On a lovely, warm summer day my husband and I took a drive that ended up going back in time to a place we knew as children.
He wanted to show me some places from his early life. He had been a country boy: I lived in town. Town consisted of a four block main street, Edmonds Ave., with all the necessary stores, churches, a bank and the post office. The rest of the “city” spread no more than four blocks either side of Edmonds.
Since we were on his show-and-tell trip, we went to the country outside of town. He stopped at what had been the site of a building with a very old cemetery behind the crumbled foundation. The air smelled of wild flowers and the buzzing of unseen swarms of insects broke the silence. The brown, overgrown grass crunched under our footsteps as we walked hand in hand to stare at the old red brick outline of a once busy church.
“The used to be Harmony Missionary Baptist Church,” he said.
We sat on the brick corner stones while he told me that his grandfather’s family had helped start the church. The warmth of the afternoon sun caressed my shoulders and I closed my eyes against the glare. As he continued to talk I could almost hear the members as they greeted each other on Sunday morning.
What was he saying about only having a circuit pastor once a month? The buzzing insects challenged my concentration. I could see the people pulling up in their old trucks and buggies? No, I was just imagining it because he was talking about it. The sun’s haze was playing tricks on my eyes.
“After service the ladies decorated the picnic table with homemade crazy quilts. Food magically appeared from ice coolers hidden in the cars.” I heard his voice but my mind saw boats of food floating on a kaleidoscope sea.
“The babies and some of the older folks took naps in the shade of that old tree,” he pointed behind me. He was talking but what I heard was neighbor promising neighbor to help with the harvest, fix a broken plow or loan a tractor because his fellow man needed it. Everyone was equally poor and equally rich.
“Later men would collect their fiddles and guitars so the singing could begin.” Music replaced his voice and the folks sitting on the ground began singing “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.” * Swaying to the music I began to hum the melody. I became part of them, fellowship of the spirit as Philippians 2 describes people knit together in harmony, having the same desires, passions and ambitions. **
“We would sing hymns and old songs until the daylight became twilight,” he recaptured my attention for a moment.
“Did you ever join the musicians?” I asked, reluctantly joining his story.
“I hadn’t learned to play yet, but my grandfather and father played,” he explained as we started back to the car.
My reverie returned as I glanced over my shoulder, sure I saw Harmony Church standing in the late afternoon shadows like a giant white dove, wings spread to protect the people still singing on the ground. Babies slept in their mother’s arms. Children played tag and shinnied up that old tree to the rhythm of the music and their mother’s admonishments. Older folks made their weekly visit to the graves, some of which were dated when the 19th century was new. Someone was helping fix a tire for one less fortunate. Others were reading the Bible around one of the tables or exchanging recipes, sewing patterns, news of those absent. Through it all evidence of love and fellowship permeated the air like the oxygen they breathed. Everyone had a smile on his or her face.
I turned and joined my husband in the car. As we drove away I was tempted to take another quick glance at Harmony Missionary Baptist Church. I decided to remember it the way I had imagined, folks whose happiness was based in love and who still met every Sunday for worship, singing, dinner and fellowship.
Word Count: 693
* Text: John Fawcett, 1740-1817
Music: Johann G. Nageli, 1768-1836; arr. by Lowell Mason, 1792-1872
** Study notes for Philippians 2, The MacArthur Study Bible, New King James
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