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Cherokee Association churches witness with Christmas paradecomment (0)

January 5, 2006

By Scott Barkley

It was December 2004 when Grady Rhinehart of Rock Run was talking with some friends about the Christmas parades held in the nearby towns of Piedmont and Centre. 
“Someone mentioned about Rock Run having a Christmas parade and I said, ‘Why not?’,” Rhinehart recalled. 
Three weeks later, the parade became a reality as several churches in Cherokee Baptist Association joined together. The 2004 Christmas parade was the first in memory for this small, rural community.
One year later, the result of that conversation has doubled in size and spawned witnessing opportunities for several rural churches in northeast Alabama.
Rhinehart, a member of Rock Run Baptist Church, is among those who organized and spearheaded the 2005 Christmas parade, held Dec. 17. 
“Things went even better this year,” he said. “We had a great turnout with about 70 entrants and 175 people involved. The Lord blessed us with good weather and everything.”
If it could be driven, then it was welcome in the parade as long as lights were on it. Church vans, four-wheelers and trucks rolled down County Road 29, beginning at Rock Run Baptist. Rhinehart drove a John Deere tractor, pulling a flatbed trailer covered in 9-year-olds. 
“Any kid in the community could be on it,” he said. “We had some 90 year olds driving tractors in this.”
Rock Run Baptist Pastor Bobby Kirk said the close-knit community has become even closer because of the event. “It’s a community project and wonderful way to advertise the churches,” he said. “With the $5 entry fee for each float last year, we were able to purchase a defibrillator for our local churches to use.”
Kirk estimated that about 70 families live in Rock Run. 
Cherokee Association Director of Missions Wendell Dutton believes all of them were either in the parade or standing along the two-mile parade route that evening.
“I drove the associational van, and we tossed 130 packets of candy with tracts in them,” he said. “If I’d prepared 200, I could’ve used them all.”
 Dutton credits Kirk with using the parade as an opportunity for Intentional Evangelism. 
“The association has six churches in the area ... and they all participated in one way or another,” he said. “It gave us the opportunity to come out and meet people who might not normally go to church and put a tract in their hands.”
The effort also reaches across denominational lines. Union Grove United Methodist in Piedmont serves as the end point of the route and jointly sponsors the post-parade chili supper held at Rock Run Baptist.
“We wanted the Lord to be in this,” Rhinehart said.

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