This article is part of an ongoing series exploring the rich spiritual soil that can be found in Griffin and Spalding County.

A friend once asked, “Have you ever wondered why the grass is greener on the other side? It’s because somebody stayed there and watered it.”

We live in a hyper-mobilized society. As transportation becomes easier and easier, our society is increasingly characterized by mobility and speed. Therefore, we are in danger of losing the wisdom gained from investing one’s life in a fixed place.

St. Anthony, the father of monasticism, left the city of Alexandria in the fourth century and moved to the African desert in order to seek God. He once advised a pilgrim looking to deepen his spiritual life: “Keep God always before you and pattern your life after the scriptures.” Then, he added, “In whatever place you find yourself, do not easily leave it.”

Benedict of Nursia, building on the wisdom of the desert mothers and fathers, asked each of his monks to make three vows: stability, fidelity, and obedience. As one writer summarized it, “If we are going to climb Jacob’s ladder toward the humility of Jesus, Benedictine wisdom says the first thing we need is a stable place to begin.”

In Griffin, Mt. Zion Baptist Church stands as a monument to stability and rootedness. Though it has undergone many changes, Mt. Zion has been led by only two senior pastors in the past 77 years. Rev. Olden Hixon Stinson became the pastor of Mt. Zion in 1943, at the height of World War II, and pastored faithfully until his sudden death in 1977. At that time, Mt. Zion called a young preacher from Bladenboro, NC.

“I didn’t seek Mt. Zion,” Dr. Cleopatrick Lacy said. “Mt. Zion found me.”

After more than four decades of ministry in this community, Dr. Lacy continues to live and minister by the mantra: “Love. Love for the people. Love for what I do as a pastor. Love for the community. Love for God.”

Arriving as a 27-year-old minister with a young family, Dr. Lacy sought out ways to be “bathed in the fabric of the community.” He walked the streets daily with his young children, attended community events and meetings, and got involved in community service efforts. In short, he put down deep roots among us.

“After becoming embedded in the community, it’s hard to imagine getting away,” he said. “These people have become family.”

Reflecting on his 42 years in Griffin, Dr. Lacy says that he can look back and see places where he invested greatly. He sees the House of Hope, the Hope Health Clinic, and the hospital where he served as a volunteer chaplain.

“These are sacred spaces to me,” he said. “These are places where God broke in to our community and continues to show up today.”

Before we look too hard at the grass on the other side, maybe a spiritually healthy community starts with grabbing a watering can and getting busy in our own backyard first.

Rev. Steven Norris