August event featuring Andy Griffith and pals
Wednesday, July 16, 2014 1:00 PM
After an on-again, off-again retirement that has barely lasted a calendar year, Mayberry Ministries returns for a special event at Ridgecrest Baptist church benefitting the Faith Indeed Foundation.
Mayberry Ministries was started at Woodfield Heights Baptist Church in south Jackson. Rick Clarke, who plays Andy Taylor in the show, said the group was started 16 years ago and was based on the cast of the popular Andy Griffith show sitcom.
The group's first shows were put on to raise money for youth projects at the church but word of mouth spread and the group started to perform around the Metro Area and throughout the state. Tim McWilliams, who has played Deputy Barney Fife for the entire existence of the group, said that the group grew quick.
"It started out we were raising money for missions for our church, then other churches started calling us," McWilliams said.
The group gained popularity, breathing new life into popular and well-known bits from the Andy Griffith show with lots of improv and local color.
Scott Jones, who has played Otis the town drunk for over 200 shows, said that they would regularly make cracks about members of the church they were playing in or have well-known local figures participate in the show itself.
"We had this one bit with Gomer where he would come out ready for a date in this gaudy orange checkered suit and say something like, 'I borrowed this from brother so and so,' the pastor usually. 'He said I have to have it back by Sunday,' and that gets a big laugh," Jones said.
Clarke describes the show like Andy Griffith on the Carol Burnett Show. He explained that though they improv and riff on locals they stay in character for the most part.
"The stories are taken from the show. You can recognize the characters and you can recognize the scenes we are performing," Clarke explained.
The group officially retired in July of 2013 after 16 years and over 200 performances. Clarke has continued the show in various forms, largely a leaner version with Jones and McWilliams called Mayberry Lite. Clarke says that they have given it a good run joking that his hair is gray and he is playing Matlock now.
He said the group plans to remain together in some form or another and that they love coming out of retirement to do shows like this especially if it is for a good cause. They have not lost sight of why they started and continue to keep their eye on missions. Jones estimates they have raised close to half-a-million dollars for church missions across the state.
McWilliams said that the real thrill comes in raising money that goes to help people locally and across the world.
"What has meant most to me is that we have been able to spread God's word to other countries. The money we have raised has built churches in South America, put stoves in villages in Africa and sent missionaries to the Ukraine, places we could never go ourselves," McWilliams said.
He said the camaraderie has been a powerful experience as well.
"It is such an honor to me to work with like minded people in Christ."
Jones echoed McWilliams sentiment.
"We got to participate in a ministry that could do so much more than we could do by ourselves," Jones said.
He described it as a great opportunity.
Ron Logan founded Faith Indeed in 2002 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when he saw a news story about how support for smaller nonprofits tapers off in the midst of massive crises, in favor of bigger non-profits. He wanted to start something that was always supporting the smaller guys that he thought was important.
Faith Indeed primarily raises money through events like the one at Ridgecrest Baptist on August 1. The money they raise goes to a number of projects they are currently working on. One is a scholarship to a Baptist seminary in New Orleans that the foundation funds completely. The foundations money also goes to a matching program, where the foundation offers grants for $1,000 as a match for raising a minimum of $1,000 for pre-approved Christian missions and ministries. The foundation also supports Christ-based missions and ministries selected by the Board of Trustees and its volunteer workers through financial grants.
Logan said Faith Indeed has done shows like this for about the past seven years and they keep growing in scope and prestige.
"We have done 10 shows like this one," he said. "It keeps getting bigger. The first one we had about 150 people, this one will be about 300."
The Aug. 1 show will feature returning cast members and some fresh faces, including a brand new Opie Taylor who will be featured in a bit form the show about a charity Opie tries to raise money for.
The show will also feature a gospel duo, Jeremy and Phil Dixon, one of whom was finalist for auditions with the Gaithers Vocal Band recently. In addition, there will be a bluegrass performance by members of the church. Marshall Warwick plays guitar and is the principal songwriter for the group. His wife Denise plays the upright bass. John Trawick and Sharon Fiveash will accompany the two on banjo and mandolin respectively. The group will play under the name "the Darlings," hillbilly characters from the Andy Griffith Show.
The upcoming event will be held at Ridgecrest Baptist Church. There are two types of tickets available. General admission tickets for the show at 6 p.m. are $10, but for $15 you can get picnic supper with the show. The picnic supper will begin serving at 5 p.m. Picnic dinners include fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, roll, cobbler and tea.
Tickets can be bought at Ridgecrest Baptist Church through Life Groups. For more information you can call the church office at 601-853-1090 or the Faith Indeed Foundation at 601-853-0393. Childcare is provided by reservation. Proceeds go to the Faith Indeed Foundation.