JULIETTE, Ga. — Churches thrive with love, care and folks filling the pews every Sunday morning.
However, there is a Juliette sanctuary that sits empty most of the year and is still thriving after almost 200 years.
Once a year on the first Sunday in May the congregation gathers at Salem Methodist Church.
They did it on that time table 197 years ago when the church formed.
Larry Finney's family has deep roots at the church and, in those 364 other days, he keeps a watchful eye on the place.
“I promised my mother when she died that I would take over and do anything and everything. So this is my church!” he said.
He's not the only one whose roots run as deep as the green well worn timbers on the floor.
“My grandmother was here and she had ten children," churchgoer Lynn Davis Deaton said.
She carried some of her family's legacy with her in pictures but it's one of few records the church has left.
Two sanctuaries burned down but the stories have always simmered in the folks who love this sacred ground.
“The first church was divided in half. The ladies sat on one side and the men sat on the other and they stacked their muskets in the corner,” Finney said.
Many memories have been made in church.
“As a little girl we would come up and clean the pews. They would sweep out the snakes and the bees.” Lynn Davis Deaton said.
During the first world war, there wasn't annual services after many of the men in the area went to serve in the war.
Some of those veterans are buried in the historic cemetery. Their brothers from other wars don't sit far away.
“Confederate veterans are buried there. A revolutionary soldier, he was called a minuteman, he was buried out there," Finney said.
Members say they have watched people grow up and grow old as they come together each year.
You may ask how a group that worships only once a year can have such deep roots and such devotion to a humble building.
Just like you can count on a powerful sermon, the love and tradition is passed down through the generations.
Some say it’s the music and the acoustics in the small church but others say it’s more than that.
“They come because uncle Tim or aunt Sally came," Finney said.
At the end of the service, worshipers are left with a blessing from the pulpit until they meet again.
“Lord watch over this church and this congregation keep them safe and thank you for every one of them.”