Tail of the Weak 4.8
Updated: Jan 27
Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.
I was raised predominantly a Methodist, but I have traveled so much, mixed with so many people in all parts of the world, I dont know just what I am. I know I have never been a non-believer. But I can honestly tell you that I don't think that any one religion is the religion.
There's an abundance of religions around the world—and who's to say which is righter or which is wronger. That kinda stuff leads to fire and sword—and who needs that?
In Mark Twain, A Biography, the famous writer said, “So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: ''Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is.'' Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it.”
In our country alone, the five largest denominations—Catholic, Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Church of God in Christ—have a combined total of 103 million members. That's a lot of soul salvations. Christianity is the most-popular religion in the U.S. and almost half of Americans are Protestants.
My mama's folks, Everett and Leila Strickland Carter, used to attend Mars Hill Primitive Baptist Church outside Hoboken, Georgia. We would go to their Yearly Meetings every now and then; and, I still recall the musty smell of the Sacred Harp songbooks, the plaintive singing comin' out of the mouths of them old folks—with no musical accompaniment—and in the wooden floors were spit holes, for the men to render their chewing tobacco out their mouths and into the devil's eye.
Beginning at an early age, I was raised up in that most-popular Protestant religion, the Southern Baptist Convention. We attended services at Calvary Baptist Church in Waycross, Georgia, along with many of my cousins and kin.
Back in the Fifties, they used to raise the windows during summertime and offer little cardboard funeral company fans to the bigger ladies in hats. I remember using them to bat at flies, who I suppose were only there to get a little spirituality themselves.
When my family wasn't stationed overseas or elsewhere, we were always in attendance at Calvary. My earliest memory is flipping off the arm of the pew and busting my head on the floor. It stopped short the sermon for a minute and surely the devil must've been behind it.
Good times were plentiful during homecoming with dinner on the ground, complete with our pastor, Howard Grimes's favorite dessert—chocolate cake. One thing I surely learned in all my churchgoings is that Southern Baptist ladies sho can fix food.
Vacation Bible School was a rite of passage. Most-memorable to me were those oatmeal cookies and red Kool-Aid mixed with a Bible story involving Zacchaeus, who we'd wave our forefinger at and implore to “come down from that tree” in song.
I was baptized there in 1964 underneath the big mural of the Jordan River, which looked like it was running right down into the cold, baptismal pool below. Through the years, my Sunday School and Training Union classes were filled with friends,
relatives, and schoolmates —Paul and Ronnie Beverly, Eulin and Robert Gibbs, J.W. Mock, Marvin Haynes, Gary Mancil, Terry Wildes Varnadore, Kathy Haynes Gilmer, Larry Wildes, and Ronny Lynn. Every once in a great while, my Uncle Rufus Thrift would be in the pulpit doin' some lay preaching when our regular pastor was unavailable. It was kinda like a vacation from the same old sermons regularly dispensed and fairly exciting hearing my own kinfolk talkin' about the wages of sin.
Upon graduation from high school, we seniors were presented with little Bibles ceremoniously embossed with our names on the cover. I'm proud to say that I still have mine—wrapped up in that little gift box from Rev. Vernon Vaughan—still unopened and never read to this day. Verily and surely, I just jest—I figured that'd get a rise out of the Amen Corner.
Getting to the church and coming back home was memorable as well. The ritual would begin on Saturday evening—reading the Sunday School lesson for the next day and shining shoes. Sunday mornings were a little chaotic, with an older brother and younger sister; but, we made it, inspired by the sound of the Happy Goodmans singing “Jubilee” on the TV.
Heading home after the morning services, Daddy would always stop at Settle's Sundries to pick up the Sunday paper. I'd immediately grab the funnies to catch up on the latest drama involving the Phantom and his white stallion, Hero—then skip past Brenda Starr and Steve Canyon to check out Bill Keane's The Family Circus.
As we were getting ready on Sunday morning, the divine aroma of Mama's roast in the oven would have me wanting to skip the service. By the next-to-last verse of the standard Calvary Baptist invitational hymn, “Just As I Am”, it was the only thing on my mind—besides ridding my soul of one dark blot. Did I mention that Southern Baptist women know their way in and around the kitchen? Lord, it was good!
Returning home following Training Union on Sunday evenings—when my prayers were answered—Daddy would stop at Southside BBQ, a curb service joint on Reynolds Street.
The lovely attendant would bring out a tray, hang it on Daddy's rolled-down window, and place several Nehi Strawberry sodas and a brown sackful of hot, flat barbecue sandwiches that smelled as if they might've been sent down from Heaven.
I expect if we could all commune around a meal like that, there wouldn't ever be another war over religious indifferences. Amen?
9th Annual Swamptown Getdown Music and Arts Festival
March 15-16 : Okefenokee Fairgrounds : Waycross, Georgia
For Early Bird Weekend Passes:
Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin
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