Song of old churches
Even from busy Highway 231 south of Brundidge, the words of J.D. Sumner’s song rang clear.
“Precious years of memory. Oh, what joy they bring to me. How I long once more to be with the friends at the old country church.”
The old country church was not filled to overflowing that day, but the spirit of those inside could not be contained within the four walls of the storied old Hamilton Crossroads Church of Christ “meeting house.”
The early winter “singing” was the first and only “meeting” of the year at the church. Those, young, old and in between, who gathered for an afternoon of old-time singing weren’t there within a time frame, they were there to sing to their hearts content.
For 364 days a year, the white frame church stands as a lone sentry to the past — to the time when the church was filled to overflowing as friends gathered to sing and worship the God they loved.
There was so much history in that church, so much love and so many memories that John W. Senn could not bear to see it razed.
“One morning eight years ago, the church leader announced that the old church was gong to be destroyed unless someone wanted to move it at their expense,” Senn said.
Senn and his wife, Mary, looked at each other, one knowing, without a doubt, what the other was thinking.
“We got with the leader and got the papers we needed to authorize the move and papers saying that the church building would be ours once it was moved,” Senn said.
Just what the Senns planned to do with the church, they weren’t sure. But they knew that a church with that many precious memories could not be reduced to a pile of rubble.
“The church was built in 1912,” Senn said. “Before that, people worshiped in a much smaller church and, before that, beneath an arbor.”
The movers came and gave the old Hamilton Crossroads Church of Christ building a new place and a new purpose.
The church was moved about a mile north of Hamilton Crossroads to property owned by John and Mary Senn.
“Once the church was set up, it had to be repaired because the classrooms were attached to the back. We didn’t want the classrooms, just the original worship area,” John Senn said. “Clayton Berry was here just about every day to help me. He was dedicated to helping restore the church.”
The church was repaired, wired, painted and prepared for a purpose.
That purpose was revealed to the Senns in their love of music of the songs of praise, worship and remembrance. The church became a place were people worship by singing the old, familiar hymns.
Senn is a member of the Hamilton Church of Christ quartet that sings for funerals and other special services. He loves the music that he learned to sing and lead as an older boy.
“We had singing school at the church and several of us older boys learned to sing and to lead and I’ve been doing it ever since,” Senn said. “There’s no prettier music in the world than a cappella singing. The voices blend so beautifully. It just seems like you get more out of the words of the song like that. It brings out the music and it’s music that you can’t describe.”
Senn said it’s the total beauty of the different parts of the music and the acoustics of the old church that sets the church singings apart.
“Being in an old church where our forefathers worshiped and in a placed filled with memories is a feeling that you just can’t describe,” he said.
The blending of God-given voices without the need of support from instruments has a way of reaching hearts and souls in a way that other music doesn’t, Senn said.
And, about 120 voices were testimony to that on that brisk winter Sunday afternoon. All of those there counted themselves blessed to have the opportunity to once “go back to that Old Country Church and hear the songs of praise.”
When the doors of the old country church open on that one special Sunday each year, those who lift their voices in song will “never forget at the Old County Church how the glory of the Lord came down” much as it did on that first Christmas Day.