Faith and Family: Woman found love, acceptance in church

Published 12:34 am Saturday, December 2, 2017

By Morgan Mizell


NATCHEZ — At one time in her life, Candace Anderson thought she was not the type of person welcome in church. Now she is that welcoming spirit reaching out to others to bring them to Christ.

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Getting back in a routine of going to church has been rewarding for the Natchez native.

“I have attended church on-and-off my whole life,” Anderson said. “My aunt, Samantha Pruitt got me involved at Calvary Baptist Church in Vidalia with my kids, and we went from there to Community Chapel.”

Anderson teaches youth classes on Wednesday nights at the church in Morgantown.

Anderson said it had been a long time — years in fact — since she had attended church prior to going to Calvary.

“I was a bit wild,” Anderson said. “I was more interested in what was going on outside of the church walls.”

Anderson said the most important change came when she had a child and knew she wanted a better life for her son.

“I knew I was lost,” Anderson said. “I had no real purpose in my life. I had a lot to work on and I still do.”

Community Chapel pastor the Rev. Bo Swilley says he feels Anderson’s absence from the church is something that happens a lot and that Christians need to do a little bit better about inviting folks to church and welcoming back those who have been away for a while.

“There are a lot of reasons people may leave the church for a while,” Swilley said. “Sometimes other church members can push people away or sometimes folks just get caught up in life and they forget to put God first. We need to remember that the Bible says to love God and love others and when folks come back to us, we just need to welcome them home and remind them they are loved here.”

Anderson said she first was hesitant about coming to church.

“I was so afraid I would be judged by someone because of my tattoos or my crazy past,” Anderson said. “They accept me just as I am, and they accept my crazy little family.”

After another life change — a husband and his two children — Anderson said the entire family began attending Calvary and then made the transition to Community Chapel.

Anderson now teaches class on Wednesday nights for 7-, 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds.  She has also found herself being the listening ear when anyone needs to talk.

Swilley said Anderson’s love of the children and her firm but loving nature as two of the attributes that make her so good with the youth.

“She really loves the kids and you can see it whenever she is in the classroom with them,” Swilley said. “She was a little timid at first, but she is doing a great job.”

Anderson said she cannot pinpoint a “favorite part” about her church life now.

“I just love my church,” Anderson said. “It takes it all to make it my favorite place to be. I especially enjoy our fellowship.”

Swilley said he thinks Anderson is right where she is supposed to be.

“Candace has always been a great example of Christ’s love,” he said. “I remember her from teaching her in school and she was always a compassionate person who fought for the underdog and that is what we are supposed to do.”

While she feels she may fall short, she knows her faith will get her through the bad days and allow her to focus on God and sharing His word.

Anderson said she hopes those who are unsure about church will just take the chance and attend.

“Just do it,” Anderson said. “We all have different ages and races, and if it is just you coming, come find me, I will sit by you.”

Anderson said she is glad Swilley saw past her appearances and gave her a chance to actively participate in the church.

“I thought my mouth and my temper, as well as my past would always hold me back,” Anderson said. “My pastor saw past it all. I am more in love with God than I have ever been.”