The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Give Me That Old Time Religion

By Roger Stevens © 1989

Issue: January, 1989

Kim Chandler and Jeff Stevens.Kim Chandler and Jeff Stevens.The setting is that of a calendar or a greeting card; a white cinder block church with an old style steeple. A brick addition has been built on the back of the church, giving the overhead appearance of a large "T." Oak trees form a natural fortress around the church and parking lot. A white board fence set on the property line completes the setting.

No matter the compass reading, the panoramic view is the same - rolling hills and mountains. A few farm houses and barns are visible. It is quiet - it is serene. Town and city life seem far away.

The only abrupt sound is the bell in the steeple, cutting the silence for late-comers to hurry. The sound is pleasant as it races across the fields, down the hollows and echoes off the mountain sides.

The church is Saunders Grove Church of the Brethren, located in Bedford County, Virginia. The pastor is elderly, but young at heart, Fred Jordon.

What is found in the parking lot on Sunday morning? A few vehicles seem appropriate in the country setting. The fact is the parking lot is full of older, mid-priced luxurious automobiles. Not only is the congregation made up of country residents, a great number drive from the city and town to attend services.

Lower, middle, upper income and young and old families make up their congregation. It is an odd mixture. But just as cement, sand and gravel are different, when mixed; they form a hard granite slab. Rev. Jordon has troweled his congregation into a strong bond of love for one another.

People in need are aided whether they are church members, non-members or from other denomination. Business members of the church frequently send equipment, machinery and man power to other states when a community emergency arises.

L-R Berkley, Duane, Sherrard & Versal Stevens.L-R Berkley, Duane, Sherrard & Versal Stevens.In the winter baptizings take place in the church, but in the summer many prefer to be administered to in nearby Goose Creek. At the close of services you may find a business man with his arm around a simple mill worker, both seeking a closer walk and peace in their hearts.

A man is tying a horse to the white board fence. Hitched to the horse is a buggy. The man's attire consists of dark blue pants, held up by black suspenders, open collar white shirt, dark shoes and a black, wide brim hat. The man's wife is assisting two small girls out of the buggy. They are dressed in the same style, long gingham dresses that touch the ground and old time bonnets cover their heads; a scene from the 1800's? No, this theory is dispelled as a new sedan parks beside the horse and buggy. The man emerges from the automobile wearing a new pair of bib overalls, white shirt and tie and wing tip shoes. His wife gives the appearance of the 1940's era. The children's dress is of the 1950's and '60's. Both families laugh as they greet one another. They enter the church in silence.

This Sunday is known as "Old Fashion Sunday." It is observed annually the first Sunday in May. The dress code is wearing elaborate made costumes or the wearing of simple work clothes. The theme is not for show. It's a tribute to Christian forefathers whose mode of travel was the horse and buggy. Going to church wasn't a few minutes drive in an air-conditioned automobile, but often a several hour drive in hot and cold weather.

As the service starts, the organ and piano are silent. The choir proceeds quietly to the choir loft. Hymns are sung by request and are sung in beautiful harmony. The entire service is in quite reverence and a time of self examination. As the Spirit of God flows through the inner being, it washes it clean and the things of the world seem far away.

Versal and Ann Stevens.Versal and Ann Stevens.After the service, lunch is served on the grounds. The fellowship is filling both the soul and the physical body. In the afternoon a gospel sing is held in the church. Between songs, the children can be heard outside laughing and playing. Occasionally the ringing of a horseshoe can be heard striking the iron pin as some of the elderly engage in a game of horseshoes.

The day has ended and it's been nice to get out of the hustle and bustle of the world. Now a days it's easy for churches to move into the fast lane. Old fashion Sunday helps jar the members back into reality. It's good to know a peaceful nights sleep lies ahead. Lying in bed and just before slipping into unconsciousness, that old hymn fills the heart, "Give me that old time religion..."