by the late Susan Jane Shelton Abbott (1952-2014)
Remembering Church, Down Home
There we were, two young girls, alone for the first time…with a…dead body. We crept into the little sanctuary of Maple Grove Baptist Church where one of the sweet old ladies of our hometown of Foxwells was resting peacefully in the front for her funeral later that day. There was no other soul around and despite my best friend Theresa’s reluctance, I had to go up and say goodbye and check things out.
As I leaned in closer, I thought how nice she had been to me. I had thoughts in the back of my mind that she might sit up or open her eyes. Then, it happened! I guess my breath blew her hair and I stood up straight and screamed “SHE MOVED!” All I saw or heard as I headed for the daylight from the two screened front doors was them slamming and banging the white wreathes against them. Theresa was already gone; having hurdled the pews at record speed leaving me alone with my pounding heart.
That was only one of the memories of Maple Grove. Another memory involved fire. Oh, we weren’t bad kids. Things just happened and with my type of personality, they were just plain funny memories and well worth recalling over the years. Again, Theresa and I were in the Christmas Pageant and someone decided the young’uns would wear the choir robes, carry a scarf in one hand and a real candle in the other hand. As we slowly went down the dim aisles to the tune of “O Holy Night” we held our scarves and our candles high. Theresa turned around to me to say something and stuck her candle in the long blond curly hair of the girl in front of her. Everyone was trying to put the fire out….talk about O Holy Night!
One last memory of Maple Grove to share before crossing the road to Asbury Methodist Church would be how my sister Hazel nearly jumped out of her skin while throwing her hymnal up into the air. If you ever heard our Aunt Ruby sing “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” and not know it was coming…..well, then you better be prepared to come off the ground!
Asbury Methodist Church is across the road from Maple Grove. All children and adults from both congregations went to all events. We were a community that shared in both Baptist and Methodist beliefs.
Asbury did not escape my childhood memories either. I can still remember my dear Aunt Nora and where she sat in church. She had the softest skin and beautiful curls. One of my favorite memories of her is when she wore her navy straw hat with the hard red cherries on the side. She had a bit of a shake to her head and she would get those cherries clacking I tell you. Clackity Clack, Clackity Clack. Oh to hear them now…
Another memory was of a little girl standing on our bench. She must have been very excited with the message because she turned lose a trickle that reached everyone on the bench. We looked like we were doing the wave at a sporting event as we all stood when it was our turn at learning what was happening.
Perhaps the memory I laugh the most when recalling was in the choir loft. A little lady had a hump on her back from osteoporosis…I assume only now. She had a bit of a hooked nose too. She was possibly in pain, but I swear she lifted her arms and partially came out of her seat in that choir robe and lifted her arms a bit while wincing in pain… and it had turkey buzzard written all over it! I know I shouldn’t have thought it funny…but folks…when you are a child…a turkey buzzard in a choir robe, is funny!
You know, I don’t know when I learned The Lord’s Prayer, The Apostles Creed, the words to all of the hymns I know, and Bible verses. I just don’t remember when; however, I know where. I know that being from a caring family that saw to it that we all went to church made the learning of these things possible. The only thing I do remember is that growing up in Foxwells with my best bud Theresa was a lot of fun and I remember that having life-long friends from the church and the neighborhood like Jim and Lacy, Donnie and Paul, and remembering the apple bobbing, the Halloween parties, riding around on 30 cents worth of gas after church was all so very special.
Just remember… there is always someone like Miss Audrey to pull you out of church by your ears, if you get too rambunctious!