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Broadcasting-Baraca

Broadcasting for Christ: Sunday School class has been on the airwaves for almost 74 years
Friday, March 7, 2008
Photo by Ken Ruinard
The Baraca Chorus sings at First Baptist Church in Anderson.
Photo by Ken Ruinard
First Baptist Church Baraca Chorus director Phil Marett, left, picks a hymn with pianist Mary Hamby before practice.
 

ANDERSON — Nearly 74 years ago the Baraca Sunday School class of Anderson’s First Baptist Church began teaching its lessons over the radio airwaves of WFBC in Greenville. The broadcast extended about 15 miles.

Since there was no radio station in Anderson back in early 1934, this broadcast was made possible by local radio engineer Hampton Wigington. He secured a lease of a long-distance telephone line, and through remote control facilities the Baraca class began reaching those outside the walls of the church.
 
More than seven decades later, they’re still going strong.
 
“We do this broadcast for people who are not able to get out, who are homebound and who like to go to Sunday school,” said Phil Marett, who leads the class’ 20-member chorus.
 
Now the Baraca class airs Sunday mornings from 9:50 to 10:50 a.m. on WRIX 103.1, out of Honea Path. The group of 75 actually meets at 8 a.m. and makes a recording, which is then played during the radio broadcast.
 
“It’s live,” Mr. Marett said. “We don’t correct any mistakes. We just laugh at them and keep going on.”
 
Each Sunday they begin the show by singing an old Baptist hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour.”

“I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like thine can peace afford.”
 
A welcome message and announcements follow, then more singing, and then the Rev. Lawrence Webb, a retired pastor, gives a lesson.
 
“I try to give thought and prayer to it, try to do things that maybe haven’t been touched, so to speak,” Mr. Webb said.
 
He also likes to speak about human suffering at some point during the year.
 
“It’s something that we need to deal with,” Mr. Webb said. “Most of us have those issues in our lives, one way or another.”
 
Mr. Webb is the latest in a long and distinguished line of teachers for this Baraca class. The name “Baraca” comes from the Hebrew and means “to be a blessing.”
 
Judge W.F. Cox taught the class from its inception in 1900 until 1914. Judge H.H. Watkins taught from 1915 to 1918, followed by D. Clarence Brown, Claude Earle and Leon Rice, who rotated the position for three years. In 1922 E.P. Vandiver took over, and he taught until 1940, when Ralph King began teaching.
 
Mr. King spent more than 50 years leading the class. After that, a rotation of men and women took the helm for more than a decade. Mr. Webb took over full-time in late 2002.
 
The 73-year-old Mr. Webb and the 69-year-old Mr. Marett said they would continue doing the class as long as God lets them. They simply want to continue to get the word out about God’s love and grace.
 
“God’s word, when spread out, will accomplish its purpose,” Mr. Webb said. “Our job is to put it out there and trust the Lord who will hear it.”

“I need thee, O I need thee; every hour I need thee!
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.”