I rode the ministry bus a few times as a girl.
The church must have called the previous night to arrange it, because we were dressed and ready before it arrived, and that doesn’t happen on a whim. As I stepped on board I’d scan for familiar faces. Sometimes it was packed; other times, it was spotted like bound insects on a web.
A well-dressed Chaperone stood at the front of the bus, balancing himself with the help of a silver pole when the bus leaned too far on its side, while enthiastically leading us in Christian Song:
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
“Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, Black and White,
They are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
“Jesus loves me, this I know,
for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong,
They are weak, but he is strong…”
When I reunited with the Church community as a young adult, the bus ministries had began to wane. Even when parents had no use for Church, some still found value in sending their kids for whatever reason suited them. There was a large church in town known for its bus ministry; they owned a fleet of busses but by the time I reached 19 years old, the collection had dwindled down to a handful, and even they may not have ran every week. On any given Sunday, the driver or Chaperone may ask one exiting if they planned to attend the next week. After receiving a smile and usually an agreement, they sometimes returned only to find an empty driveway and a quiet home after a few knocks on the door.
Like everything else, gathering people for church is a crap shoot.
Honestly, even in my fresh religious fervour, they were times I didn’t want to go to Church. But most of the time it was one of those things I did, even when I didn’t feel like it. Then some days, I gave into the flesh and remained huddled in my bedroom away from any unneccessary stimuli. But with newfound faith came newfound responsibility to be a good witness. After all, if others see you going and enjoying church attendance, they might be willing to come along for the next service. If family see you slacking, what impression would that leave about Jesus’ over-all appeal? If I didn’t want to hang around him, why should they? My dad told us kids that faith was nobody’s business, but in Church I learned immediately that with faith comes responsibility-To God and everyone else.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…
The first time I saw the large structure on the hill, the thought occured to me that it was there I should attend, as if I had been supernaturally tapped- though going took a few weeks planning. Saturday would come and go and I already had myself talked out of it.
I turned to my mom to join me- She was very kind and while hesitant, agreed but we set it back another week.
The Big Church was set off on a hill over on Dockery Street. It was sided with a rustic antiqued wood as if repurposed from a monstrous barn. The builder’s vision was simple but spacious. Previous to it’s existence the land hosted a series of houses that had been swept away by the Tornado of 1974. My aunt Thelma’s parents lived in the house that once occupied the top of the hill. The funnel had flattened their home and scalped her sister O.D. Mae. Afterwards, if the sky turned gray and the angels began to bowl, the sisters who lived together in old age would make their way to the basement as fast as they could go. There they stored years of paper grocery sacks and newspapers. Growing up during the depression, they learned the value of stock. Anyway, if you believe everything happens for a reason, then you could view the tornado as God’s hand making room for yet another sanctuary, even for the likes of me.
As Mom and I entered the Narthex of the church, we were greeted with smiles and handshakes, an inquiry as to whether we were from the neighborhood, and an invitation to make ourselves at home. Two ladies eagerly greeted us with the same joyful surprise and introductions. I met Diane, a lady who eventually became a mentor, and her friend Jean. I later learned Jean’s husband had a desire for church, but since he made his living driving a Beer Truck, he couldn’t sit in a pew on Sunday and the driver’s seat of a Beer truck on Monday. So he stayed home. We stood and sang a few songs from the Red Back Hymnal, passed the plate along while settling in to listen.
In a building that housed maybe 2 to 300, there was only a handful.
It was nice to feel wanted. I am sure most visitors had been carefully cultivated while we just sprouted out of nowhere.
I was interested in the sermon. At the time I tried to follow the message though can’t recall any of it now. I remember leaving with a certainty that my choice of Churches was somehow destined. I was intended to be there, some how, some way. But I was a little empty though, too. I concluded:
“This place is nice. The people are so friendly, I enjoyed the songs and listening to the minister speak.
I am glad I came, but this is NOT what I am looking for.”