ELBERTON, Ga. - The turmoil and strife that put 103-year-old Genora Hamm Biggs in the spotlight with her small Elbert County church have finally come to an end.
"I'm thankful to God and happy to be home...happy as I've ever been," Biggs told FOX 5's Portia Bruner Thursday.
Two months after her pastor and fellow church members sent a letter revoking her membership over a dispute about the pastor's preaching style, Biggs returned to Union Grove Baptist Church in Elberton Thursday morning--with loved ones, an attorney and a key to the little white church on Pulliam Road. But this time, Biggs walked in without any fear of consequence or conflict.
"It's a good feeling knowing I'm back where I once was. Not worrying about what somebody is saying thinking or worrying I'm gonna say the wrong thing and get accused of doing wrong," Biggs said.
When Bigggs violated the church ban in recent weeks, she said there was always opposition from Rev. Tim Mattox and those who liked what Biggs describes as his loud and animated Holiness style of worship. She admits she's been vocal about having him removed since he was hired to lead the small congregation a few years ago.
"I believe in the Baptist style. I'm always going to remain that way," said Biggs, who joined the church when she was just 11.
Biggs said when she initially returned to Sunday service in August, some members stopped the service, turned out the lights and left her inside. She said they called the police other times, but no one was ever arrested. In fact, the police chief stopped by Thursday to wish her well.
Wednesday in Athens, Rev. Mattox said the fallout of banning a woman his supporters describe as combative and disruptive has been a painful and trying ordeal.
"We've received death threats, people calling the house saying 'look out the window, we're coming to get you,'" Mattox told reporters from his hometown of Athens Wednesday.
Several church members stood at his side when he announced he was starting his own Baptist church in Elberton.
"We've made this decision to move on because we wanted to make sure the integrity Christ's name was not degraded by all of this," Mattox said with about supporters surrounding him.
With that, Rev. Mattox returned the keys to the Biggs family attorney--allowing the feisty and spirited senior citizen to go back to the church she joined when she was just 11 years old.
"We're here, back home and now we're here to stay. Thank the Lord," Biggs said from the sanctuary with loved ones surrounding her.
Interim Pastor Kerry Hamm says the next service will be held on Oct. 11. He says it will be a homecoming service for Ms. Biggs--a distant relative--and for all of the other Union Grove Baptist Church members who left because of Rev. Mattox's preaching style.