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Deep South Preaching

Margaret's Grocery Store

by Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder

"People are like a bouquet of flowers ... like a bouquet you'd give to your wife, all different colors." -Reverend H.D. Dennis

Deep south preaching ... by an aging black man with clear blue eyes which look into your very soul. That's what greets visitors when they wander into Margaret's Grocery Store.

Located on Business Route Highway 61, about five miles from the center of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Margaret's Grocery Store is one unique place ... but once, it was just a humble country store, owned by the widow Margaret Rogers. A number of years ago Margaret received a promise - along with a marriage proposal from the Reverend H.D. Dennis. Dennis promised that if Margaret Rogers married him, he would transform her store into something that people would not easily forget.

Born in 1916 in Rolling Forks, Mississippi, the Reverend H.D. Dennis was the only surviving child of the nine born to his mother. Dennis' mother lost her life giving birth to him and it took an entire week before he was found alone with her lifeless body. In 1928, when Dennis was twelve, his grandmother died leaving no relatives - except for Dennis' non-caring, abusive father.

Dennis ran away and went to work for a cotton planter. His father never came looking for him. Even so, young Dennis felt that God had spared his life for some purpose - first at birth, later through a tornado, then from his abusive father and finally from the effects of World War II.

Reverend H.D. Dennis began preaching at a very young age. As a G.I. during Word War II, the young man fought in the South Pacific and was injured in a battle with the Japanese. He preached encouraging words to his fellow soldiers everyday.

After his army life, he traveled and worked with various churches, but at age 63, he returned to Mississippi and fell in love with the widow Margaret Rogers.

The Reverend had been married four times before he approached Margaret and evidently he was a very persuasive suitor. They were soon married and Dennis proceeded to fulfil his earlier promise - to transform Margaret's country store into a place like no other.

Using large cinder blocks which he painted red and white, the store was slowly transformed into a large structure that now looks like the front entrance into a magnificent Church. Today it is a place of friendly worship - everywhere you look you find religious messages with an uplifting tone. Along the conventional shelves containing regular store goods, you will also find candelabras, elaborately decorated and while the flock is shopping, the Reverend delivers one or two sermons. An old school bus was donated to the Reverend by the city fathers of Vicksburg, Mississippi and Dennis wasted no time to convert this bus into a shrine to God. Completely decorated in silver paint, aluminum foil and duct tape, it shines and is a reflection of heaven in the eyes of Reverend H.D. Dennis. At the front of the bus on a small lectern, the King James Bible is always open ... and ready.

In September of 2012 we lost a great preacher, he lived and enriched our lives for many years Dennis was 96. If you ever are in Mississippi near the town of Vicksburg, you are invited to Margaret's Grocery Store - regardless of color, nationality or religion. Rest in peace H.D. we miss you.

Text © Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder; Photos Reprinted with Permission

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