Another tale from Valley View, Texas that will be in my next book.
Going To Church In Valley View
Growing up in Texas, the so-called buckle of the Bible belt, attending church on Sunday was a common thing to do. Being country folk by descent and fact we too went to worship on Sundays. When I was little we went to the Church of Christ on the northeast side of Valley View’s square in between Turner Grocery and the lumber yard.
What is the Church Of Christ you ask if you live outside of the south? The Church Of Christ is a fundamentalist denomination without a ruling hierarchy – each church rules itself – which believes in full baptism, uses no musical instruments in worship, and does not allow dancing, mixed swimming, or drinking alcohol. Our family broke those last three rules but that is another story for later on.
On Sundays we would drive up from Denton to worship there. During the drive up I-35 Mom would have us practice our weekly Bible verses we were supposed to memorize for Sunday School. We would arrive at the square and go inside. If we spent the night in Valley View on Saturday, which we did many times, we just drove up Lee Street to the church instead.
The church itself was not big at all. It was set up on a slab or pier and beam foundation with a set of steps leading up to its front door. The building sat southwest to northeast unlike the rest of the buildings on the square. It was kind of hard to miss and was the only church on the square although the Methodist Church was just a tad off of it. Like most of the buildings in town it was not fancy or uppity at all and built of brick and wood with a small, short white steeple at its door.
Sunday School was first and we went into a little room by the alter at the church’s back, or another one when we were older, and sat at a table to be taught The Word by some older lady or man. We would read verses or go over parables and learned what they meant in terms little kids could understand. We were in there with kids we knew from around town; even though we did not live there they were our friends and knew who we were. After church we played with them sometimes too.
When the sermon in the sanctuary began, so did my torture so to speak. It was not Hell on Earth but sitting in the pews and being still and quiet for an hour was trying to say the least – my thoughts were on lunch or playing with some of our cousins at our grandparent’s houses or one of the farms. We always sat in the back with my mom and her friend Betty who worked at the bank. The service was pretty structured and was almost always the same. Sing four songs before the sermon, hear the sermon, sing the invitation song for those seeking baptism, baptize someone if they accepted the invitation, say a prayer before the Lord’s Supper and offering, have the Lord’s Supper and offering, and then sing the closing song, hear announcements, and say a closing prayer. Then go home or to a relative’s for lunch. And get out of one’s suit and tie which was the usual attire in those days – no casual dress at church was allowed back then. And next week the cycle was repeated pretty much the same for years until we were older.
Nowadays I seldom, if ever, go to church for a variety of reasons. In fact none of us have attended the Church Of Christ since my high school days. In more recent years I went to Unity – not Unitarian – with Stephanie, which I wrote about in those two books. That denomination is completely opposite to the Church Of Christ in many ways but I liked it still. I did not agree with a lot of what they preached either, just as I did not agree with the Church Of Christ’s teachings many times, but it was a comfortable, spiritual place to hear The Word. And learn about many other things too. I guess no denomination is “perfect” for me since I’m a “Doubting Thomas” a lot of the time (remember that in the Bible?).
But even with doubt and coming to dislike the Church Of Christ I am still thankful for what it gave me, namely a sense of right and wrong and the fact there is something larger than just our own selves and lives. Plus the eternal truth of the Golden Rule which applies to so many things in life and work each and every day.
We could all do worse than hear The Word in a small country church and carry its lessons forward down life’s road to guide what we do every day that we live and love with those around us.