When I was a little kid, I spent a lot of time with both sets of grandparents. And spending a lot of time with them, also meant that I went to church with them every once in a while. While I don’t remember every single time that I went with them, I do remember that they were some of the best times.
Both sets were born and raised in small towns, and so they still went to small town churches when I was small. I know many people have seen them, and have probably been in them. And every small town in the South has at least two, sometimes more. They’re these small buildings, maybe 10 pews on each side, and a small piece of building off of the Sanctuary, where the kitchen and bathrooms are…if there are bathrooms, but we’ll come to that in a minute. Most of the time they have parking lots that are either dirt or gravel…and a nightmare for the ladies in fancy dresses if it’s rained.
My maternal grandfather was a Methodist preacher. It was always interesting to watch him give a sermon. I wasn’t always the most still child but there were times when I would be still while listening to him. Well maybe mostly watching…I’m not sure if I did much listening. My grandmother would always give me a pen and an extra bulletin to draw on, just to keep me occupied.
My other grandparents were Primitive Baptists. If you don’t know much about the denomination, you’ll have to Google it because I don’t know much about them either. What I do know, but not why exactly, is that they don’t play music or sing during the service. But my grandparents’ church members would sing Amazing grace for me because I love it so much. And the foot washing. I was only there once for this and don’t really remember much about it…I mean it does sound simple. The men and women would separate and wash each other’s feet.
My favorite part of any church service was what came after the sermon. Dinner on the Green. In the church yard of many, if not all, small town churches, you might have seen those huge cement tables. This is where it happens. The ladies bring out their dishes, sometimes two or three per lady, and lay them all out: Meat all together at one end; vegetables and casseroles were next; then the beautiful deserts. Cakes and pies like you would not believe!
Ok it wasn’t just the food that I liked so much about it. It was a time when people came together to share a meal, talk and laugh, and generally fellowship together. There may have been a little gossip…I mean this IS the South, but mostly, it was people talking about their lives, their children and grandchildren and the wonderful things they’d done. And even as a small child, I knew that this was important.
While those beautiful little churches still stand, many of the congregants have moved on to bigger churches in bigger towns. It’s an unfortunate thing, but it’s the way of things: people change as time goes on.