In recent weeks I have taken a mental stroll down memory lane, and many of our readers have taken that stroll with me. Several have shared experiences of worship from days gone by, and I appreciate each of them.
I was just thinking about some of those experiences that most today would not know about due to changes in church life over the years. In my early years, many of the church buildings, especially rural churches, consisted of one large sanctuary and maybe a couple of Sunday School rooms. Other “features” included:
• Baptist Pallets — Most of those old places of worship did not have nurseries. Instead, what was referred to as Baptist pallets were quite the norm. Parents would spread quilts at the front of the sanctuary and place infants and toddlers on them. The services would continue with the singing and preaching. Yes, there were times of crying and little ones crawling from one place to another, but the Word of God was not hindered. People were saved and churches grew.
• Open Windows — Few churches had central heat and air, so during the hot summers, churches depended on ceiling fans and open windows. Window screens were rare, and bugs were abundant. Many a pastor was known to have swallowed a bug while delivering his sermon.
Did the heat hinder the worship of God in those early days? Not at all. In fact, some of those summer revivals I wrote about previously were so well attended that on some evenings people would be outside the building and were watching and worshiping through the open windows.
• Funeral Home Fans — I always found it amusing that, in most towns, the funeral homes took advantage of some advertising opportunity while providing some additional cooling for attendees at church. They donated fans which were stapled to a thin, flat handle. Those usually had the name and address of the funeral home on one side, and most often a picture of Jesus on the other. Some went the extra mile and had photos of the church building printed on the fan.
In those hot and humid months, people would reach in the hymnal rack on the back of the pew in front of them and grab one of those fans. All across the building, men, women, boys and girls would be fanning. Of course, those little instruments also made some pretty good fly swatters!
•Dinner on the Ground — Before the addition of fellowship halls and family life centers, churches were not restricted from having potluck dinners. It was not uncommon to drive by houses of worship that were usually surrounded by spreading oak trees. Between those trees were chest high tables attached to the tree trunks. On the days of the potlucks, members would prepare for “dinner on the ground,” which essentially was a churchwide picnic.
Things were also quite different in those days from what they are today. Almost without exception, senior adults were the first to be served — not like our present day when the children are the priority.
• Change is not always bad. I hear many say today they are resistant to change, and at my age, I can identify. But as I was just thinking, not all change is bad. While it’s interesting to reminisce, most would not want to return to “the good ole days” of Baptist pallets, open windows and funeral home fans. However, since Baptists are always ready to eat — dinner on the ground might always be welcomed!
Let’s be reminded of this, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).