Originally created 05/20/00

Sign language

When Sandra Hughes goes to work at If It's Paper on Washington Road, she always checks out the sign next door at Abilene Baptist Church.

Every week it is something different, she said. "As you drive down the road, you are still thinking about it."

Like hitchhikers with a thumb out, the signs are a church's way to get the attention of passers-by. Augusta-area churches use humorous or inspiring messages on the signs to inspire other-worldly reflections.

The sayings need to be short and simple so that someone can glance up at 50 mph, read them and not have a wreck, said the Rev. William Harrell, Abilene's pastor. "It is amazing to me - I have people all the time mention the sign."

Many of the church's sayings are paraphrased from Scripture. Others are original with the pastor, said the Rev. Paul Perkins, youth and singles minister. "He's in the wise-sayings department."

One of his modern proverbs, "Repent: You are on Washington Road" got a lot of laughs, said the Rev. Harrell, who also gets ideas from the Internet, friends or books containing punchy sayings.

He said he tries to come up with something uplifting because people need that today.

Liz and Julian Lively of Augusta have been creating the messages for the sign at Lake Park Baptist Church on Milledge Road for about 10 years. The church sign is on a high-visibility site near Julian Smith Casino and Lake Olmstead Stadium.

It takes about 30 minutes to change out the lettering, which they do about every seven to 10 days. "It is a ministry for some people who might never go to church," she said.

The Livelys pick up sayings from their travels, the pastor's remarks or devotional books and calendars. She records the ones they use and the dates they ran. Except for holiday messages, they never repeat.

Sayings need to be thought-provoking but not necessarily religious, such as "Don't let a fifth on the third ruin your Fourth," said Mrs. Lively. "It could be something that applies to anybody."

The Rev. Lura Andrews at Calvary Temple Assembly of God on Peach Orchard Road and daughter Christine Ferguson of North Augusta keep up the sign at Calvary with help from church member Jennifer McKay.

The sayings at Calvary, such as "Life: It's worth living. Ask the author of it," should be sincere and portray truth, said the Rev. Andrews. "You have to put your heart into it."

People who walk up and down the street may read it five or six times a week, said Mrs. Ferguson, who grew up next door to the church. "It plants a seed in someone's mind."

Charlie DeLoach, interim pastor at Mount Lebanon Baptist Church on Deans Bridge Road, said his church's year-old sign prompts people to think about their relationship to Jesus Christ and not about the denomination.

On one side, the sign reads "Character word: Jesus." "That one has been up about a month and a half" instead of the usual two to three weeks, said Mr. DeLoach.

Not everybody gets it the first time, he said. "We are people of repetition. We have to see it several times over before it sinks in."

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.


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