When Evelyn asked me to share “I remember when…. our spiritual heritage” I found myself trying to come up with a clever title such as “Give Me That Old Time Religion” but I found a richness of our heritage that goes much deeper than frivolous, cutesy sayings. It is a “tried and true” faith with a solid foundation-rocks to stand on. But, it still has to be our own. We can not get to heaven on “the faith of our fathers”.
I am going to call this our “Faith Journey”. The memories I share will be from the 1950’ and 60’s.
History gives us something to look back and reflect on. History gives us a second perspective on life events. History gives us our story to share with our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. History shows us our journey; some of it is good, some of it is tough and some of it we prefer to hide or throw away. History can not be changed but we can change the outcome of the future.
I am going to try to reflect on memories of our family’s faith journey. Obviously it is from my point of view and it may reflect differently for my siblings.
One of my very first memories and it had to be before I was four, was sitting in the dining room bay window at Penn Laird, looking at the clouds and thinking about Jesus coming back-wondering if He was going to step out from behind the beautiful, fluffy, white clouds. I would assume there was preaching about it that had touched my tender heart. I have always had a love of prophecy and to this day enjoy studying and talking about it. I know Ed also shares that love and it often is a source of conversation for us. On the farm at Edom we had a path to the barn though a field. One time daddy mentioned that every morning as he went to the barn he would look up to see if the power line was in place and then his gaze would go to the sky and he would wonder, “Is today the day?”
We were taught integrity, truthfulness and honesty. I remember finding a penny on the school bus and turning it in to the driver. If we were caught saying an untruth the punishment was swift and we did not repeat the offense.
We were taught to guard our words. Unnecessary words were not allowed-not even “mercy, great day or goodness”. I remember daddy telling us that when he was a little boy, one time he got something he was so proud of and he said, “hot dog” as he sat down under a tree. He was punished. I am glad that today my conversation is not filled with unnecessary words.
Family devotions were an important part of breakfast-teaching us to start our day with God. We ate all three meals together, sitting down at the table as a family. For years we would sing a hymn-working our way through the Church Hymnal, then mother would read from a devotional book, daddy would read scripture and we would pray. This was not a fast-food meal! If I remember correctly we were in our teens before the hymn was dropped. At bedtime, mother had devotions with us kids again. I remember when I told her I wanted to have my own and she was ok with it.
Church was the center of our life. We went to church every time the doors were open-no questions asked, no discussion about it. And we were always early-the first ones there-at least 30 minutes early. Besides church on Sunday morning we also went every Sunday and Wednesday evenings. Youth meetings were at least once a month. I remember loving our church. We attended Zion Hill, a small church at the base of Little North Mountain behind Singers Glen, and Glendon Blosser was our pastor. He was outgoing and we all loved him. His sermons were passionate and I remember at an early age that they spoke deep to my heart. I remember how he often told a story to go with his sermon.
(Picture was taken 1969)
I started teaching Sunday School and Bible School at an early age-when I was in the 8th grade. We also learned to lead singing at an early age. I remember round robin song services on Sunday evenings and topical programs where we as children often had to give a poem, or expound on a topic. Once a year we had evangelistic meetings usually lasting for 2 weeks at a time. The evangelist was usually a powerful speaker calling the people to repentance and holy living.
I remember enthusiastic, joyful, heartfelt, 4-part accapella singing. The church windows were open-we didn’t have air conditioning- and it was said that the Kislings that lived up on the hill could sometimes hear the singing and preaching. We sang from the Church Hymnal and Life Song books.
Another memory that has deeply impacted my life…. Remember Ruby Knight and Elsie Donovan? Each year the Sunday School superintendent would ask, “How many read the Bible through this year?” Those two ladies always did. I decided I wanted to be like them. I started reading my Bible so that I could raise my hand. This is a routine-habit-practice I have continued to this day. (I have read it through approximately 40 times).
I remember when the men sat on the right side of the church and the women on the left. I remember kneeling to pray. I remember the church been respected as a place of reverence. We were not allowed to run or play in the building.
We read books from the church library and had contest to see who could read the most. Teachers used flannel graph, film strips and hand-held pictures to tell their stories. There was no separate “children’s church” or nursery for the children.
I remember mother telling mission flannel graph stories for children’s church (this was between Sunday School and preaching) to the children. Daddy had his special little thing he liked to do for the children. Occasionally he would hand out suckers! He became known as the “Candy Man”. He would put them in a little brown bag behind the pulpit and after church he would get it and hand them out. I remember at Christmas time the Superintendents would hand out a bag of candy and one orange to each person. This was very special and super exciting. We could hardly wait for the service to be over to receive our coveted gift.
I remember canvassing the community, singing, handing out tracts and inviting people to church.
I remember the out-door Johnny houses! For some strange reason as soon as we got to church after our 20 minute drive to church we had to go!
We did not have fellowship meals, bulletins or sharing time. There could be as many as 3-4 Sunday School classes in the auditorium with curtains pulled between them.
I remember the local church’s connection to the broader district and conference churches and structure. This is different than it is today. Now the local church is almost an isolated unit to itself. We had Bishops and they had the ultimate say in the direction of the church. As a family we attended many of the other local churches. We always went to Weavers for district services on Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings. I loved to go and the see other young people.
Probably as I look back on that era of time in church history, the one word that would best describe it for me is “conviction”. The plea was for the people of God to be faithful, to stand on their convictions, to be separate from the world, and to know what they believed. I remember my heart pounding with conviction. I remember prayer meetings where we prayed for the lost in the community. I remember invitations to accept Christ, heads bowed in prayer as we sang the soul- stirring song “Just As I Am”. We were asked to raise our hand, stand, or walk forward. The decision was purposeful, and it was a public statement of our decision.
I keep thinking of the song “Give Me That Old Time Religion” which we occasionally sang…”It was good for Paul and Silas… it was good in the fiery furnace…. and it’s good enough for me.” Each generation has its own opportunity to pass on to the next their faith stories; stories of God’s goodness, stories of mountain top experiences and dark valleys. It is so important to tell theses stories to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Each generation has its own history, and its own uniqueness. We live in a totally different world now than we did “back-in-the-good-ole days” , but we are still people of faith and our God is still the same. The words of the Psalmist still ring true, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me. Your rod and your staff they comfort me.” (Psalms 23) Like a Good Shepherd, the same God still walks beside us.
Proverbs 30 talks about a generation of people that…
- Curses their fathers
- Does not bless their mothers
- Does what is pure in their own eyes
- Are not washed from its filthiness
- Whose eyes are haughty and glances disdainful
- Whose teeth are like swords
Psalms 45:17 talks about a different kind of generation of people. A people that remembers God and praises His name.
“I will remember your name to be remembered in all generations. Therefore the people shall praise you forever and forever.”
We can choose. Joshua, the man God chose to lead the children of Israel after Moses death, spoke pointedly when he said, “Choose today whom you will serve. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) Our decisions will have a profound impact on the generations that follow. Which generation will you be? What heritage will you choose to be remembered by?
My challenge today and to the next generation….claim the faith of your fathers and make it your own. Pass on to your children the goodness of God. Praise the name of the Lord, remember Him and you will raise up godly offspring that honors and serves Him.