Backwoods Baptist Church
Order of Service
Typical Sunday, 1950s
Call to Worship Reverend Jones
“On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand” P. 156
Bible Verses Reverend Jones
“There is Power in the Blood” P. 232
“Beneath the Cross of Jesus” P. 311
Offertory Prayer Reverend Jones
Offertory “Great is Thy Faithfulness” Organ and Piano Duet
Special Music To Be Announced
The Sermon Reverend Jones
Invitation “Just As I Am” P. 268
Benediction Reverend Jones
The congregational singing was enthusiastically lusty in the hymn singing led by the male member of the church who had the loudest voice in the days before “paid” ministers of music performed that job. In my Southern Baptist Church in the backwoods of rural southeast Texas, that man was my daddy. He led the singing with gusto and could carry a tune with the best of them. No hand waving was necessary for him. He just reared back and sang, and the sixty or so people in the little church sang with him.
Reverend Jones was always sincere in his prayers but took way too much time in his sermons so I busied myself with unwrapping pieces of Wrigley’s Spearmint or Doublemint Chewing Gum that my grandmother wisely provided for me. I can still smell those gum aromas today and never see the white or green wrappers without thinking of Reverend Jones’s distaste for sin.
My mom played the piano or organ while my dad led the singing, so the preparation for the music on Sunday morning and evening was a major part of our lives. Some people might say my family provided the entertainment portion of the church services every Sunday, and Reverend Jones was the spiritual provider. I’d probably say just the opposite.
The highlight of every service was the Special Music. Whatever restlessness and whispers and other noises in the pews that took place in the early part of the service were quieted by the Offertory instrumental music. When my mom hit the last note of that song – whatever it was – a hush took over the sanctuary and everyone waited in suspense for the solo or duet or trio or quartet that sang the Special Music that would set the stage for the sermon. It was great theater, like the finale in a musical before the final curtain falls.
Since my mom accompanied whoever sang, she practiced with them on Wednesday nights after prayer meeting and Daddy and I had to stay late to wait for her. It was like we belonged to a special club that held a regular meeting on Wednesday nights, but instead of a secret handshake, we knew a secret song. I loved those practice times and all the people who sang.
My favorite, though – and everyone has a different favorite – was the quartet singing. The quartets were sometimes mixed with two women and two men and sometimes were all men. “Just a Little Talk with Jesus” was a toe-tapping hand-clapping rousing harmony that made me want to jump with joy while “Sweet Beulah Land” was a haunting melody that evoked powerful images of sadness and loss. Sopranos, altos, tenors and basses…we had them all on Wednesday nights.
My daddy led the singing for many years in the next larger church they belonged to when we moved, but he retired from that volunteer position when the church hired a minister of music. Luckily, he was happy singing in the choir after that.
My mother played the piano and/or organ for sixty-five years in the churches she belonged to and saw ministers of music come and go while she kept playing the beautiful Offertories and accompanying the Special Music. She was never happier than when I enrolled in a Southern Baptist Seminary to study church music and then became a minister of music in my adult years. She loved to play for me when I visited her church and often asked me to become the Special Music for her church on Sunday. We practiced on Wednesday night.
My church-going days ended more than thirty years ago and most of my musical family is gone with them, but I still remember them and the little church where we sang with great love and true affection. Talk about special – with my apologies to Jesus, I’d much rather be able to sit down and have a little talk with them tonight.