Ray Brent Marsh Preaches At Home Church
NOBLE, GEORGIA, CASCADE PRESS (CP) (c) 2016 Ray Brent Marsh, former operator of the Tri-State Crematory in Walker County, Georgia, returned home from state prison on a mission to fulfill his destiny. Marsh served twelve years in the Georgia penitentiary after the Environmental Protection Agency received several anonymous tips in the early 2000s that human remains were buried on the crematory property.
Marsh was charged with 787 counts after state officials determined that he had received 2000 bodies for cremation between 1996 and 2002. Of those bodies 339 were not cremated. He was released from prison on June 29, 2016.
Eleven days after his release, he preached the second Sunday sermon at New Home Baptist Church in Noble, Georgia. Marsh grew up in this church. It was founded by his great grandfather Monroe Marsh and his great great grandmother Callie Marsh over 100 years ago.
This sermon was his first public utterance about his ordeal and the lessons learned after serving every second of the time the law required him to serve. He remains on probation for the next 75 years. Marsh took advantage of his time in prison by enrolling into a seminary where he earned a bachelor, a masters and a PhD degree in religion.
Why Tri-State Crematory failed to cremate those remains is a mystery to the folks in this Northwest Georgia community. At his sentencing, Marsh did not shed any light on why. He simply said, “For those of you who came here looking for answers, I can not give you [an answer]”
During his sermon he alluded to the crematory case, but did not elaborate, telling worshippers, “While I was away, everybody knows where I was, what went on…” Then he moved on to say that one of the lessons he learned was patience. He told worshippers that he had earned an additional PhD in patience. He compared his incarceration with the 40 year span of time that Moses spent in the land of Midian and the 40 years Moses spent wandering in the wilderness. In Midian, he said, “Moses learned skills about organizing people that he used in the desert.
” At Wayne State, (the first stop on his prison tour) I joined a prayer group. Every night at 9:00 I was praying, reading my bible, for eight years,” he said.
Then he was moved to Macon. “They did not have a prayer group in Macon, but they had church six nights a week. So I went to church six nights a week,” Marsh said.
Following his sermon, Mrs. Josephine Foster, the matriarch of the church at 103 years of age, said, “Can Minister Marsh come down to the front of the church so all of us can give you a hug.”
Finally, Ray Brent Marsh has come back home. He has felt the love and embrace of his church family and one can only hope, the forgiveness of his Creator.
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.