Religion News: January 2022

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Retired teacher Joyce Jackson-Colemon holds a photo of her parents, Mildred and Jesse Jackson. Colemon has written a book about her family memories and her life of service. Photo: Theresa Curry.

Retired Teacher Looks Back on a Life Filled with Love

Inspired by a loving family and a steadfast faith, Joyce Jackson-Colemon used her significant gifts to help young people with challenges find support and hope. Jackson-Colemon retired in 2020, after 25 years with the Waynesboro School system. 

She had one of the most difficult education jobs imaginable, working with children on the path to becoming high school drop-outs to prepare for their G.E.D. The award-winning teacher has written a book about growing up near Crozet. Out of the House of Jesse is a memoir about life in the Jackson family with 12 brothers and sisters and the events that followed in a long career of service. 

In her birth family, school was a priority, and all of her siblings were encouraged to study and do their best; but Colemon found she had a knack for reaching students who––for one reason or another—were unable to get a traditional high school diploma.

“Often, they needed nurturing and security as well as teaching,” Jackson-Colemon said. “Many of them had no family support.” For them, she made school a safe and happy place. She was so successful with the hundreds of young people she helped over the years that she caught the eye of other educators, social service professionals, county officials, even attorneys. “I once had the commonwealth attorney tell me he wasn’t going to send any more students to juvenile court,” she said. “Instead, he’d send them to my classroom.”

There were other honors, many of them. One she is especially proud of is serving on the board of Blue Ridge Community College, which awarded her an honorary degree. She was the first person to receive that honor. 

Her father and his grandfather were both named “Jesse,” giving her book its name. Both had an enormous impact on her life. Her father drove a tractor-trailer for the Crozet Morton Plant and was away from the family for weeks at a time. When he came home, he couldn’t wait to hear about what had happened while he was away. “He listened, really listened to us,” she said, “and he also talked to us about what he’d seen on his trips all over the country.” Weekends were the best when he was home, and the family would have picnics and backyard gatherings with relatives and neighbors.  When he wasn’t home, the older children would walk to church, stopping off at their grandparents for Sunday dinner afterwards. 

The young Joyce always knew that her belief in the loving hand of God would inspire her to make a difference. It was a feeling she had, but it was also predicted by those who knew her, including her great-grandfather. She subtitled her book, How God Made a Move on Me. She learned the value of perseverance from family stories: great-grandfather Jesse walked from his home in Yancey Mills to his job at the Miller School, carrying a stick for protection and a lantern to light his way in the early dawn. In her childhood home, everyone had chores, and her description of country life in the ’50s and ’60s is especially poignant.

When dad was away, there was no car, so they walked everywhere. At home, they raised hogs and chickens, kept a cow for milk and butter, and grew a huge garden of vegetables and an orchard for fruit. Her mother, Mildred, was loving but strict, and she’d mastered life skills that allowed her family to survive and prosper. House and children were kept scrupulously clean, using homemade soap; everyone stayed healthy from outdoor exercise, good food and tonics concocted seasonally from herbs and greens. 

Other realities of the time were not so pleasant. She’s old enough to recall all the restrictions on Black citizens: segregated schools, inferior school supplies, assigned drinking fountains and separate doors, notices forbidding entrance, and a shortage of health professionals willing to care for Black children.

Jackson-Colemon was steadfast about her life’s work. In addition to raising her three sons and her work with vulnerable children at school, she took in children with challenges at different times in her life. One severely handicapped child flourished under her attention and now lives independently; several others benefitted from shorter stays with her when they needed a safe and loving home.

She’s also serious about a legacy, and sees her book as a kind of witness to her family and her own spiritual growth. She willingly accepted her role as family historian, a monumental task in such a large extended family. She encourages everyone to record their story. “I’m leaving a legacy for the next generation to read,” she writes,” and, most importantly, to see that we lived with purpose.”

Order Jackson-Colemon’s book at jjcolemonbook.com.

Magical Bubble Draws People to Valley Community Church

In the very space intended for his 1934 Ford Roadster, John Muncy created a magical bubble, filled with lights and whimsy and the sacred symbols of the Christmas season. Muncy, the pastor of Valley Community Church, said a parishioner gave him a car capsule to protect his antique hot rod, but instead he saw the possibility of a giant snow globe, using the clear hemisphere to enclose a Christmas scene. At 30 feet long, 7 feet tall, and 8 feet wide, the globe stood on the outdoor stage throughout the season, providing a colorful contrast to the long, dark nights of the last days of 2021.

Valley Community Church members and friends enjoy the snow globe. Front, from left, Rose Brooks, Pam Muncy, Pastor John Muncy, Willow Miller, Larry Small, Ashley Short. Rear, from left, Debbie Roberts, Rick Roberts, David Brooks, Connie Miller. Photo: Malcolm Andrews.

Muncy, who’s a professional musician, a bus driver and a tour guide in addition to being a pastor, also thought the unusual holiday display would serve as a centerpiece for festive holiday gatherings, providing his congregation and any neighbors and friends a place to gather safely outside. To add to the festive atmosphere, Valley Community Church provided bonfires, s’mores, hot coffee and cocoa and sometimes hot dogs. On frigid nights, people could view the snow globe from their cars or warm up in the fellowship hall amid Christmas carols and music. 

The community was appreciative, and Muncy plans to continue the homemade tableau for years to come. He foresees improvements. “I did try to use some packing peanuts to simulate snowfall,” he said, “but I just couldn’t make it work. Maybe next year it will look even more like a snow globe.”

The snow globe will remain for a time after Christmas. For information, call 434-381-0366. 

A giant snow globe lights up a cold December night at Valley Community Church. Photo: Malcolm Andrews.

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