Let your imagination wander as we pretend to visit the little white church
about six miles east of Columbia on Route WW, the extension of East Broadway.
Olivet Christian Church was built 121 years ago by a group of friends who’d
been worshiping under trees in summer and in homes and schools during the
Members donated trees from their woodlots, sawed them into huge beams and
created crude mud sleds for dragging those beams several miles to the building
site. That was in 1874.
A small community called Harg, of which the Olivet Christian Church became the
hub, included a general store with a wonderful old grapevine over the open
porch. The store was also a distribution spot for mail. The neighborhood
smithy beat out horseshoes, sharpened plowshares and kept farm machinery in
Soon after Mom and Dad bought their farm in this community, Mom played the
pump organ for all of the church and community activities -- weddings and
funerals included. In those days, when parents went, the kids went along, and
when children were about half way through grade school they joined church by
professing their faith in Christ and being baptized. My brother joined in
1922, and I joined in 1923. Mom was the pianist at the time of her death. My
brother and I had graduated from college and were taking on leadership
responsibilities in church and community.
After marriage and family, our Nancy and Walt were also active in church and
community. Somewhere along the way, about 1960 I think, I jotted down the
notes that follow, after a typical Sunday worship service:
“In spring, it’s wasps and oat bugs. In summer, it’s women fanning restless
babies. In fall and winter, it’s a balky, smoky furnace and a gale whistling
under the baseboard in the choir corner.
“Today, we stepped over McHarg’s collie dog, which had stretched out on the
rug in the sun at the entrance to the sanctuary. A little late as usual, we
were in time to hear the congregation mispronouncing some Old Testament names
as they read responsively. A busy farm wife led a lively discussion about the
Sunday school lesson until, suddenly, about 50 noisy children came into the
room dropping and picking up their story leaflets. They took their places at
the front and became quiet.
“We sang and prayed and clapped for those who put birthday pennies in the jar
for the Orphan’s Home. Then came announcements, the benediction and then 10
minutes of BEDLAM! Men chatted about hog prices, garden progress and the
chances of rain. One fellow traded a bull calf to his friend for clover seed.
Three women planned the missionary society meeting, and others collected money
for a spray of flowers for a bereaved family. In a similar hubbub, 4-year-old
Walt tugged on my skirt and asked, ‘Isn’t ANYBODY listening?’
“The organist began the prelude, I took my place in the choir with the other
altos and shifted my chair so I could frown at Nancy or Walt, if needed. The
little children went to the playroom and one neighbor boy, dressed in a new
blue suit with white shirt and tie, sat alone in the front pew. Two smiling
sopranos slipped off their fashionable pointed-toe shoes and were noticeably
shorter as we stood to sing.”
McHarg’s dog roused and sauntered down the aisle as usual and plopped down on
the deep pile rug in front of the communion table. This reminded me of our own
fox terrier who disrupted the service, years ago, when he dashed down the
aisle to the music cabinet and treed a mouse that was inside. Dad rushed after
Fox but the minister said, “No, Mr. Meyers, let the little dog get that
mouse; it’s been destroying our music and Sunday school literature.” Fox did
his thing and trotted triumphantly back down the aisle with the wiggling,
squealing mouse between his jaws. The congregation sat back down, became
quiet, and the minister resumed his sermon as if nothing had happened.
McHarg’s collie yawned and dropped off to sleep. Memories flowed fast: the old
toll house with its chain across the road at the corner of the cemetery, the
horses at their hitching posts east of the church, the ornamental iron fencing
and gates, farmers paying their poll tax with a day’s work with mule teams and
gravel wagons. And so much more!
The clinking of coins in the wicker collection baskets startled me back to the
present. Soon the organist played the chord and we all stood to sing the
doxology. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.... ” The little boy on
the front row was keeping time with his pants zipper! Down, up, down, up ...
he didn’t miss a beat. There were a few anxious moments until we got the last
“Ho-ly Ghost.” Down, up, down, UP!
I wonder what the preacher had to say this morning?