Cotton mills were hot, dusty, noisy places. The men and women who worked in them worked hard with few breaks and with no company provided help. The amazing thing is that workers who were overworked themselves often helped other workers who had gotten behind. Somehow they were friends with their bosses. The children of the workers and those of the bosses went to school together, played together, dated each other and went to church together.
Sundays brought everyone together in the mill village church. Workers and bosses went to church together. They sat in the same pews and shared leadership positions. They sang in the choir together. There was no mill talk at church. The services, at least at the ones I knew, were upbeat – not in the sense of today’s contemporary worship style. They were positive and uplifting – no hellfire and damnation. Of course during the 1940s and 1950s there was a strong undergirding of patriotism. God was on our side. Congregational singing of the old hymns was robust.
These are the churches of my youth. These wonderful hard working people supported strong child and youth programs. They turned out anytime children or young people were on the program. They encouraged their children in every way possible. Education was important. They sent their pastors to continuing education training during the summer. Religious faculty members from the surrounding colleges were invited to speak or preach. The church and the school were the centers of everything.
In my book, Our Father: Discovering Family, I pay tribute to these churches. I grew up living between the Baptist church and the Methodist church. I truly didn’t know the differences between them until I arrived at college. I am indebted to Northside Baptist Church for giving me a great foundation and encouraging me to grow as a Christian. Our pastors became family friends and came for Sunday dinner. One, the Rev. J. L. McCluney, visited me when I was a student at Mars Hill College. When I came home on weekends are vacations I was always invited to teach Sunday school classes or called on to lead prayer in the worship service.
Our Father; Discovering Family, is published by Wipf and Stock. It is available at most book stores and at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.