Little Church On The Corner
Author: Bruce Cook
Though today my family and I are members of and attend the Brooke Hills Free Methodist Church, I often let my mind drift back to remember our little church on the corner of Pleasant Avenue and Rabbit Hill Road. My association with the church goes back to 1927 before I was born, when my mother was attending while she was pregnant with me.
As I was growing up I remember how I never wanted to miss a Sunday school class. We always had an opening exercise before going to our classes to study our lesson. We would read the lesson our scripture verse and learn to sing choruses. Classes were crowded and taught by people that were surely dedicated to the task. Classes were held all around and in the Sanctuary, as well as upstairs and in the balcony. Later on some classes were held in the basement.
During my younger years our Sunday school classes were in the front part of the sanctuary and the men’s class was up in the balcony that was open and over looked the sanctuary. Dads would be able to see your every move, so behaving was a must or there would be certain consequences to pay. We were taught to respect the church, its contents and elderly people. Times were lean then and giving to the Sunday school collection by each individual would range from 0 to 15 cents or once in a while 25 cents. Men, women, boys and girls had their own Sunday school classes. Besides our regular church members there would be people who didn’t attend church that would send their children to our Sunday school, vacation bible school or even church for Christian teaching and learning. Some children would bring their friends with them, and for vacation bible school the sanctuary would be nearly full of children.
As a high school student I liked to attend the men’s class led by brother Rex Ross and they allowed me to do so. In those days the elder men and women had their own class that later combined and became the adult Berean class. I enjoyed listening to the interaction and discussions among the men. Listening and learning at each class.
Some people referred to us as Holy Rollers, but when sickness or tragedy would afflict them they would ask for the church to pray for them. We would have class meetings at different people’s homes, and at times other class activities such as picnics and playing ball. I remember going out Cross Creek for some of these events, once badly spraining my ankle.
There weren’t many cars, so a lot of people had to walk to each service as we did in snow, rain or shine. Our air conditioning consisted of opening all of the windows on the sides and end of the church to catch any breeze that might come down the hollow. Some people going past knew we were having church and would rev or race their motors to make loud noises as they drove by for a kind of harassment.
Our church had a large bell that was rung for each service by pulling on a rope to warn people that it was time for church. The bell could be heard all over the fourth ward and maybe further.
We had no musical instruments at first and Sister Ross used a pitch pipe to get us started off on the right key and led the singing. Later an organ was purchased. When our daughter was small, they asked us if we had ever thought about her taking lessons so we would have a piano player, so at about the age of ten she started taking piano lessons.
During the service and sometimes during the singing before the service started, you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. Have you ever felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in such a way that you just felt weightless, that the air around you is heavy and full with his presence, and that nothing else exists? It’s hard to explain but I felt it this way at times in our little church on the corner. You could just feel that someone would be going to the alter to seek the Lord, and someone usually did.
People would become blessed, and walk or run up and down the aisle, or some would just stand with their arms in the air, all of them shouting and praising God in their own way. As a child I would sit close to my dad in church because it kind of frightened me when they would be crying and shouting praises to the Lord, until I understood it. I saw people walk or run, falling at the alter seeking the Lord and forgiveness and later witnessing about it. You just knew by their actions and witnessing that they were saved. Amens would come from all over the church during sermons and revivals, some verbally expressing that this was good preaching. The people carried a heavy burden for the unsaved and would invite them to come to the alter and pray. Some didn’t like it but they had to make a choice. When we prayed we would kneel or bow our heads if unable to kneel.
To become an adult member of the church you were on probation for a period of time before being accepted into their membership as a brother or sister. As one of our long time church leaders said one evening, everyone used to refer to each other as Brother or Sister, and he missed this. Aren’t we all brothers and Sisters in Christ?
Those that didn’t attend our church thought that we were different or a strange denomination of people. We were, because we were a Free Methodist Church. Brother Jackson often told me during choir how he wished that he could go back once again to that time and hear the old saints witnessing and praising God like they used to in that little old church on the corner.
I, more than anyone, should never have fallen to sin for a period of time in my young life like I did. But had it not been for the old Saints planting spiritual seeds in my heart and mind, and that little old lighthouse on the corner, where would this old ship be? Some of those old Saints never lived to see their harvest in me and as a result my wife, my children, and my grandchildren.
When I was twelve or thirteen we moved out Bethany Pike and left the fourth ward for about three years. I tried going to other churches for a while with neighbors and school friends. I tried attending the Methodist, Presbyterian, Nazarene and the Church of God. But my heart was always back at that little church on the corner. So I decided to walk into Glasses Garage on second street where the Aladdin sign business is now located and catch the bus for five cents, and get off at Young’s Grocery Store across from the little church on the corner. I continued to attend the Church of God on Bethany Pike on Sunday evenings.
I remember that most women’s apparel included the wearing of hats and dresses. And preachers didn’t need microphones for congregations to be able to hear them, nor did they wear ties or jewelry. I also remember at Christmas time in the early years that everyone got a box of Christmas mix candy with a couple of chocolate drops in each one. Today that doesn’t seem like much of anything and some people would laugh about it. But it meant a lot to us in those days and times as young people. To some that was their only Christmas candy. Special events like a Christmas or Easter Cantatas led by Sister Campbell would fill the church. I remember going up to watch my dad working on the WPA and digging the basement under the church with pick, shovel and wheelbarrow. I remember when a small group from the Avella church merged with our Wellsburg church and added to our congregation a number of dedicated Christians.
Years went by and one evening I remember a small group of us meeting in the upper left hand pews of the church, to decide whether to purchase property on Washington Pike for the purpose of building a new church, and reaching new people. The question was raised as to whether we could afford it. But I remember Brother Yaussy saying that we couldn’t afford not to. Thus the Wellsburg Free Methodist church moved to Washington Pike. Later, Follansbee and Wellsburg merged and became the Brooke Hills Free Methodist Church.
Our new church of twenty some years has grown in numbers, facilities and programs, but where is the fire, compassion, zeal, dedication and passion for God and the unsaved that our ancestors had? The congregations of today are different, more laid back with little show of emotion. Most wanting a contemporary type of service, and that’s okay as long as we worship and serve God. But why have gray areas now become white or okay areas? Am I just too old to understand today’s ways? Have I lived past my time? Does God’s word change? I think not, but you see I was raised in that Little Old Church on the corner, and sometimes in my heart and mind I like to return there if only for a little while.
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