At the old country church

Published 2:00 am Saturday, September 19, 2015

Aunt Nita was a country church preacher.

Mama said she was a Holiness preacher. I didn’t know what that meant but I liked going to Aunt Nita’s church because she got things going.

People clapped their hands when they sang and the men patted their feet on the floor.

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Everybody sang as loud as they could and, if the babies cried, nobody cared.

In the summertime, the church windows were raised and held up by sticks.

Some women sat by the open windows so they could spit their snuff out the window. I thought it was strange that they spit without even looking to see if anybody was standing under the window. Some men were always standing outside. They never came in to hear Aunt Nita preach. She said they were sitting on the fence between heaven and hell.

Even with the windows open, it was hot in the church so they had funeral home fans on the benches so you could fan yourself.

There was a board on the wall in the front of the church that told how many people were in church that day and the Sunday before and how much collection they got on both of those days.

Aunt Nita preached loud enough for the men out in the yard to hear her. Sometimes she would run down the aisle and point at people. And, it seemed like everybody got real squirmy when she did that.

To me, that was the best part of the preaching, except for the singing. I loved to sing those old church songs. I knew them all by heart. We sang some of the same songs at our church, the Methodist church, but not the same way. People at our church sat still when they sang. They didn’t clap their hands or tap their feet and we sure didn’t sing as loud as we could.

Mama said that was because we were Methodist. Aunt Nita said it was because Methodists had stiff necks. My neck did hurt in church sometimes from sitting so still.

I didn’t get to go to Aunt Nita’s church except in the summertime when we were visiting Aunt Eleanor over in Eufaula. I never got to go to Aunt Nita’s church in the wintertime but I wanted to so I could see where those ladies spit when the windows were down and where the men that stood outside went when it was cold.

Too soon, we stopped going to Aunt Nita’s church. One Sunday, a lady got in the spirit and jumped up and dropped her baby on the floor.

Mama said that was it. And, we didn’t go anymore.

What got me thinking about Aunt Nita’s church was the 100th Anniversary Celebration at Tennille United Methodist Church on Sept. 26 and 27. Not that anybody spits out the window or that the men refuse to go inside the church. But there’s the same old-time spirit at Tennille Methodist Church that I experienced as a child in Aunt Nita’s church.

People clap their hands and tap their feet and sing those old church songs by heart and as loud as they can. And, I can sing right along with them even though I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, as Mama would say.

I’m not a member of Tennille Church but I’m a rather regular visitor. I don’t know all of the people in the congregation but I feel right at home in that old country church. I “belong” there just as I did in Aunt Nita’s old country church.

So, Good Lord willing, I’ll be at Tennille Church on Sunday, Sept. 27 when they celebrate 100 years of old time religion. I’ll take a box of chicken livers and sing loud and long. What a blessing it will be to be “with my friends at the old country church.”