Gimme that old-time religion

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I saw a PSA (Public Service Announcement) the other day that concerned needy citizens’ needs for a fan. My mind immediately had a silly thought: Have the funeral homes stopped giving out fans?

Oh, I know they were talking about electric fans, but there are three or four of us still around who remember pre-electricity days. Honest. There was a time when we didn’t have the electric. Mt. Pisgah didn’t have it. And that thought reminded me of those revival meetings at the Mt. Pisgahs of the world. You remember how it was. In the  hottest part of summer, there’d be a revival meeting, a protracted meeting.

None of this namby-pamby three-day stuff. These were two-a-day meetings for a full week. Eleven in the morning and about seven at night. There would be fewer people at the day meeting, of course. There was work to be done. But no excuses for the night meeting. You went.

For people who didn’t have cars, there was our local transit system — Mr. Reeves’ flatbed Chevrolet truck. He’d make a circle through the community, picking up passengers along the way. He’d park right by the open windows, and some of the men would stay out there in the relatively cool air all through the service. Oh, how I envied them. We could see the glow of their cigarettes as we boiled inside the building.

Brother Vaughn was our regular preacher, but for these occasions, he’d bring in a hired gun. And as the lanterns around the wall and at the pulpit gave off their hot, smokey light, he’d spread the Word. And by the end of the sermon, the walls would be charred like the inside of a Jack Daniels barrel.  “Won’t you come?” “Softly and Tenderly” being sung. Or maybe “Why Not Tonight,” or “Just As I Am.”

I once got a good chewing-out in a letter-to-the-editor for suggesting that peer pressure was one of the main reasons young people joined the church/became saved (same thing in Mt. Pisgah talk). Some of us boys would be sitting on a bench. As the threats of eternal brimstone became even more demanding, somebody would whisper, “Hey, I’ll go if you will. Huuh? huh? And sometimes two or three would get up and go down the aisle, especially if the preacher came and squatted right down in front of you and really put the pressure on.

“One more verse. Somebody is “Almost Persuaded. What if you died tonight without being saved?? One more verse, please.” The little church would be packed. Community members, of course, plus visitors from our Methodist neighbors at Oak Hill. And many in our community would go there (Oak Hill) when they had their revival. Boys would go, hoping to pick up a girl and take her home.

On the way home, Aunt Mula Ree would say, “Oh, didn’t he preach a good sermon!” A different lady of the community would have the preachers over for dinner each day during the revival. The ladies would put on their finest meals for the occasion.

Twice a day for a full week in the middle of the hot, un-air-conditioned summer. They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

Baptizing would be the next Sunday, at the swimming hole in Cousin Bailey’s pasture, and the preachers would be happy to announce that X number had been saved.

 

Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note.

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