Mississippi College

Humorist Dennis Swanberg Draws more than 1,000 to MC

August 30, 2007

Christian humorist Dennis Swanberg was the big draw today as 1,000 senior citizens from churches across the state flocked to the Mississippi College campus.

The annual Seniors Rally sponsored by the Mississippi Baptist Convention brought folks from churches in Tupelo, Pontotoc and Olive Branch on down to the Jackson area and the Gulf Coast.

As "The Swan" greeted visitors one by one upon their arrival at Nelson Hall, he also was dead serious about his love for MC. It's the Baptist college where his son, Dusty, is now a senior and another son, Chad, graduated in 2005 with a degree in accounting and now works with Swanberg Ministries based in West Monroe, La.

"Wherever I go, I take MC stuff. It's been so good to my boys," said Swanberg, a Baylor University graduate who grew up a huge fan of Mississippi country comedian Jerry Clower. "MC is a great place."

Swanberg brings his impressions of characters like TV's lovable Mayberry deputy Barney Fife to audiences nationwide at 175 events annually. He raves about the crowd of folks 55-years-old and on up packing MC's Swor Auditorium and spilling over to seats in the aisles and nearby hallways. "I love my seniors," he said. "The Swan" encouraged them to send their grandkids to Mississippi College.

At the rally, the overflow crowd at the 4,500-student Christian university included folks like Jeris White, 66, a member of Thaxton Baptist Church in Pontotoc County. "We love the fellowship of the people," said White, who's purchased some Swanberg tapes along the way. "The services are so awesome," she says of the church rallies for seniors she's attended in Gatlinburg, Tenn., Branson, Mo. and now MC.

But it's the senior adults who make the annual time for fellowship so amazing and add so much to churches in their communities every Sunday. "Senior adults are the backbone of churches," Swanberg said.

Others making the trip to MC as August was coming to a close included Ridgeland resident Raymond Ball, senior adult minister at Westview Baptist Church in Jackson. The church has 150 senior adult members. Ball is a 1959 MC graduate who was a music major during his undergraduate days on the Clinton campus.

His wife, Marcia Ball, church pianist Linda Beard, Evelyn Gosa, former president of the Son Lighters senior adult group, were among others from Westview Baptist enjoying their MC visit. So were the dozen on hand from Parkway Baptist in Tupelo. The list of churches sending delegations seemed endless. Visitors also heard selections from the Visionaries Choir of First Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, and were entertained by Terry-based juggler and musician Rick Bewley. Tom Crocker, a consultant with LifeWay in Memphis, discussed the "significance of success" for senior adults. A buffet-style luncheon with Swanberg closed out their day.

Said President Lee Royce as he welcomed the crowd: "We're excited about hosting this event. This is really quite extraordinary."

PHOTO: Jeris White from Thaxton Baptist Church poses with Swanberg before the performance.

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