Swinging churches

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 4, 2003

Surprising title? As an old Broadway comedian used to say, &uot;You ain’t seen nothing yet.&uot; (The horrible grammar is his, not mine!)

These are stories of two churches – two denominations – and the noisy, wonderful ways they celebrate the Lord.

A few years ago, I wrote about my church, St. Mary’s, having a three-night mission to preach and remind one and all about the sins (isn’t it always sins?) they committed.(You know, of course, I wasn’t the sinner referred to – I was only a guest of a friend.)

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From New Jersey came Father Michael Murphy, a nice Irish lad. Now, as everyone knows Catholic services are quiet and dignified services, with a hymn now and then providing the noise. I guess Father Michael wasn’t told this.

In the manner of the old time revivals, he came with a voice that would shatter windows for miles. So he wanted noise. We were to shout, clap, wave arms and still be pious (a mission night is quiet, peaceful and prayerful.) This too evidently wasn’t quite impressed upon Father Michael, who also happened to be blind.

While he couldn’t see the parishioners, he sure could hear them and he urged them to be louder. And louder we were. We probably burst God’s eardrums. That tiny church swayed and God smiled. (Probably rubbed his ears too.) St. Mary’s never had such a mission.

Church No. 2 is Wilroy Baptist. Again, a friend took me – and since this is the third time she took me, I guess they want me. Sorry Wilroy, I love you but you can’t have me. Irish mother and father would rise up from their graves, push everyone aside and say, &uot;No way, Baptists. She’s just visiting. Such a nice place you’ve got there.&uot;

Anyway, Wilroy was swinging that night. This was scheduled as a concert. When the chorus of about 130 men and women garbed in red vests, front all-red sequins, began a spirited rendition of ‘Send it Down,’ that church swayed and swung and the music poured over you. What a sensation. A beautiful, glorious sensation it was.

Other songs followed, all arm-raising and clap-provoking. The audience followed all movements and if they knew the words, sang along. Every selection was spirited, moving and loud. The clapping and foot tapping could have weakened the foundation but happiness and love was everywhere.

So you have a Catholic and a Baptist church vying for first place in noise. Both tried for the honor. It was loud and beautiful.

I have two ways to go. What a choice!

Florence Arena is a resident at Hillcrest Retirement Center and a regular News-Herald columnist.