When I was much younger, my parents took my brothers and sisters and me to church every service. We went twice on Sunday, Wednesday night, and we didn’t miss a night of revival (even when it went on for six weeks). My dad preached his first sermon there…back in that day, his teaching-preaching only lasted around 15 or 20 minutes, so all the kids loved it when he had the service. The pastor, Bro. Sharp, (everyone was “brother” or “sister” back then) could preach for what seemed like an eternity to a child. (The Sharps are still close family friends...family to us.)
My mom started going to that church when I was a baby. They closed the doors when I was 14 or 15, and the small congregation joined another church a few blocks away. But those early days in the little Pentecostal church atop the hill on Tuscaloosa Street are a very big part of my childhood. I can close my eyes and see exactly how it was laid out, the carpet and the color of the cushions on the pews, the Sunday school rooms where my sisters and mom taught classes…and the people! I still remember so many of them: Barbara and Don, little Don (who fell off a pew and broke his collar bone) and Charlotte, Don’s parents (his dad’s name was Coleman, which was my family name), Kattie, Sherrie and Russ, Angela, Stacy, Melinda, the Proctors, the Smiths, the Hensons, the Holts, the Whites, the McBrides, The Kelleys, Jimbo, Kim, Lisa, Bubba, Mandy and Dana, Ruby, Gail, Larry (the cute man on whom I had such a crush…I was six…and I would turn completely around in my seat to stare at him until his wife would make me turn back around), Old Brother and Sister Whitaker…such sweet people…Bro. Grace with the baby face. There was Carolyn and Troy, Dana and Vannie, who played the drums; my dear friend to this day, Tammy, and her three brothers, Tommy, Timmy (twins), and Andy (the preacher’s kids). So many names and faces came and went from that little church. Carolyn and her sister, Pam, along with the preacher’s wife were “The Trio” and they sang together beautifully. The Staplers, who sang beautiful southern gospel! Bro. Sharp played a great saxophone, and I didn’t know to appreciate the beauty of it when I was younger.
Of course, I can't remember all the names of the people who crossed my path at the the little church on the hill, but I sometimes see some of them around town, and it's always nice to catch up a little. Some have gone on to be with the Lord...Sister Birdie, my wonderful Sunday School teacher is one of them...who somehow convinced me if I swallowed aluminum foil, I would die. What she said was "It won't digest." I quit chewing on it, and to this day, I'm very careful about eating food wrapped in foil.
The hymns we sang back then are so very special to me today, though, sadly, they aren’t sung very much in church these days. I love today’s praise music, but there’s something touching about old hymns. There are two "special" songs that have remained with me from my time at that church. (When someone sang a solo, we referred to it as singing a "special") One was sung by Sister Barbara. I’m not sure of the name of it, but I remember some of the words. I have searched the internet and YouTube over the years, but I’ve had no luck finding it. The words I remember are:
It’s such a long road I’m traveling to Heaven today
And sometimes it’s so hard to climb
Through sorrows and disappointments
My feet stumble so many times.
But I’ll keep on….
…and this long road will be far behind.
Obviously, there’s a lot of it I can’t remember.
The other song I did find on YouTube yesterday. Sister Sharp (the preacher’s wife) sang it, and over the years, I sang it to myself many times…though I couldn’t remember all the words. I think the elderly gentleman (with a sweet voice) who is singing this song wrote it, and oddly enough, is a Pentecostal preacher.
He does a little talking in the middle of the song, but it’s worth a listen.