Sunday, November 01, 2009

Down To The River To Pray

Marlow, Alabama's historic Fish River ferryI have a unique experience to share, but I also wanted to give you some personal background before I do.

When I was 6 years old, I was scared to death by a “hell fire and brimstone” sermon by a Baptist preacher. Mother had taken me to church because Daddy was working lots of overtime in those World War II days at a big plant near Fort Worth, Texas, where Convair (now General Dynamics) was building big bomber airplanes. This time of my life is still very vivid to me as if it were yesterday.

Truly, I did not want to go to hell when I died, and I knew for sure I was a sinner. Even though Mother was more the churchgoer in those days, she relied on Daddy to tell me the story of Adam and Eve and how sin came into the world. Like I said, I knew I was a sinner condemned to hell.

I was not so sure I should make the decision to trust the sacrificial death of Jesus and his resurrection to save me from my sins, so I made a decision to try to be good for a year and then think about it again. Looking back on it now, I think it was a period when I became certain I could not be totally good on my own and had no choice but to accept Jesus to save me from my sins.

At the age of 7, I did just that, and I've felt saved from my sins ever since.

I tell you this story to make it clear that my family were Baptists, and I followed up that decision with being baptized by immersion (taken under the water in the church baptistry) and raised out of the water with the words of the pastor — raised to walk in newness of life. This was an act of obedience on my part, but I have no thoughts at all that this is what saved me. When I accepted Jesus, that second was when I knew I was saved.

I rocked along until 1959 after Wendell and I had been married before I became a Presbyterian. I knew I wanted to be something other than a Baptist, but I knew it would upset Mother, in particular, if I made the change so I didn't “rock the boat”.

Wendell had been brought up in the Methodist church, but neither of us felt very strongly about which denomination to choose for our church. Eventually, we chose to join a local Presbyterian church. From there on we joined Presbyterian churches until we moved to Meridian in 1978. There I joined the big Methodist church located downtown. When we moved to Jackson in 1981, I joined Wells UMC, and am technically still a member, despite moving from Jackson in 2007.

Marlow UMC

I've studied very little United Methodist doctrine and was surprised to learn that Marlow UMC, which I've been recently attending, has a history of baptizing people in the Fish River. Last Sunday I witnessed four people from one family baptized in the river.

Marlow UMC has an historic connection to the Fish River and has recently begun playing Down To The River To Pray as their opening music at Sunday morning services. You may recognize it from a 2000 film, but I think it's a very old song.

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