"I'm gonna lay down my burden, down by the riverside, down by the riverside, down by the riverside.
I'm gonna lay down my burden, down by the riverside,
I'm gonna study war no more."...
"Well, I'm gonna put on my long white robe,
(Where?) down by the riverside.
(Oh) Down by the riverside, down by the riverside.
I'm gonna put on my long white robe,
(Where?) down by the riverside
I'm gonna study war no more." (words and music author unkown)
It was 'down by the riverside'. If I would have ever been told that I would be having church in a sow barn, I would have told them they were crazy. But there we were, complete with picnic tables, a little black wood burning stove, and people. That's what you need to have church, people! The church is the ekklesia, a called out group of people. We had been invited by the owners of the property to have church at their house that week. All the neighbors came and some others from small towns close by.
They had previously used the little building for the sow barn, but it had been cleaned out and used for family gatherings. Now, it was our turn to use it for church. As we strolled past the chicken coops, goat and hog pens, with the dogs chasing us, we were taking in all the rest of the scenery.
Yes, it was truly down by the riverside and you could even smell the fish. Going downhill in a rather fast trot past all the discarded farm machinery, we finally reached our destination. It was a chilly day, but it was rather cozy inside the sow barn.
There was a table for the preacher to use for his Bible and song books, various stools, benches, and the picnic tables. The room was full. We were blessed with the turn out. Several had come there for a specific reason. They wanted to be baptized. Our lesson was geared for them to understand exactly what salvation and baptism meant, and by the time the lesson was done, there were more who wanted to be baptized. We sang several favorite hymns, prayed, and then it off to the river.
The river bank was really slippery as the preacher got in position. The spot was not blessed with a great wooden pier or fancy rock or sand bottom. It was river bottom, complete with catfish, crawdads, lots of weeds, and a strong current. The preacher was really praying to keep his footing and he was not a great swimmer. This really took all the faith he could muster just to keep his balance. But, that little bit of fear vanished as one by one each person was baptized. The cheers from the bystanders full of "Praise God!", and the overwhelming blessings from doing what God wanted us to do was worth it all. We didn't have white robes, but many laid down their burdens.
We sang more hymns, and then went back to the kitchen of the farm house to enjoy a "pitch in dinner". We will never forget our church meeting down by the riverside.
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