Here I Am Again, Lord
Landon Colley: An Old Time Primitive Baptist Universalist Minister

Adda Leah Davis

A Review
By Frank A. Mills

May 15, 2024
Here I Am Again, Lord Cover

Here I Am Again, Lord: Landon Colley, An Old Time Primitive Baptist Universalist Preacher, Adda Leah Davis, (1997, Mountain State Press). ISBN: 978-0-94-1092-57-9. 115 pages, including listing of Associations, churches and member (as of 1997) and index.

Here I Am Again, Lord is personal. The author, Adda Leah Davis is not only Landon Colley’s biographer, she is his friend. Not only that, she is a Primitive Baptist Universalist and her recently deceased husband was a PBU Elder (preacher). As I said, this story is personal. As such, Elder Colley’s and Adda words add a depth and richness to our understanding of the Primitive Baptist Universalist that would be impossible to get as an outsider looking in.

The Primitive Baptist Universalists are small in number, both in members and congregations. They’re scattered here and there through rural central Appalachia, with two out-migrations in Ohio and one in Pennsylvania. They are an aging group, and sadly their membership is not growing.

Howard Dorgan’s In The Hands Of A Happy God, provides us with a good overview of the Primitive Baptist Universalists. Here I Am Again, Lord grounds the overview in first-person narrative. This book speaks, as Gregory D. Horn writes in the forward, to the “forces that eclipse and overshadow the more pedestrian concerns of life” and “seeks to undermind” one’s call to ministry.

Although the book is a biography of Elder Landon Colley, it is a collection of stories – vignettes – of central Appalachian hardships and joys, culture and politics, and of a deep commitment to the faith. It is a story told with humor and insight. Here I Am Again, Lord is the story of an old-time Primitive Baptist preacher, Landon Colley. A central Appalachian story that begins in the 20s on the eve of the Depression, takes us into the trenches of World War II and back to central Appalachia until today. It is the story of an irresistible call to ministry that cannot be refused, a call that marks one’s life as “called out.”

Before I mention a bit of content found within the book, I want to emphasis that Here I Am Again, Lord is a book for all of us Christian Universalists who feel “called out” to ministry, even if we are not Primitive Baptist Universalists. But not only for the “called out,” Landon Colley story will speak to all of us who seek to be faithful followers of the way of Jesus.

Wanting to understand the Primitive Baptist Universalist church and her people, I found Chapters 10 – 13 to be very helpful. “PBU Customs and Rules” (10) expands the structure of the PBU, while “Troubles, Woes and Beliefs” (11) speaks to some of the issues that have cause divisions within the PBU. Doctrinally what has remained consistent is a doctrine that has the atonement front and forward, places hell here on earth, and assures with certitude that all are predestined to be saved. The “Elect” in the PBU version of Calvinism are those who have been “called out” to be Elders. While the PBU Elders are the Elect, there is also the recognition that others in other Christian denominations are also “called out” as the elect. “Help and Respect for the Old Baptist” (12) is sort of a segue about how the relationship should be among all of the Old Baptist sub-denominations. Interesting in that many of the other Old Baptist consider the PBU to be bordering on heresy.

“Prayers and Hope for the Church” (13) reads as both a benediction and challenge. A challenge not only to the PBU, but also to us who are part of the Larger Church Universal.

Davis chose the name of the book from a poem, “Here I Am Again, Lord,” that Vivian Boyd wrote and sent to the author with the note saying that “Landon always seemed like such a man of prayer.” At the end of the last chapter of the book (“Here I Am Again, Lord,” Davis adds several more lines which she feels are the prayers that Landon Colley would add. The prayer ends with,

The boon I beg of you Lord—please hear me for
Here I am again.

A Footnote: The PBU is changing. It’s aging and for the most part not reaching out. There are splinters, some, while not losing the PBU distinctives have become more progressive. There are a number of what best can be described as “wannabe PBU-ers.” Baptist-leaning congregations that have copied the PBU idea, but are not part of any Association.

Adda Leah Davis is a West Virgina native who now lives in Russell County, VA. She is a retired elementary school teacher, a writer for two newspapers and the Director of Economic Development for McDowell County, WV for six years. Now retired she writes. She has written and published nineteen books, including The Faith of Hannah, a book for children.

Here I Am Again, Lord is available for purchase directly from Adda Leah Davis: 204 Valley Road Rosedale, VA 24280

A personal note: While wring this review Addy and I became acquainted. Here own story is a story of Grace and Love, but the divine and human kind. Maybe someday she will tell that story or allow me to share it. I discovered in our conversations that Addy has written some children’s book, one of which is the, Faith of Hannah, a charming tale of a child praying for her uncle’s new heart.” I have been told that the story has frequently become a sermon. The Faith of Hannah is also available directly from the author. 05.15.24 Sheffield Lake, OH

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