Welcome to another Southern Sunday…a collection of wonderful memories written by Alle Wells, author of Railroad Man, Lame Excuses and Leaving Serenity as well as countless short stories. You can find Alle here every Sunday and you might also want to stop by her website and say hi –  But now that you’re here just pour yourself another cup of coffee and enjoy Alle’s story of Singing in Church.

   THE FIFTH SUNDAY by Alle Wells

September is one of my favorite months of the year. It’s a month filled with memories of attending church homecomings and fifth Sunday singings.

A small Methodist church shaded by the white southern pines formed my first impression of religion. Temporary tables made of plywood laid out on sawhorses and covered with white linen cloths for fifth Sunday dinners are imbedded in my heart. The people in my first church made me feel loved and accepted because I was born into their church family. I never remember a cloudy or rainy fifth Sunday in that special place.

After a rowdy Sunday school hour where no one was perfect, all of the children sat on the front row in the small sanctuary. Our Sunday school teacher prompted us as we sang, “Jesus Loves Me.” Then, each one of us took turns to say our piece. Saying a piece meant reciting a verse that each one of us had chosen from the Bible. Parents and grandparents cooled themselves with hand fans from the Shady Grove Funeral Home. They waited anxiously to hear their perfectly dressed little darlings recite what they had learned.

One by one, bashful and determined, we walked to the aisle that separated the two rows of pews. With carefully folded hands and noses pointed toward the red-carpeted floor, we recited in inaudible tones. “Jesuswep,” “Jesus-swept,” “Jesusweep,” or “Jesuswelp” and then scurried back to the safety of the front row. I never remember being reprimanded for the lackluster performances we gave every fifth Sunday. Everyone just smiled politely, told us how cute we were, and enjoyed a wonderful outdoor lunch of delicious casseroles, cakes, and pies.

Whether you’re a kid or an adult, the nice thing about making a fool of yourself in church is that nobody laughs or boos. A few years ago, I attended a small church that needed a pianist for fifth Sunday singing. The minister asked me if I’d fill in. I told her that I’d try as long as the selection remained in the key of C. I could play “Bringing in the Sheaves” really well and bang out a mediocre “This Little Light of Mine.” She said not to worry, that if I got stuck, to just go back to playing “Bringing in the Sheaves.” The entire episode was a disaster. Nobody wanted to bring in the sheaves or let their little light shine. They wanted to “Rescue the Perishing” with three sharps, and fill their every longing with “There’s Within My Heart a Melody” (four flats). When I played “Rescue the Perishing,” I don’t know who needed rescuing more, me or the congregation. And I’m certain that no one wanted to keep singing as I played “There’s Within My Heart a Melody.”

Afterward, everyone smiled sweetly and thanked me for helping out. Yes, church is a comforting place. It’s a place where everyone loves you and accepts you. It’s a place where you can screw up royally and still be treated like royalty.

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