Sunday school teaching only found in Plains - WRBL

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Sunday school teaching only found in Plains

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The teacher reads from the Book of Revelation. The teacher reads from the Book of Revelation.
Thousands gather each year for a lesson found nowhere else in the world. Thousands gather each year for a lesson found nowhere else in the world.
Marantha Baptist Church is home to one of Plains' biggest tourist attractions. Marantha Baptist Church is home to one of Plains' biggest tourist attractions.
PLAINS, Ga. -

The backcountry roads leading to this small church are well traveled.

From the outside, Marantha Baptist Church looks like any other: big open doors, a cross-bearing steeple and brick mortar. A few times a month, however, a crowd gathers outside the church hours before Sunday worship. They are screened one by one before taking their seats. The services here draw folks from all over the country -- even from around the world.

Longtime church member and pianist Jan Williams speaks before the lesson. With mixed humor and seriousness, Williams lays out the ground rules: no photography, no talking out of turn, and absolutely no horseplay.

She wraps up the preliminaries with a prayer.

The teacher takes this opportunity to slip in while everyone's eyes are closed. He begins by engaging the congregation, asking where they're from: New York, Virginia, Texas... to name a few. Visitors also hail from South Korea, the Netherlands, Iran, and Australia.

The teacher goes to the podium and opens his Bible. Today's lesson is from the Book of Revelation. His skilled hands -- accustomed to woodworking, much like the carpenter he's teaching about -- flip through the pages.

"What do we know about Jesus Christ at the time of the creation of the universe?" asks former President Jimmy Carter, peering up from his Bible.

Carter, now 88, was the only president to teach Sunday school while in office, a tradition he now carries on in his hometown of Plains, Georgia.

"Jesus is saying to the laodecian and to us, I want to come in and have an intimate, personal relationship with you," Carter says, pausing just long enough to smile at his audience. "Don't you think that's a beautiful message to give to them and to us?"

Dacades removed from the pressures of running a nation, Carter and his wife Rosalynn find themselves this morning in a church just minutes from the only house Jimmy has ever owned. The two sit quietly through the remainder of the service, as do several secret service agents.

Afterwards, the former first couple graciously poses for visitors' pictures before disappearing within a law enforcement motorcade. The crowd disperses, and all that's left is the sound of gnats in the soft summer breeze. Carter, today off to a family reunion followed by a trip to Colombia, will return in a few weeks to do it all again.

Phil Scoggins

After taking 16-year break from broadcasting, Phil rejoined WRBL as a news anchor where he has been ever since. More>>

James Brierton

James joined WRBL News 3 with experience from CNN, NBC News and his own hyper-local news site. He manages the WRBL News 3 Web desk. More>>

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