Our Neighborhood Church

…As a kid, church was a place where I got shushed. I remember walking through the doors every Sunday wearing an itchy, lacy dress with floral print and a decorative bib permanently affixed to the front. My shoes were small like me, black with straps, and they already made too much noise as I walked with Mom to our pew. Church smelled like dusty hymn books combined with the Wrigley’s peppermint gum my mom always brought with her to keep me distracted. Before the service officially started, the pews sounded like they were whispering as the women of the church quietly shared today’s neighborhood news with one another and speculated about tomorrow’s. Then the minister would go to the back of the church and pull a rope that hung from the ceiling. Each tug made the bell echo throughout the holler, letting the whole neighborhood know church was starting. Then the piano would start up with an unusually upbeat gospel hymn like “How Great His Glory.” I thought it was strange how the holy piano at church sounded just like the devil piano in the bars in my dad’s westerns. After the first song, everyone would pray, leaving their seats to get down on their knees, their face now inches from where their butt sat moments earlier. My mom didn’t do this part because she didn’t “profess” to be a christian which left me to wonder why we were there. After prayer, the preacher would preach – fire and brimstone if it was Brother Murray, a softer touch if I was older and we’d moved on to Brother Burden. His wife was rumored to have a severe mental illness, but we never talked about it…

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