When I was growing up in East Texas, church was the heart of our community. We all gathered every Sunday and Wednesday in either the Baptist or Methodist church because those were the two choices. I didn’t know any Catholics, Pentecostals, or Presbyterians, for they must have lived in town.
Our community was 15 miles from my school, and I guess about five miles from the little town where our telephone exchange was headquartered, and maybe about that far from another town with our post office. There had once been a store and post office at the crossroads near the churches and center of what back then was known as Woods Post Office Community. I guess we gradually shortened the name to Woods Community, since the store and mail drop had long been abandoned and taken over by encroaching vegetation.
I loved our church. Every time we met for Sunday school, we had to fill out little cards that were a record of our faithfulness, and I suppose, piety for the week. That little card was responsible for my habit of daily Bible reading, since I wanted to check all the boxes. I don’t remember anything in particular from the lessons, sermons, or study courses, but a love for God’s Word stuck and has been a joy, salvation, and solace all my life.
I look back on those days centered on the small church with great fondness. My family eventually found the larger church in town more suitable, but I will always remember the summer ice cream socials — homemade — and the volleyball games, where even the little kids occasionally got to play with the adults, the fall squirrel mulligan feasts, and the Christmas pageants where we took turns with the Methodist church every other year. But mostly I remember playing outside after service while our parents lingered with their friends, not yet ready to let go of that special fellowship that only kindred spirits provide.
Maybe more churches should be built on large, sandy lots with shade trees and benches, where kids can roam, catch fireflies, and overhear the comforting hum of adult conversation. It was a slower time – a time when most all mothers worked at home and raised their kids, and most all fathers provided for that little group. Nearly everyone had a garden, but if you didn’t, there were neighbors who shared their bounty. It was necessary to complain about it, of course, but one of my favorite things to do was sit under a shade tree with relatives and shell peas — or shuck corn or whatever vegetable needed preparation.
There are wonderful conversations that will never be experienced by this current generation because they will never sit around a washtub full of fresh-picked produce with mothers, grandmothers, and aunts. There are deep philosophical questions never to be broached by fathers, uncles, and sons, because they will never hang out with a cane pole at a local pond.
But today there are other ways to get together and pass on family lore. I pray we don’t get too busy to do that. I pray we don’t ever segregate kids from the
adults they need to emulate. I pray children learn how to work well and be proud to accomplish a thing, even if it’s as simple as shelling the last purple hull in their pan.
But I pray most fervently that children experience the godliness of their parents and neighbors. I pray they learn lessons of our faith not just from the Bible, but from everyday encounters in community. I pray they grow up in church.
Linda House is a member of New Life Worship Center.
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