One of William Thornton’s posts prompted me to think about Southern Baptist practices of the past. I’m 69 years old, and I grew up in Southern Baptist churches. So, I remember lots of things that may seem quaint to our younger readers. Other old codgers (like William and Dave) may want to add to my list.
Hymns and hymnals. In the old days we did not have LCD projectors, and no one knew anything about PowerPoint, so we sang hymns from the hymnal. Typically, we sang three hymns on Sunday morning, not counting the invitation hymn. The only time we sang a chorus in worship was during a revival meeting. Often, we had a theme chorus that we’d sing at each revival service.
Doxology. Every Sunday morning we sang the doxology after the offering had been taken. I kind of miss doing that. It’s good to be reminded that all our blessings come from God.
Organs. No, not heart and lungs—a musical instrument that was played during worship services. Wealthy churches had pipe organs, and most other churches had an electric organ. Even small churches used a small Hammond organ. Not many churches use one now. I’ve heard it’s hard to find an organist.
Responsive Readings. In the back of the hymnal you could find many responsive readings. These were passages of Scripture, divided into verses read by the leader and verses read by the congregation. I miss these, too; responsive readings involved everyone in reading the Bible aloud. Surely, that is a good thing.
Revivals. When I was a boy, most Southern Baptist churches held a fall revival and a spring revival. At first these were two weeks long and later one week long. Now, they are usually a weekend meeting or even a one-day event. Many churches also sponsored a summer youth revival, and there were young evangelists who became famous for preaching in these youth revivals.
Training Union. On Sunday evening, before the Sunday night worship service, we attended Training Union, which was a church program intended to disciple new believers, train leaders, and teach Bible doctrine. Typically, each participant had “a part” to read to the group.
M-Night. M-Night was short for Mobilization Night. Baptist associations sponsored these rallies in in September, before the new church year began in October. These were like pep rallies and informational meetings to promote Training Union.
Women’s Missionary Union (WMU). The WMU was an organization for SBC women, and they promoted missions education, prayer for missions, and giving to missions. They sponsored the Week of Prayer for Foreign Missions every December and the week of prayer for Home Missions every Easter. Of course, they also encouraged the church members to give generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions and the Annie Armstrong Offering for Home Missions. They taught missions to little children in Sunbeams and to girls in the Girls Auxiliary (GAs). Every year our church would have a GA coronation service to honor the girls who had earned recognition. One year Mary Alice was crowned “Queen Regent with Scepter.” Of course the WMU still exists, but its numbers have steadily declined in recent years. Our SBC churches miss the missions emphasis provided by the WMU.
World Missions Conferences. When I was a young missionary, while on furlough I was required to speak in a certain number of World Missions Conferences. These were 8-day (Sunday through Sunday) conferences that were sponsored by local Baptist associations. Foreign missionaries, home missionaries, and state missionaries would go to the association, and we would speak in a different church each night and on two Sunday mornings. I would preach on missions on the two Sunday mornings. Every night I would lug my Kodak Ectographic slide projector to another church and show my 2 by 2 slides and tell the folks about our ministry in the Philippines. At one church a man came up to me after the meeting and said, “Usually, these missionary talks are really boring, but yours wasn’t half bad.” I believe that is called faint praise. Very few associations sponsor these events any more. I’ve been told that our folks will not attend them these days. That makes me sad.
Dressing Up. In by-gone days we wore our “Sunday best” to church. Men wore suits and ties, and women wore hats and gloves (when I was really young). Now, folks dress more casually, and that does not bother me, though it seems some people take it too far.
Well, what are your memories, precious and otherwise?