A special to The Advocate by Carlton Fletcher*
Back in 1954, the Senior Adult Sunday school class at Brookfield United Methodist Church didn’t have a permanent teacher, so class members passed the lesson book around each week to a different member.
When Perry McCranie got the book, though, he never gave it back. Now, some 56 years later, McCranie is still teaching the class.
The long-time teacher and World War II veteran was honored by the church for his years of service recently. He received a plaque and was the guest of honor at a surprise barbecue dinner planned by the church’s pastor, the Rev. Gary Lee Griffin, and McCranie’s children: sons Bill and Buck McCranie and daughter Sara Kathryn Meinders, who came home from northern Virginia to be a part of the event.
“I was very humbled; I appreciate so much what the church did for me,” Perry McCranie, 85, said. “They surprised me, kind of slipped that one in on me without me knowing about it.
“But my service to the church is not about me. It’s about serving the Lord.”
And few have remained as faithful as McCranie, who taught agriculture to veterans after the war.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s storming, raining or there are icicles hanging off the church; Mr. McCranie’s going to be there to teach Sunday school,” Rev. Griffin, who was appointed as Brookfield United Methodist’s pastor on June 21 a year ago, said. “When you talk about him, you’re talking about extreme dedication.
“Mr. McCranie is such a good Sunday school teacher. He prepares for his lessons the entire week. Folks learn in his class.”
McCranie knows about being prepared. He spent three years as a Navy signalman during the Second World War, a period that saw him serve in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. He was en route to Japan with an American invasionary force when word came that the war had ended.
“You know the Lord protected me during that time because even with all the places I went, there was only one time that I was involved in shots being fired,” McCranie said. “We had to drop depth charges on a submarine, and that was the only time I was involved in the fighting.
“We were in Gulfport, Miss., loading for the invasion of Japan, and I sailed off in a landing craft. We were one day this side of Panama when they wired us and told us the war was over. We sailed on to Hawaii before turning around.”
While McCranie has no doubt impacted the lives of many in his Sunday school class over his half-century-plus of teaching, he’s definitely had an impact closer to home.
“My father would impact anyone he came in contact with,” said Bill McCranie, who works at the Georgia Department of Agriculture seed lab in Tifton. “My brother, sister and I grew up in the church, and our father’s service had an influence on all of us.
“When (Griffin) brought up the idea of honoring our father, I thought it was a great idea. Teaching that class has become his livelihood; it’s what keeps him going.”
Perry McCranie said he’s having a little trouble seeing and hearing now, but he’s not planning on giving up his teaching position anytime soon.
“I plan to keep on teaching as long as they let me,” he said. “I don’t think they’re going to kick me out.”
Not if Griffin has anything to say about it.
“Mr. McCranie is just a wonderful human being,” the pastor said. “He really loves the Lord, he really loves his country and he really loves Brookfield United Methodist Church.”
--Carlton Fletcher is the Albany Herald’s metro editor. Reprinted with permission.
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