Faith Southern Style remembered from growing up in a small town
By Nelson Weaver


Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM



Every journey down the memory lane of my generation includes numerous stops at a church. Churches were a center of activity and we were an active bunch.

I grew up just above the buckle of the Bible Belt. There is no official boundary. It is mostly the South and Midwest.

You know you are in the Bible Belt when you see the Ten Commandments on signs in front yards. The streets are quiet on Sunday mornings. And, If you stay very long, somebody will invite you to their church. Faith is an important part of life in the south.

My hometown of Russellville, Ky. had plenty of churches in the 60's. There was the usual group downtown. All were the first something or other. I thought they had a beautiful majestic quality.

Moving outward from the center of town, the numbers got higher or disappeared all together.

My family attended a church in a subdivision. The story goes that the legendary pastor known by everyone as Brother Joe, had talked the developer, J. M. Richards, into donating the land.
That story is probably true because few could ever say "No" to Brother Joe. Joe was a saint and a worthy subject for a book in his own right.

I can't remember how many doors were in Post Oak Baptist Church but if one of those doors opened, for any reason, in any weather, at any time of day or night, on any day of the week, sometimes every day of the week; my foot was inside that open door. That is a mild exaggeration with emphasis on the mild.

Many Sunday mornings my love for Jesus was not nearly as strong as my desire to stay in bed. Staying in bed was not going to happen on Sunday mornings at the Weaver house. We were going to church and that was that.

One cold Saturday night it was New Year's Eve. We had a big snow coming in. I was out with friends until late knowing that nothing would be moving in the morning.

After a few hours of sleep I was dragged out of bed. The roads were not drivable. Snow was boot deep and a snow plow was not expected for another 15 years. Through a fog of unwelcome sunlight and cranial pain, I heard my Dad make the fateful announcement. "We are walking to church!" I knew at that moment that I was being punished by God for some sin I could not clear my head enough to remember at the moment.

Yet I walked my dragging butt to church that morning in a procession that included my parents plus my two younger sisters, Martha and Janet. I suspected my sister Martha had seen my pain and was taking way too much joy in my misery. Like a wounded animal, I could only growl and hope any attack would be quick and merciful.

I was thankful for the numbing effect of cold air. I prayed every step of that fateful journey. I bargained with God and promised all manner of life adjustment. I was ready to be a missionary to Bongo Bongo in exchange for any relief that would get me through the next few hours.

Very few attended church that snowy New Year Sunday. A dear lady on my pew correctly diagnosed my condition and passed me an apple between hymns. I'm sure she now lives in a mansion somewhere in heaven.

A single house of God was not enough for our family. My father sang professional gospel. We would often travel with dad to other churches. One such Sunday evening we were in Nashville at a black church. It was downtown somewhere near a high overpass.

I was very young. I had not spent very much time around black people. I had spent enough time in church to think it unusual that a woman helped pass the collection plate. In those days women didn't do that in the white Baptist churches.

The entire congregation was singing and clapping and moving to the music as the offering plates passed through the pews. I am grooving to this sound but feeling very small. Suddenly the plate and the woman arrived at my pew. She let out a holler and started singing like something I had never heard before.

The shock of it made me jump, shook me to my bones and I almost peed my pants.

That lovely lady had the most beautiful vocal instrument. I have heard a lot of good gospel music in my life but I have never to this day experienced an entire congregation who could sing like what I heard that night. There was truly a spirit of God in that church and in the voices who sang and moved to the music. It sent chills down my spine and rocked the very walls and foundation of the building.

Ask anybody, I am not a very good person. I'm a little better than I was but progress has been slow. It's just a fact that more people go to church in the South. We don't go to church because we are good people. We go because the church is central to our culture. It is like our family. Faith brings us together under a common roof. It supports us during hard times and celebrates with us during good times. And we love the music!

Talking religion can sometimes get a discussion going or an argument started. Arguments never come to blows or hard feelings. It just wouldn't be right to hold a grudge.

The fact is that church people are as diverse as any group in America. We approach God from many different directions. Like any family, we seldom unite unless a sibling is threatened.

Faith was central to my raisin’! You may, however, be from somewhere up North or the West coast You may not understand anything I am talking about. If that is the case then come on down and visit for a spell. We promise to make you welcome and "God bless your little heart."

After growing up as a child of the 50s and a teen of the 60s in Russellville, Nelson graduated from the University of Alabama and is a successful businessman in Princeton, Ky.







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