July 2018 marked Mary Payne’s 65th year of perfect attendance in Sunday School. She’s been a member of Berryhill Baptist Church in Charlotte since 1963.
Despite recent health-related difficulties, Payne continues to teach Sunday School, training other teachers and shepherding her class of older adults.
Her advice to younger Sunday School teachers? “Training, training, training! If you aren’t being trained, you aren’t prepared.”
The daughter of a pastor, she remembers churches with sawdust floors and pews of wood and cement blocks. When her father preached, he counted on seeing his wife, six sons and daughter sitting nicely on the pew, Payne recalls. She often accompanied her father to prisons and alleyways ministering to those who needed to hear the gospel.
Drawing on those early days, Payne has spent 55 years ministering in all areas of Baptist life, leading Mission Friends, Girls in Action (GAs), choir and 40 years as a Woman’s Missionary Union director. But Sunday School has always been her favorite time.
“I see people coming in just for service and I think, ‘They miss out on so much,’” she said.