As the years have passed there have been several stages in my life where the little church just down the road from home has been in and out of my journey. Friendship United Methodist Church has always been there for me, but there have been times that I didn’t have enough sense to realize it.
The main meaning of Sunday mornings to me as a youngster was the beginning of the one day each week when we usually did not work all day. Of course we had to milk the cows morning and night but when we got the herd fed and watered it was then time to get ready for church. Sunday school was usually okay since the stories in the Bible were in a weekly reader that was somewhat presented as a comic book with the illustrations showing how good overcame evil. One of the major events of the year was when Santa Claus came and brought all the kids an orange and some hard candy. Now before I go any further, I should explain that I was not always the good little boy that Mom always made sure the ears were scrubbed, hands washed, and clean underwear on before church. Whenever I needed an attitude adjustment there was a corner of our wood shed where Dad always had some nice hickory switches on hand.
To give some examples of when the hickory lit up my day, church happenings often seemed to present some of the best times. One time on the Christmas Sunday when Santa was coming, I told the little kids that I shot Rudolph the day before while I was hunting. That afternoon Dad & I took a trip to the woodshed.
There were always some interesting people at church that I usually looked at during the service, instead of listening to the preacher. I always kept track of how long it took Mr. Sid English to fall asleep. While all the ladies wore hats and white gloves, Mrs. English had a pair of weasels around her neck that I touched one day and they came apart. Another observation that always caught my attention was when two brothers, Dr. James Johnson and Mr. Dorsey Johnson, were both in the congregation the same Sunday. Although Dr. Jim was a fairly tall man and Captain Dorsey was stout and shorter, their bald heads always looked the same to me. The best way I could tell was that Miss Amanda, who was Dorsey’s wife, was a tall woman and big boned and Miss Sarah, the wife of Dr. Johnson was very small and petite.
Besides Christmas, the annual oyster supper was the big event. Days of work and planning were required to get ready. The wood stoves were put in the back yard and the firewood was stacked. The oysters had to be shucked and the rolls made. Some things I will never forget about the oyster supper were how Mom, Mrs. Thelma Brohawn and I would hop into our 1952 Dodge and go begging. We left early in the morning with the chicken coop in the back - Mr. Riley Willey of Griffiths Neck always gave us chickens. Cans of lard, eggs, flour - anything that would help with the feast was gladly accepted. When the Dodge got back to the church yard that afternoon it looked like the Grapes of Wrath had arrived. Then the fun really started - Uncle Rob Johnson would take the chickens and cut their heads off. One time I threw a chicken on Mary Frances English and got her dress bloody. Woodshed again.
Dad would always let me go up from the barn early Sunday so I had time to get ready. This one Sunday I told Mom to go on because I was really sick. We had just gotten our first TV. I think it was about a 15 inch Philco. It just so happened that at that time slot the Bud Abbott/Lou Costello show came on. When I heard that back door shut I spun that channel to the “Gospel Singing Jubilee” with the Happy Goodman Family. Even though I was singing, I still went to the woodshed.
As the years went on, sports, jobs, and cars took up most of the Sundays. Every day I would go past Friendship Church and know that someday I was coming back. That day happened when I was coming home years later after having a radiation treatment for cancer. I pulled in the church yard and went and sat down in one of the pews. I sat there for about a half hour and just thought about life.
I’m not sure that when a person knows that they have about 10 minutes to live if anybody is an atheist.