(The first in a series of reflections on the church of my boyhood)
The little clapboard sided Free Methodist church on Third Street in Estevan, Saskatchewan, served a small but devout congregation. My parents were a part of that body and my earliest memories take me back to that one-roomed church as a place of simple but serious worship.
One Sunday night when I was about five-years-old the service was dismissed and some people left. The minister called forward those who stayed behind in order to spend time in prayer around the altar. I remained in my seat about four rows back while my mother went forward to pray.
She knelt at the front seat next to the aisle. Mrs. Wartman, the minister’s wife, knelt next to her. Their backs were to the altar. As the people prayed, I went in tears to where my mother was kneeling. Mrs. Wartman saw the tears and said, “Oh, Donnie is tired. He wants to go home.” I immediately agreed with her comment, nodding that, “yes I was tired.”
But even as a five-year-old I knew that that was not the reason for the tears. As the people prayed earnestly, this gave my five-year-old heart a strange sense of awe. I believe it was my first time to sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in the prayers of a worshiping body.
While I recognize the greater simplicity of that era, and the plainness of those worshiper’s practices, it is worth asking if in much more cultivated churches today the worship of the people is equally influential in bringing home to little children their first experiences of the reality of the living presence of the Holy Spirit.
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