By Judy Brandon: Local Columnist
I have vivid childhood memories of the little country church in Arkansas that my parents knew well. When we attended there as a family, it was as if we stepped into a past era, and this little country church was not changed by the world and its changes.
We were always there during the hot and humid summertime. Because the church had no air conditioning, the windows were left open in the church sanctuary. Once a wasp flew into the church right during the worship service! I was much more concerned about the wasp stinging me than anything that was going on in the service. Yet, it seemed to disturb no one but me.
The service always included a time to pray for those sick in the community. Anyone who knew of some problem would stand and tell the entire congregation. Someone would inform us all that “Aunt Esther was having a spell with her dizziness.” Another might comment that “Mr. Earl was down with his back.” Then one more might relate that the “storm blew over the Carter’s vegetable shed.” This would be followed by a plea to the men to lend a hand on Saturday to help get it up again.
When all the needs were mentioned and all the sick noted, the congregation would go into a “season of prayer” for those people and all the “unspoken” needs that people did not want to mention.
There was no church bulletin or order of worship. Anybody who wanted could sing the special music. Sometimes adults would sing, but on other occasions a whole band of brothers and sisters from the same family might sing some hymn. There was no rehearsing, no criteria to sing in church. If a person felt like he or she wanted to sing, they could sing.
The babies were brought right into the worship service. There were no microphones because the preacher could talk loud enough for everyone to hear. There were no visitor’s cards and if someone happened to be visiting, someone would stand and introduce that person.
No one thought of fashion either. People just wore their Sunday best — whatever that Sunday best was.
I think about the old songs I heard like “I’ll Meet You in the Morning,” and “ There’s Land that is Fairer than Day. I regret that my children will not have the experience of singing those songs in church.
It was a simple time with humble people but it so impressed me that I still remember it vividly as a grown woman today. I think about the singing I heard at that little church and I know what true praise unto the Lord is. I remember the feeling of community togetherness and I know what really standing by your bother means. I recall flying wasps and in spite of that, remember moving services where my heart was impressed and my soul inspired.
The gospel is simple. Maybe the church today has made things complicated and arduous. I pray that the focus on programs, committees, church buildings, rules and regulations have not overshadowed the real intent of the church — to meet people unpretentiously at their point of need.
Most important, I hope we don’t water down the gospel message just to be “user friendly.” I think a little conviction, soul searching and self-examination is needed not only in the world but in our churches today.