'Frog Jump Fish Fry' on April 18 is about bringing together 'United Methodist Men' of the Memphis Conference for Christian fellowship and ministry
By Frank Holbook, President
Memphis Conference United Methodist Men
“Not many men will come out on a weeknight, but you mention eating fish and country ham and that makes a difference.” Caren Jordan, member of Archer’s Chapel United Methodist Church, Frog Jump, TN
For over 15 years, the United Methodist Men (UMM) of Archer’s Chapel United Methodist Church (Frog Jump, TN, in Crockett County; Mississippi River District) have been hosting an annual event known as the "Frog Jump Fish Fry." It is open to all men of the Memphis Conference of The United Methodist Church and has become widely known throughout the United Methodist Men’s ministry in the Memphis Conference and country. The story of the fish fry shows how men can come together and create an event that impacts the local church, the community and thn men who participate.
The Frog Jump Fish Fry was started at a time when Rev. Don Barnett was the pastor of Archer’s Chapel United Methodist Church. Wallace Stanley was instrumental in persuading the men of the church to take on the task of hosting a fish fry. The men responded to the call and came together to create the inaugural event.
At the first event, the men of the church set up black iron cookers behind the church and cooked fish and country ham for the attendees. Cars lined the road around the church. The sanctuary, which seats approximately 300, overflowed with men. Attendees were seated in the sanctuary’s pews, the choir loft, the aisles and the vestibule. The men who attended were treated to an evening of food, fellowship, music and preaching. Through the years, the Frog Jump Fish Fry has grown and continues to be a cultural phenomenon for United Methodists in West Tennessee and Western Kentucky.
Originally the money raised by the Frog Jump Fish Fry was used by the men to purchase Christmas gifts for persons in the local community who might need assistance. That mission continues to this day, but additional local projects also have benefited.
Not only has the community and church been blessed by Frog Jump Fish Fry, but the men who participate have grown in fellowship. The Frog Jump Fish Fry has become a project that revitalized the men’s ministry at Archer’s Chapel UMC. The project started getting men to meet on a regular basis.
The cookers no longer are set up behind the church; the operation has moved nearby to Joel Fincher’s shop. Considering the amount of food being cooked, it is no wonder. At last year’s event, the men cooked 300 lbs. of fish, 10 country hams, 60 lbs. of slaw and 150 lbs. of potatoes. The women of the church contribute mightily and provided homemade desserts. In fact, each woman of the church is asked to bring three gallons of tea, three homemade desserts and one pot of white beans.
The cars that once lined the road have been mostly replaced by buses from churches throughout the Memphis Conference that bring men to the event. The line still forms early as people arrive early to find their food, their seat and the friends they’ve made at past events.
The 2017 Frog Jump Fish Fry will take place on Tuesday, April 18, with food service starting at 4:30 p.m. The address of Archer's Chapel UMC is 356 Archer's Chapel Rd., Frog Jump, TN. The featured speaker will be Bishop Jonathan Holston from the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church. Bishop Bill McAlilly of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences (Nashville Episcopal Area) also will attend and share in the word and fellowship. Tickets are $15 per person. CLICK HERE for complete details.
CLICK HERE to read an article about the start of Archer’s Chapel UMC written by Emma Ebbie Archer. Emma’s mother, who had been a member of the Methodist church of the Maury's Chapel community in West Tennessee before moving to Frog Jump, suggested a religious revival while attending the Gilliland Fish Fry, a kind of annual reunion of the John and Sarah Gilliland family.
“The gala affair brought together the whole community with relatives and friends of the Gillilands from far and near to cook and eat fish on the "Old River." In the summer of 1910, after the fish fry was over and the crowd was breaking up, Emma Archer said," Why can't all these people come together and have a revival meeting? Instead of filling our stomachs, we could fill our souls with spiritual food. It would do all of us more good."
The UMM of Archer’s Chapel UMC have provided a “both/and” solution. Their annual fish fry fills stomachs and fills souls with spiritual food. If you or your men’s group has never attended, you should consider coming.