by Grace Hartsell, 2023 Establish Network Intern
Growing up, Peggy Bell didn’t have much. She and her grandmother scraped by, but Peggy has nothing but good memories from her childhood. Her grandmother was a godly woman who set an example by sitting at the table every day, reading and studying God’s Word. Peggy recalls being at her church in Spartanburg every time the doors were open, even though they had no car. Peggy looks back on the day she dedicated her life to Christ with fond remembrance. Her grandmother taught her sign language so that they could sign messages to each other during church. For several weeks before her decision, people had consistently responded to the pastor’s invitations in his sermons. On one particular Sunday, no one went to the altar. Peggy felt like she was supposed to respond that Sunday. As the congregation sang “Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” Peggy remembers signing to her grandmother, “I’m going.” There, at twelve years old, she publicly professed her faith in Jesus before the church.
One of Peggy’s favorite memories about the church and school she attended growing up is that she was treated like everybody else. Just because she lived with her grandmother instead of her parents, her peers at school and church members loved her just the same. Every week, the pastor of her church and a deacon visited Peggy and her grandmother in their home. Together, they would just sit and talk. After Sunday services, the people in the church lined up to shake the pastor’s hand. Peggy remembers that each time she shook his hand, he pulled her aside and hugged her with one arm while continuing to shake hands. She doesn’t know why he did this, but it impacted her life nonetheless. No one ever made her feel different because of her family situation, and she will always be grateful for that. After working for the state for 13 years, Peggy and her husband, Preston, moved to Taylors in 1977. Two years later, Peggy took a job at Taylors First Baptist because it was close to her house, where she, her husband, and her two children cared for her great-aunt. She worked for Phil Hargrove in Administration Education. Peggy remarks she and Phil did just about everything from missions to Sunday School to overseeing the facilities.
Peggy was drawn to Taylors FBC because of the welcoming environment. She recalls thinking as Phil Hargrove gave the welcome one Sunday, “I could come here. I felt at home. I felt welcomed.” She worked at Taylors FBC for 22 years full-time and an additional 4 years part-time. On one occasion, Peggy helped organize the church facilities for an event with 3,000 women in attendance. After retiring, Peggy continues to stay involved in the church. She has served through Guest Services and the Funeral Committee, where she serves as the chairperson of the Cemetery Committee. She is also involved with the Mission House ministry. Peggy enjoys participating in a “hands-on” type of ministry. She loves serving others and showing them the love of Christ through her actions.
When asked who has shaped her faith the most, Peggy points to Ruth and Russell Ashmore, her neighbors. She remembers them as good, honest Christians. “They lived what they said they were,” she states. Other influential couples in Peggy’s life are Ann and Joe Henson and Larry and Nell Copeland. When people don’t hide anything and are upfront about who they are, Peggy says that what they say and do “sticks in your head.” In the years she’s been a member, Peggy has seen Taylors FBC go through seasons of significant loss and great growth. One of her favorite things about the church is the multigenerational aspects of the congregation. When she sees parents with children or young people in the church, she says, “It thrills me to death to see. I love to be a part of it.”
Peggy encourages members at Taylors FBC and young people in the church to go with the flow as the church grows and changes. “Don’t let yourself get bogged down if things happen that you don’t really agree with. Speak up if you need to, but go on, and don’t give up on your church.”
Image: Peggy is pictured with Bo Davies, Ann Henson, Elaine, and Sam Brown and dressed up for Taylors FBC’s 150 Anniversary.