This Sunday morning I made it a point to get up and shave and get dressed and drive into town to the Little River Primitive Baptist Church next to CJ Hardware. It being my 35th year in the mountains birthday and the first year of Jr's death date. I don't usually celebrate dates, but sometimes feel like it. It only gets done when I feel the need. Keeps it real. This way it's not for its own sake, but for the sake of the reason why. I hadn't been to a meeting in 2 years, mainly because I haven't felt like it, meaning on Saturday I decide I'd like to go, then Sunday morning don't feel like it. I allow myself not to go to church. The overkill duress from childhood made my adult years independent of other people's expectations where my relationship with God is concerned.
I actually don't believe church is the Way. What I believe is what I live, that my path is everyday life, every moment of every day, the ongoing now. I call every day my pilgrim way. A good church meeting is an oasis, a respite from the world of commerce and the superficial, the world that circles money the way planets circle the sun. In a Primitive Baptist church house, the value of one's assets has no relevance. No collection plate is passed or even available. It's absolutely not about money. The house is plain and simple, more than likely built by members, It's beautiful inside. No decorations. White walls, plain windows, vertical wood panels of knotty pine behind the pulpit, nicely carpeted, well kept. No gold, no finery, no attention called to anyplace but the pulpit.
It felt refreshing, like I said, an oasis, to be sitting among and shaking hands with every one in there twice, beginning and end, and all of them lovers of God. It's such a better feeling than at a chamber of commerce meeting. Those kinds of meetings bore the life out of me. A meeting with lovers of God praising God in song together and hearing some mindful preaching uplifts the spirit incredibly. The preachers don't get "het up" (heated up) like they did in the old-time way. I miss that preaching as I'm sure about everyone in the church house does too. They recognized that kind of preaching is of another time, another Age, even another consciousness.
The preachers "talk" now. When a preacher really got going, successfully bypassing his mind, and tears of joy were flowing throughout the house, the preacher a mere vessel for what is coming through, is what's called "preaching." Then there are the ones that "try to preach," the ones that get up and hop around and whoop and holler and nobody feels a thing. People start talking to whoever is sitting next to them. Then there was just plain talking, no attempt to get into "the spirit," good sense talking on a theme in the Bible. Last was "trying to talk," meaning he didn't get anything said, just ran his mouth. The preachers now are doing what was called talking in the old-time way. They are Bible scholars in the very real sense, driven by their own desire to know more, the way a mountain musician is driven all his life to get better every day. The need to study comes from inside the man. It's not dictated from outside.
The way they preach now sets the mind to thinking about something worth thinking about that draws the mind into it. I find I follow them parallel with the thoughts they inspire, which often go hand in hand. The old-time way actually preceded the Age of Reason. Reason has spread even into the mountains by now. So the preaching is more for the mind than for that spiritual feeling that makes you shout. It's about thinking over questions that are important in this life. By the time the preaching is over, my mind has been guided through some very interesting thoughts loaded with valuable insights. The songs are what the Primitive Baptist Church is about for me, each one a very well considered sermon full of thought worth thinking about. The singing is slow, one word at a time. The nature of the singing requires that one pay attention to what is being said. I see them as poems put to song from before the modern period. To my ear, they are all beautiful in the meaning and in the singing.
I had my own personal moment where I found meaning to something I'd been searching for a whole lot of years. It concerns seeing the people one is in association with in whatever ways at any moment of the day, seeing them as myself. I've never been able to get ahold of that. Then this morning I looked around at the full house and thought: if these people are a mirror image of myself, then I can only feel satisfied that I have become who I have become by this time in the life. One of the great universal laws is that we ally ourselves with like-minded people. Birds of a feather flock together. I can see my own character in the character of people I feel closest to. I can see my own love for God in company with other lovers of God. It feels so much better than being among lovers of money or lovers of pop glitz or lovers of self. It is the comfort of grandma's arms to a little boy, a place where you want to settle down and stay awhile.