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Jonesboro First UMC writers share their work

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

When Jonesboro First United Methodist Church member, Lucy Huie, took a creative writing course at Emory University several years ago, she was surprised that one of the first assignments was to write about the most frightening experience in her life.

A Jonesboro resident for most of her life, and an active member of a 1960s church organization aimed at keeping Georgia schools from shutting down during the desegregation period, Huie described when she came face-to- face with the Ku Klux Klan.

"We had a whole lot of crosses burned here in Jonesboro," said Huie. Her son Jim -- who died in 1965 saving a friend from a speeding car -- is memorialized by the Jim Huie Recreation Center. "People don't talk about it because it was uncomfortable," said the octogenarian.

Three carloads of Ku Klux Klan members followed her, and her husband, Arthur, home from church one night and waited silently in front of their home near Flint River Road for several hours. The next night, they burned a cross in front of her home.

"So much of these things that went on were not talked about in that period," said Huie. "A lot times, when they had the Jonesboro [Thanksgiving] Parade, the Klan would be in the parade. If your cousin was in the Ku Klux Klan, you may have been proud of it in some ways, and not in others."

A few years ago, Huie published "Meeting the Klan," in a collection of short stories by several Clayton County writers entitled, "The Night the Animals Screamed." Her work, as well as the work of several published and unpublished members of Jonesboro First UMC, will be shared during a public book signing at the church on Nov. 14.

On Wednesday, from 5:30-7 p.m., the church will invite the public to purchase the work of authors in its congregation, with part of the proceeds going toward the church's programs.

Beverly Casstevens, associate pastor of the church, said the event marks the first time the church has hosted a book signing.

"Reflection is very important," in the Methodist tradition, said Casstevens. "Journaling is part of the spiritual discipline of Methodism passed down from John Wesley," one of the 16th-century founders of the Methodist church.

"I guess that you can say that they are honoring an age-old tradition for us," said Casstevens.

Another published author, and church member, to be featured in the book signing is Helen Parker Steele, who published, "I Hope to Die Running" this year.

In her book, Steele, 80, describes growing up as one of eight children of a Forest Park farmer, performing in a family gospel quartet as a child, and traveling throughout Europe, Israel, and most of the United States.

The book highlights the importance of relationships and how they can help determine a person's fate.

"Never take for granted your relationships," said Steele. "It can absolutely shape your destiny. I just realized how much [friends] have enriched my life."

Steele said that many of the authors in the book signing are senior citizens and she hopes the event will inspire other seniors to write about their experiences.

"I'm 80 years old and I just published a book," said Steele. "I want to inspire other seniors to write something about their lives."

Jonesboro First UMC is located at 142 South Main Street in Jonesboro. For more information, call (770) 478-6444.