Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Memorable Worship Service

One of the most memorable church services I ever attended was in a tiny wood frame church up in the mountains of North Georgia. I went with a girl I was courting. Her grandparents were members of the church, and we had gone to see them on Sunday and joined them for worship.

The church consisted of a single room with log benches. It could hold about 25 people in the seats with another 10-20 standing. The pulpit was a simple wooden lectern. There was no electricity or running water. There were no hymnals or musical instruments of any kind. The congegation knew the hymns by heart, and hymn singing was initiated by individual congregants who would commence to singing when the Holy Ghost moved them to do so. The church had no pastor. Men would rise up and go to the pulpit and preach as the Holy Ghost moved them to preach. All of them were masters of the chanting style of preaching. "And I want to tell you.. Hyuh!... the Lord is a coming.. Hyuh!... He's a coming to judge... Hyuh!.... to judge the quick and the dead....Hyuh!..."

At least ten men preached from a few minutes to a half hour or so. The congregation responded with a constant stream of Hallelujahs, Bless His Hearts, Amens, Praise Gods, Lord a Mercies. Some wept and wailed. Others cackled with joy. Everyone was in an altered state of consciousness as far as I could tell. This seemed to me to last forever, but my date, like the other congregants, didn't seem to have any awareness of the passage of time.

Frankly, the sermons made very little sense. They seemed to me to be the repetition of various formulas and Bible verses, mostly about how great it would be if you died right then and could get to heaven and out of this miserable life. And sinners and how they would get theirs if they didn't get right with God. At the time, I didn't really appreciate what a privilege it was to experience this kind of worship in such a setting. I wanted Sunday dinner and a shot at canoodling with the luscious Cindy Parks. These came in due time but were not nearly as memorable as the worship service.

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