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  • Dr. Rebecca A. Thomas

Growing Up Churched

Disclaimer: One will notice Church language throughout this writing. It's a bit of a foreign language to those who didn't grow up in this culture. If you're not 'churched', I enclosed these idioms in quotes and hope you will be able to make sense of them in the context. However, the sarcasm will probably not be as hysterical to you as it is to those of us who learned this language. And to those who feel they are too spiritual to find any of this humorous, well..."Bless your little pea-pickin' hearts", cause God still loves you 'Frozen Chosen' types anyway.

We attended a little bitty church just down the street from our house called the Gospel Chapel. I now know that it was essentially a Plymouth Brethren church. We didn't have a paid pastor, but several of the men of the church would take turns 'bringing the message' as they say in church lingo. To this day, I think that was quite cool.

It was my Grandma who began taking me to church when I was quite young. I remember a few stories about my behavior at that time that was apparently quite funny to Grandma but not so much to my mom. Just little kid stuff, like announcing to Grandma in the middle of the service while standing in the seat next to her while poking around under my skirt, that I had a hole in my underwear.

Then there was the time that Mom apparently was present at church; I'm not certain about this. Maybe she just heard 'the report' and was again chagrined. Anyway I believe she was present though maybe she was so shrunk down in her seat that I could not see her, I don't know. But I think that her presence is what motivated me to be sure I was seen and appreciated by her. I mean, there was a microphone involved and everything.

So the deal was that in the Primary Department, of which I was a member, we learned a part of a verse and when we got back up to 'big church', Woody took the microphone down the line to each child who would then proudly recite the verse. I was down the line a bit watching and getting ready and then...there was that mic right in my face. My mind went blank for a brief moment as I scrambled to remember that darn verse; nada. I was not going to let this amazing opportunity pass.

SO, I made a quick save and burst into one of the hit songs of the day. Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. Now I have only a little episodic memory of this, as I have apparently blanked out a lot of stuff from my childhood, but Mom told the story as if I went on and on....and on... I just kept repeating that line. She later wondered why the heck nobody seemed to be in a hurry to stop me. She had probably sunk to the floor by the end of it in mortification.

What she probably didn't know was that I believed I had the audience in my back pocket right there....especially Grandma. Anyway, I was hooked on singing and doing 'special music' from that moment on.

Fast forward a few short years and various other hijnks too numerous to mention. My Grandmother had passed on and my sister had joined me at church. She is an enormously gifted piano player (I say piano player rather that pianist, because she developed her own style that is essentially Honkytonk and FAST-paced.) Oh she can play that other classical stuff, but she tends to do little of it, preferring to just bust loose. She was playing piano for the church services when she was just in junior high school.

It was pretty easy for her, because the music at church was extraordinarily s-l-o-w, but 'heart felt'. I mean, Blanche Weatherstone...'bless her heart'. I can still see her standing there just singing her heart out to the Lord with her very penetrating and off key voice. I think it was Blanche who always managed to slow those songs down even more, if that's even possible. I mean, wow; why is that people think that 'sacred music' has to be solemn and slow as a funeral dirge? 'He is Risen', people! Come on! How my sister held back, I don't even know.

So, here's our dirty little family secret. Sunday afternoons became for us a time when we made a little fun of the caterwauling that went on at church (sorry Miss Blanche, et al) and then we cut loose and did those songs up right, with everybody laughing and carrying on. Now this everybody included my mother who often added a few dance moves to the mix. YES! this is the same self-righteous Mom who had been embarrassed because of my behavior in church (OK, several times); this same Mom was totally involved in our debauchery. Underneath it all we felt a little guilty and kind of wondered if we were all going to hell in a hand basket.

Well that little secret about the jazzed up music blew up in our faces. The church is now full of music these days that would have got me kicked out (oh wait, it did!) of perfectly good churches back in the day. My kids grew up listening to that 'radical music' and were flabbergasted that it would have upset anybody.

But finally, things came full circle. A 'woke' Baptist pastor where my sister still plays for services (her way) found out about our childhood escapades (my sister has a big mouth.) When my mother passed, my family and I returned from Virginia for the services. At the wake, the pastor let me know that he had heard about our Sunday afternoon escapades and he thought we should do our mother's funeral service our way. He even volunteered to pick up a set of drums for my son to play and would have them set up at the church the next day for the funeral.

I froze up a little, fearing that I might be too emotional, and he countered with how I just had to 'do my thing' and he would cover somehow if I fell apart. So...we did it. It's amazing how those songs are just pick right up where you left off. I think we made a few folks uncomfortable because it was a joyful service. As I've often, said; "We put the fun in funeral." And the fact that I made it through that tribute without blubbering is a miracle in itself. And I'm pretty sure that Mom and Dad were dancing up there in heaven somewhere that day.


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