Moving speech from Billy Graham Library director Atcheson highlight of Chapin’s Community Prayer Bre
Atcheson discusses his football-heavy background, wave of new Christians in wake of Billy Graham’s death at traditional Chapin function
Chapin, SC (James Bowers) – Chapin’s annual prayer breakfast, which was renamed this year from The Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast to the Community Prayer Breakfast, is one of the most beloved traditions in the town. It is a time for community members from the business, education, and government sectors to gather together to enjoy a delicious meal while engaging in fellowship and camaraderie with their neighbors. Local pastors are on hand to deliver scriptural messages, and the events usually have a distinguished guest to speak about their Christian faith. There’s also music from young people and the JROTC presents the colors to remind everyone why we as Americans are free to hold such events in our country.
Headlining this year’s event Friday was Wayne Atcheson, the director of the Billy Graham library in Charlotte, NC. Atcheson took this role in June 2006, coming from a wide reaching professional background that included stints with the national staff of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Jerry B. Jenkins Writers Guild, and nearly 30 years in the sport of college football. It was the latter part of his resume that saw him spend two decades as the Sports Information Director at the University of Alabama, and work with College Football luminaries such as Bobby Bowden and Paul “Bear” Bryant. Atcheson called his role with the Graham Library ‘the dessert” of his varied, accomplished professional background. Atcheson spoke to the assembled audience in Chapin of his sports background, touching on his interactions with legendary coaching figures such as Bowden, Bryant, and Dabo Swinney, who Atcheson knew when the then Alabama wide receiver was a member of the FCA at the University in Tuskalosa. Atcheson still regularly keeps in touch with Swinney and Bowden, discussing matters of life and faith.
Perhaps the key point of Atcheson’s speech at the breakfast was the reaction to the February passing of Billy Graham. Atcheson recalled being surprised by the 99-year-old revivalist’s death, saying that despite the legendary preacher’s advanced age, his health never seemed to falter. He was initially disappointed that Graham didn’t quite reach the hundred-year mark, but then pondered the fact that Graham was eight months and two weeks shy of his 100th birthday, meaning that from conception to death, Graham had existed for exactly 100 years.
Wayne Atcheson spoke of a particularly striking trend in the wake of Graham’s passing. He said that the Graham ministry, largely headed by Billy’s son Franklin, received tens of thousands of contacts from individuals wishing to convert to Christianity and noted that Graham’s death and memorial service caused the name of Jesus to be mentioned more in the secular media in the days following than he had ever seen before. One particularly moving occurrence was a woman who encouraged her 92-year-old mother to watch the television coverage of Graham’s funeral service. They saw Franklin Graham ask those in attendance and the millions a question: “My dad’s body is in that casket, but his soul is in heaven with the father. When you die, where will your soul be?” That question led her mother to convert to Christianity that day; She died later that evening. Atcheson noted that this instance was only one of the thousands upon thousands of similar stories shared with the ministry in the wake of Graham’s death. Athcheson encouraged the gathered group at Chapin Town Hall to take any friends who are not believers to the museum in Charlotte for a visit. He said that those who enter the museum skeptical, usually make the decision to receive Christ at some point before the end of their visit.The Chapin’s Community Prayer Breakfast was centered around the theme of unity among community members of all faiths and backgrounds. Atcheson touched on this concept by stating the mission of a ministry is to gather, not to scatter. Overall, Atcheson’s time speaking Friday was a striking presentation on Christianity’s impact on people.
In addition to Atcheson’s presence, several of the area’s leaders attended including Reverend Ralph Hill of Mt. Horeb Lutheran and Josh Fink of Trinity Anglican Church. Pastor Paul Allen of Chapin United Methodist read scripture relating to the day’s theme, Marcus Jackman of Chapin Presbyterian church delivered the invocation, and J.. Ben Sloan of Lake Murray Presbyterian Church delivered the closing prayer. Chapin Mayor David Knight and town councilman Al Koon each made remarks too at the breakfast. Chapin High School’s NJROTC color guard and chamber singers led the national anthem. Then the chamber singers treated the audience to an Irish hymn called “Deep Peace.” The rare blend of secular and faith-based activity amid an environment of fellowship made for a wholly positive experience for those in attendance, regardless of their particular religion, race, or ideology.
For more information on the Billy Graham Museum, visit billygrahammuseum.org.