3.289 meeting

Tuesday 09/27/2020

Well not much of a day. In the morning I went down to the gym and did the round of the machines. In the half hour before the writers meeting, I hastily wrote a four paragraph reminiscence which I will put in below.

At 2 I decided to go out and fuel up the car and get it washed, assuming I would be driving it to Eureka Thursday. But as I was pulling out of the garage, Jan, the guy I am traveling with to the music festival, pulled in, and stopped to talk and make plans. He drives a two-year-old Prius Prime and although he is a gentle-spoken soul, clearly would prefer to use it. So ok, why not. We will meet in the garage to depart, Thursday morning.

Later in the day I used Google maps to print a nice page showing all the convenient restaurants to our hotel in Eureka. Eureka has a whole lot of restaurants! Also the Festival sent out their final program including info on their shuttle service. There are nine venues for music and the shuttle will run to all of them every 20 minutes. The nice thing is, one of its stops is our hotel, the Best Western Humboldt Bay.

Here’s the thing I quickly wrote for the writers group. The theme we were to use was “Ceremonies or rites”. I don’t think I have the pastor’s name right.

Services at the Benston (Washington) Assembly of God church were usually pretty staid. Opening hymn, announcements, another hymn. Our pastor, brother Levin, would preach one of his soporific sermons. He had a rabbity manner and a thin, reedy voice. All I remember of his talks is his habitual phrase, “And so we find…” introducing some predictable and ponderous conclusion from a scriptural reference. Well, I was 12 or 13 during his tenure, and not a sophisticated literary critic. All I knew was, he was boring.

Then another hymn and a long closing prayer. When a few years later I was introduced to Catholic services I was very slightly miffed to find out that all their leaders’ prayers were pre-scripted and read from a book. Heck, at least the Pentacostals had to improvise their prayers.

Revivals were different. I can’t say how the pastor and the board of elders would decide it was time for the series of special services that comprise a revival; nor do I know how they found and booked the visiting preacher who would come in to lead these events. Maybe the Assemblies of God headquarters (in Springfield, Missouri) maintained a catalog from which you could order a revival preacher. All that was over my head as a quietly resentful teenager.

Revivals were deliberately exciting. More hymns, up-tempo ones like Power in the Blood. Louder praying before a sermon by a guy who was definitely not rabbity or reedy. The sermon would be emotional and designed to inspire guilt, to make you fear the after-life you were sliding toward in your willful disregard of your sinful nature, to make you feel as if you had profoundly disappointed the suffering Savior, that you had really hurt Jesus’ feelings by rejecting his generous call.

And then the Altar Call. If you aren’t saved, or if you aren’t “right with God”, if you want to ask his forgiveness and get “right with God”, if you need healing, if you are troubled in mind — come to the altar, kneel, let us pray with you. Five minutes or more of such continuous urgings and pleadings, the preacher’s voice rising above the congregation singing Only Believe or The Old Rugged Cross.

I was an annoying teenager; I could recognize a naked appeal to emotion and scorn it. Usually. But once or twice they got past my defenses. Once or twice I joined the handful of others who would “heed the call” and come down and kneel at the alter. And feel the preacher’s warm hand on my head, twitching as he called out “Jesus help this young man to know you! In the name of Jesus we call for your sins to be forgiven.” Look through my fingers folded in front of my face and know that the only thing I felt was deep embarrassment combined with guilt. Not salvation, not liberation. Just a great desire to get it over with.

To the best of my recollection my parents never followed up on this, never asked what I might have felt, or how I was changed, by my altar experience — for which I’m grateful. Life went on.

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