Growing up in a country church
Church attendance was a way of life in the small rural community where I lived as a child.
Every man, woman and child who lived within a two- to three-mile radius of a church was expected to be present every time its doors were opened. The schedule of services I recall was Sunday school and preaching at 10 and 11 a.m., respectively, Training Union and preaching at 6 and 7 p.m. and Wednesday night prayer meeting at 6 p.m.
My parents and six of their seven children attended Barfield Baptist Church, an impressive brick building with colored glass windows. It stood atop a high hill and was visible from the farmhouses of many of its 100 to 150 members. Its amenities included two rows of rock hard oak pews, a wood burning heater on each side, a small choir loft with pulpit and a piano.
Two huge oak trees shaded parts of the graveled parking lot and cemetery and were a favorite meeting place for most of the church’s adult members. Tobacco users grabbed the last 15 to 20 minutes before services to smoke, chew or dip while talking about crops, weather and politics with their neighbors.
In the absence of a fellowship hall, pot luck dinners and ice cream suppers were served on a long homemade table, which stood underneath shade trees on the west side of the church building.
The church’s half-basement served the dual purpose of providing Sunday school and Training Union classrooms and a storm shelter for the community when weather conditions threatened the possibility of a tornado.
Little was left to question about the role of the church during that era. The emphasis was on evangelism. Since children comprised a large part of the congregation, they were the target of strong Bible teaching and evangelistic sermons from the pulpit. They memorized Bible verses, practiced public speaking and demonstrated their skills at associational meetings. They attended summer music and youth evangelistic camps and assumed leadership roles in various church activities.
Nothing was more compelling to young children than to hear a teenager give his testimony about accepting Christ as his Lord and Savior while attending a youth camp.
Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.