is awesome but I need a name to contact.  After a few phone calls to her friends, the woman gives me a number to the part-time pastor at Susan Union Baptish Church.

He informed me that he and the 25 or so strong congregation would be having a revival service in August so I told him I’d be there.  

So the time rolled around and I showed up for an evening revival service.  It was a one room church fronted by a foyer with a men’s room on the right and a ladies room on the left (incidentally the deacon uses the men’s room as an office too.)  It was DARK in there, as in 6400ISO 1/60th f2.8 dark.  After getting a few shots on the inside, I waited outside for a late straggler to arrive.  This was a pre-visualized shot I had wanted to get ever since seeing the place for the first time several months prior.  It’s one of my favorites, and it shows I’m a sucker for symmetry and building fronts.  It’s also one of Kendrick Brinson’s favorites, an ex-colleague of mine who’s getting laid off from the paper was the best thing that ever happened to her because she’s having a pretty darn successful freelance career these days.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com


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