My childhood is filled with wonderful memories of church. My parents took me to Wednesday night prayer meeting on the same day I was welcomed into their adoptive home with open arms . . . at three days of age! With the exception of a few years in which my mother battled physical sickness and depression, I don't ever recall a period in my life when the Freeman family failed to attend church services regularly. So, as you can imagine, I have many memories of church and, thankfully, most of those are fond ones.
The church I have attended all my life has always been music oriented. As a boy, I remember those old, yet timeless, convention songs like "Just a Little Talk with Jesus," "Heaven's Jubilee" and "I'll Fly Away." Under the direction of my dear friend, Bruce Dickard, we would "sing the Glory down!" If you came to my church and you couldn't sing, boy, were you in trouble! With a voice that could echo to Georgia and back, Bruce would rear back and "sang" from the heart. Man, was it good!
There was a lot of talent in our church back in those days, too. And children were encouraged to sing and take part in the worship services. Bruce used to snicker when, as a little fellow, I would make my way to the stage to accompany the other kids for a song. Having forsaken shoes perhaps twenty minutes earlier, I would pat one of my sock feet to the rhythm of whatever tune we were singing. Oh, and back then, we were also a shoutin' church. Sister Turner would walk the aisles, wave her hands and praise the Lord. No one looked shocked and appalled when someone worshipped with obvious emotion and zeal. And it wasn't uncommon for grown men to cry (tears of joy, nonetheless) when given the opportunity to testify about what God had done for them.
With the popularity of great southern gospel singing groups like the Happy Goodmans, the Bill Gaither Trio or The Lefevres, it wasn't unusual to see folks within the church form groups of their own and sing popular songs of the day. My mother, Edna Freeman, sang alto in one such group. The Redeemed Singers, as they called themselves, performed in our church and were frequently invited to sing at other churches for special song services, homecomings and revivals.
A number of occasions come to mind as I reminisce of their travels, but the funniest, to me, occured at our own Poplar Springs Baptist Church! One Sunday evening (at least 25 years ago) they were on stage, singing one of their favorite songs. The Holy Spirit wasn't the only thing abiding in our presence that night. An annoying fly had decided to attend the service, perhaps to see if he wanted to become a Baptist. Anyway, the Redeemed Singers came to the chorus of the song, and belted out in harmony, "I've come too far to look back . . . " And, at that point, Mom could do nothing but . . . gulp! That blame fly had gone so far down her throat, she couldn't cough him up. All she could do was swallow! Bless her heart.
And, to top it all off, that very night our good friends, Frances and Cecil Winkler (both of whom are now deceased), had just returned from Myrtle Beach, and they brought Mom and Dad the souvenir of all souvenirs. I swear I'm not making this up! The gift consisted of a little plastic green frog resting on a rock with a sign that read, "Whatever bugs you, eat it!"