I had a chance to visit their operation recently at the invitation of Bill Floyd, who tomorrow will celebrate his 12th anniversary as pastor of this can-do congregation.
The church is a simple white frame building that looks like it belongs in the mountains of north Georgia rather than on the corner of Cherokee Street and Jiles Road with its never-ending flow of traffic. The current sanctuary dates back to 1932, but the church itself has been around since 1832, making it perhaps the oldest church in the county.
The Rev. Floyd says it is believed that Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman used the location as a hospital during the war — I need not tell you which war — and a visit to the cemetery in back of the building contains graves from that time period and even earlier.
However, it isn’t its past that distinguishes Shiloh Methodist Church. It is its presence in the present.
“Our folks aren’t rich,” the Rev. Floyd says. “We are basically blue-collar.” But that doesn’t stop them from feeding the flock. It is not an inexpensive undertaking. Each session costs about $1,000 and foodstuffs include spaghetti, vegetables, cereal, bread and the like. Hardy food for hungry families.
Shiloh relies heavily on donations and the good will of local businesses. Bill Floyd is quick to point out the strong support he gets from Kennesaw Methodist Church, New Beginnings Methodist Church, the Kennesaw Business Association and local Mormons — everything from financial aid to resupplying the food shelves to bagging groceries to directing traffic on Saturday morning. Even with everybody pitching in, the food bank is a constant struggle.
It is a struggle the Rev. Floyd doesn’t have to be experiencing at this stage in his life. He could be enjoying the fruits of his previous labors, not pastoring a small church with a big heart.
For the story of Shiloh Methodist Church is also the story of this remarkable man who came into the ministry at a time when most of the rest of us would be contemplating retirement.
Floyd grew up in Atlanta’s West End and spent four decades in the automobile business, working with a number of automobile dealers around Atlanta and doing everything from selling cars to keeping books before finally operating his own used car lot in Douglasville for more than 20 years.
He married Carey Jones from my hometown of East Point, raised a family of four, sent his kids off to college and spent a lot of his time doing church work. Still, something seemed to be missing in his life. And Bill Floyd knew what it was. It was the ministry. It had been tugging at him for a long time.
“I knew God was calling me,” he told me over lunch, “I kept putting off the call but then you see where God is working and you work with Him.” At the ripe young age of 60, he enrolled in a five-year course of study at Emory University which he completed in three. He was assigned as a local pastor in Dalton. Not long after that, he got the call to Shiloh Methodist Church in Kennesaw and, as they say, the rest is history.
Visiting Shiloh Methodist Church with Bill and Carey Floyd reminded me of a story I heard about a cab driver whose fare instructed him to drive to Christ Church in New York City. Without a word, the cabbie took him to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. “I told you I wanted to go to Christ Church,” the irate passenger said. “Mister,” the cab driver said simply, “If Christ ain’t here, He ain’t in town.” You get the same kind of feeling when you walk in the doors of this modest sanctuary.
God has to like what is going on at little Shiloh Methodist Church and probably wishes the rest of us would shut our yaps about whose denomination is more theologically-correct and follow Shiloh’s example instead.
In Matthew 25:40, Christ says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” That is what this church is all about.
As for Rev. Bill Floyd, former used car salesman-turned-pastor, he is where he was meant to be. He quips, “I can sell Jesus better than I could sell used cars, plus the warranty is better.” Now, that will preach.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.