Sunday, August 9, 2009

SOUTHERN SUNDAY


Today’s The Lord’s Day, and the fervent Spirit of The Faithful is rising like incense to heaven all over the South. Not that it’s faint or puny anywhere else---the South’s just what I’m used to, and my umpty-leven years of church attendance in the part of the country with Sunday School, Sunday Church, Training Union, Sunday Night Church, Prayer Meeting on Wednesday night, Choir Practice somewhere in between there, and assorted Ladies' Groups, Men’s Breakfasts, Girls’ Groups, Boys’ Groups, Kinderfolks and CradleRoll---well, they didn’t coin the phrase “Every Time the Doors are Open,” for nothing.

Ours was a small church, with a not-too-rapid succession of good, Godly men as pastor, a really good choir and musicians, and the usual assortment of members, young to old, and all in between. The music was wonderful---loud and melodic and from the good foot-pattin’ rhythms of “At the Cross” and “Leanin’ on the Everlasting Arms,” to the quiet calm of “Just as I Am” and “It Is Well.”

The podium was a plain brown boxy one, with a little slanty top, just like the one in the auditorium at our school. The table just in front was a long-ago varnished one, with curled letters of “This Do In Remembrance of Me,” carved into the front panel. The top was gently battered by the thousands of set-downs of the just-passed offering plates, and was demurely covered on Lord’s Supper Day by a snowy cloth ironed into stiff-starched primness, to befit the trays of the bread and tiny cups of grapejuice. A big hand-made wooden stand in the middle of the table held an immense Bible, always open to the day’s passage.

Baptist preachers don’t preach sermons. They Bring the Message. From fiery, fist-pounding lectures with the scent of brimstone in the air, to soft, pleading entreaties that elicit tears and more than one sobbing trip down the aisle to salvation---those are the messages laid on the hearts of those preachers to be given to their flock.

And the pews. There’s no piece of furniture on Earth quite like a church pew. They range from rough-hewn flat square benches, the better to keep the congregation awake and alert in their upright severity, to graceful curved sways of architecture which leave the arms and legs on each end a good several inches forward of the mid-point of the length. Looking down from behind the podium in some churches, on the curves of the pews neatly nested one behind the other down the room, is like looking past pale brown waves to a far horizon.

The finish is smooth and satiny, with the backs and the seats worn even smoother than planes and sandpaper could make them. Generations of sit-down-and-get-up, along with countless wiggling children, bored and fidgety teenagers, innumerable slide-downs to make room for late-comers, along with Sinner-Squirm and Spirit-Filled-exhilaration---those have all given the old pews a polish like the glow of a well-loved Camaro.

You’ll never find that Gleam of Glory on a plastic folding chair or a velvet flip-down stadium seat.



Photos by Marty Kittrell

1 comment:

Tonja said...

This almost brought a tear to my eye as I read it today. I have been out of church since the week before Mom died and things just don't seem right. (I've only been out because of my health). When you are raised that way...every time the doors are opened...church and the people there become such a part of your lives. And, life is just not right without it. There are people in my church who are as close as my actual family. Isn't that a wonderful thing about the 'family of God'? And, I remember looking at those words etched and cut into the wood of the altar table and wondering, "what does 'in remembrance...' mean". And I remember when I saw the very same words in the Bible and knew then just what it did mean. As well, I remember the first time I was able to take part in the Lord's Supper.
Beautiful thoughts today...thank you.