Small country churches were established in almost all of the small communities by different denominations. Often, alongside the buildings would be a cemetery to bury those who wished to be affiliated …
Small country churches were established in almost all of the small communities by different denominations. Often, alongside the buildings would be a cemetery to bury those who wished to be affiliated with that specific congregation. Sometimes there were efforts to establish a church in a community where there would be no building available in which to meet. The answer to that was to build a brush arbor under which an assembly would take place. This was an effective approach as people would attend for curiosity sake. There were occasions when a tent would take the place of a brush arbor. Many times these meetings would result in enough conversions that would enable there to be a congregation established and a building constructed.
Preachers did not hesitate to call sin, sin, and warn of its consequences by describing a fiery hell waiting for those who did not accept Christ. This would be followed by portraying a home where there would be eternal bliss. There was always a plea that the sinners forsake their evil ways and get right with the Lord. Some would say that we do not “get” religion, we “do” religion! They would quote James 1:27 which define pure religion. Christianity was to be practice in daily activities.
At the end of a sermon, there was always a plea that one respond to the will of God and be saved from their sins. Most country congregations had their favorite river, creek, or pond where baptisms were carried out. Sometimes during a protracted revival meeting there would be a number of individuals who would respond to the invitation plea and were then ready for baptism that would wash away their sins. The people of the congregation would gather on the banks of the baptismal hole and sing songs: O Happy Day being a favorite as the preacher led the converts into the water for their immersion. As they were led out of the water they were embraced, wet clothes and all, by the congregants who welcomed them into the fold. After a prayer thanking God for the power of his Word which moved the new converts to obedience and a plea that they have a long and faithful life in his service, the crowd dispersed with shouts of joy.
While growing up, our family was taught to respect others and behave as a Christian should behave. We were always taken, not sent to church services whenever the church doors opened. Sunday was considered to be the Lord’s day and that excluded fishing and other recreational activities on that day. Wednesday nights were reserved for Bible Study. A prayer of blessing was always offered before each meal, sometimes with those sitting around the table holding hands. Eyes were expected to be closed.
It was said that during the time of my youth the only publication that surpassed the Bible in printings each year was the Sears and Roebuck Catalog. Most every home had a Bible and many had a large one in which they recorded the history of the family. Even today those old Bibles with that recorded history are accepted, in many instances, where verification is needed. Many families ended the day with a Bible reading and a prayer of thanksgiving for his guidance throughout the day, and for protection throughout the night, and tomorrow.
In the smaller congregations there were very few secrets that the entire congregations were not aware of. They considered all members to be part of their Christian family and referred to one another as “brother” or “sister” upon being addressed. They were diligent in caring for one another and were there to be of help should it be needed. Those who had garden produce were eager to share with those who did not, and should rides be needed by those without transportation, their needs would be met by those who had vehicles.
Fellowship among the church members was practiced and visitation among the members was commonplace. Brother L.M. (Lewis) Jean and wife, Ethel, always invited the congregation of the Deason Hill Church of Christ to eat Sunday dinner with them. On Sunday mornings after the closing prayer, Brother Jean would always say in a loud voice; “Everybody go home with me!” Sometimes his offered would be taken, and Sister Jean would always be prepared to feed anyone who came. The Jeans were long time foster parents, and I still occasionally meet someone who was given a home and guidance by the Jeans. My brother was asked to conduct the funeral of L.M. Jean and he used as his topic: “Everybody go home with me,” as surely he was prepared for an eternal home. Such was the comfort afforded those who heeded the plea to become a Christian and live the Christian life.