On Sunday morning while a lot of families were attending church, I was at the bowling alley with my husband and son. “Are you sure you want to go on a Sunday with all the other heathens?” my husband asked jokingly.
Speaking of church…when I was around 12 years old, for one summer, I joined my aunt, uncle and cousins at a church in our hometown.
Sunday mornings my dad played his gospel records and sang along. When I asked why he didn’t go to church he would say “You don’t have to go to church to go to heaven.” I believed him yet I chose church on Sundays.
The church I attended had a very fire and brimstone preaching style, which scared the daylights out of me. The preacher would get so worked up during his sermon his face turned as red and wet as a vine ripened tomato sweating in the Georgia heat.
What really frightened me though came at the end of service. After we were told for 90 minutes we were headed straight to hell in a hand basket, the sermon would end in prayer and the saving of souls would begin.
The congregation was asked to raise their hand if they were sinners and wanted to accept Jesus Christ as our savior. The preacher asked these questions for what seemed like hours.
Being a frightened kid, I would sheepishly raise my hand hoping the yelling would stop. To my surprise, after the congregation was asked a few more times the yelling did, indeed, stop.
I felt like the clergy had been waiting for my hand to go up. He must have known I was the biggest sinner of all. At least that’s what my child’s mind believed.
Those of us who raised our hands were called to the front of the church to be counseled by elders and the preacher would come by and ask each of us to be saved by accepting Christ.
Several deacons would stand by the doors so no one could leave until all us sinners had been adequately counseled and saved.
Every Sunday that summer I would raise my hand and get saved. It must have been a dozen times!
The experience of this particular church left a bitter taste in my mouth. It turned me off to church completely until I was grown. I preferred to stay home with my dad listening to his gospel music.
It’s interesting how an experience from childhood can stay with you well into adulthood. This is a memory that I can’t forget.
Though I’ve been out of the church for a number of years, I would like to find a church home where I feel safe, supported and uplifted. In the meantime, I will continue to pray and thank God everyday for my life and everything in it.