New system in place for visitors to Carter’s Sunday School class

Jimmy Carter will teach Sunday School again this weekend in Plains.

But only once this time. And you’ll likely have to take a number starting around midnight to get in.

Maranatha Baptist Church on Wednesday released an updated plan aimed at safely accomodating another expected crush of visitors for the former president's class this Sunday. So many people had shown up at the little church well before sunrise last Sunday that law enforcement had to close down part of Ga. Hwy 45 and redirect later arrivals to the former Plains High School nearby.

Not wanting to disappoint anyone, Carter, who had just begun radiation treatment for melanoma cancer in his brain, taught the regular 10 a.m. class to some 460 people in the church's sanctuary and overflow room; then he headed over to the school (now the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site) and taught a second class to another 240 people there. He and his wife, Rosalynn, also posed for individual photos with visitors at both locations, making for a long day for everyone involved.

Consequently, this Sunday, only 400 people will be allowed into the church to attend Carter's class, according to a statement posted on the Maranatha web site. At 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, visitors will be allowed to enter the church property located at 148 Ga. 45 North. Upon their arrival, they will be issued a number and must remain at Maranatha to ensure entrance into the 10 a.m. class. No camping will be permitted on the church property and visitors will have to remain with their vehicles at all times, except to use on-site restroom facilities that will be provided. Admission to the church building will begin at 7:30 a.m.

Visitors who arrive at Maranatha after it has reached full capacity will once again be redirected to the old high school about a half mile away. Unlike last Sunday, though, Carter will not teach another class there this week. Visitors there will only be able to listen to a live audio stream of the 10 a.m. class being conducted at the church. And they won’t be able to get a picture made with their famous teacher.

“The Carters will only pose for photos with those who are able to fit into the space at Maranatha Baptist church,” according to the statement, which said the new system was being implemented from “a practical and safety standpoint.”