By Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams
If you grew up in the south as I did, you likely attended worship services in an old country church. The one I frequented was Taylor Methodist Church, now called Taylor United Methodist.
This was the church my mother’s family attended when she was a child. It is rich with history, and is still an active, though small, congregation. My cousin, Florence, is a member, making this the place of continual worship within my family for over a hundred years.
I have fond memories of visiting this precious place for worship services and revivals. My family and I were members of the big Methodist church downtown.
When my sister and my cousin, mentioned above, were teens, a young preacher by the name of Johnny Couey came to preach one night. I remember, even as a child, thinking how handsome he was. My sister and my cousin just about flipped over him. I’ve just learned from Florence that Johnny is still alive and still preaching. How wonderful.
Jesus in the Garden Fans
In the summer, we sat fanning with our Jesus in the Garden cardboard fans as flies and other bugs buzzed around, making their way onto the sticky, yellow fly-strips that hung from the ceiling near each light. The lights were the old-fashioned kind which dangled on frayed, black, fabric-coated wires, with one single lightbulb sporting a piece-of-string pull.
There were no beautiful stained-glass windows like the ones in the down-town churches. This little church had plain old windows propped open with sticks, in invitation to any passing breeze.
In the back were two small Sunday school classrooms. One to the left of the choir loft and one to the right. The choir was whoever showed up that day and felt brave enough to sit facing the congregation. There were no robes. Funds never allowed for such finery.
The little church had no organ. It had one much-to-be-desired old piano sitting to one side. The pianist for the church was another cousin. I use the word pianist lightly. God bless him, he meant well, and he did play the right notes, but he had absolutely no sense of rhythm. The poor congregation endured his playing for over fifty-two years.
Dinner-on-the-grounds was another thing I loved about this little church. They held these dinners at least a couple of times each year. Everyone would cook up their very best offerings and bring them to the little church. They were arranged on tables formed from wooden stakes pummeled into the ground and covered with chicken wire. How they held up the weight of all those dishes is beyond me. But God is in the business of miracles. Perhaps this was just a small one, a gift to the hungry congregation.
My cousin, the pianist, would tell us, “Don’t eat so-and-so’s food, she has cats and they climb all over her counters. You’ll be eating cat hair.” Or, “Don’t eat that. It’s awful. She brought it last time and it was terrible.” But, when it came to the desserts, we always turned a deaf ear to dear cousin. After all, who could resist a juicy blackberry cobbler, or coconut cake, or even better, red velvet cake, no matter who had cooked it?
Music of the Church-Hymns
I guess my favorite thing about the little church, in spite of his awful piano playing, was the music. There was always music. The old-fashioned hymns that no one sings any more. Hymns that tell the story of Jesus and what He did for us. Not just songs praising Him, but songs telling His life story, words straight from the Gospels. I miss that. I miss singing hymns period. Every time I hear certain hymns, they take me right back to that old country church and some of the best memories of my childhood, just like The Church in the Wildwood.