Sunday, March 27, 2011

That Old Church

After too long an absence, here is another photo taken and story written by my brother, Jim King. It comes from his book, Abandoned Arkansas. His notes on the photo follow the story.

Copyright 2008, from Abandoned Arkansas, by Jim King

That Old Church

Oh, yes, Lord. I know that church.
You’ve seen it? Now what would possess you to stop and look at it? It’s almost falling down. You took pictures of it? Land sakes.
I figure nobody even sees it nowadays. It’s almost been swallowed by the earth by now.
Now, mind you, we had some mighty good times inside. There was a big congregation there about fifty years ago, and if you passed on a Wednesday night, you’d know how big it was from the sound of the choir practicing. Oh, I really enjoyed those choir practices; they were far better than the actual Sunday choirs. I declare that anybody who left that building after practice was smiling and joking and full of God’s laughter.
You know that God laughs, don’t you, young man? Lord, he does it all the time. It’s how he copes with us.
My Daddy helped to build that church back in the teens, and I guess I never expected it would ever be empty.
But times change. I don’t think God does, but people sure do.
After Brother Benjamin passed, there was no one to fill the void. He had helped build that church, and anyone who came after was just tryin’ to hoe a dry row, if you get my meaning.

Oh, there were sparks, and a few of the preachers lit a bit of a fire. Especially Brother Meaning. That was back in the sixties, when we all listened better than now.
But the generations that started it all died out about the same time, and their kids - I’m one, you know - kept up the vision. But times change, and the congregation did, too. We all got a little older, and most of us got more cynical.
It’s got hard for most people to believe in anything anymore.
When I started going there, the pews were filled an hour before the sermon began, and it was standing room only in the nave. Then people began to pass on, and it was very few of their kids that came in behind.
I watched as the congregation shrank, and it just made my heart cry. Others felt the same way, but there were just too few of us to make a difference.
I don’t remember the name of the last pastor; he wasn’t there for more than a few months. But he was the one who told us the doors would be closing in three weeks. Three weeks!
I know there were only four of us, but you shouldn’t do your congregation that way. Visiting preacher or no.
We never went back after that. And look at our church now.
God is in your heart, young man. And if he isn’t, there’s not a grand cathedral or tabernacle that can put him there.

He’s here in this room with us right now.
What’s more, he’s in that old church still.
Go there. You’ll see.

from Jim's notes:
Many of my friends have chided me for this story.
“How can you write a story of a church from a Christian point of view when you’re an atheist?”
Just because I don’t believe in God doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate points of view from those that do.
I’d like to think others would do the same for me.
It’s one of my favorite stories. I had no idea what I would write as I started, hoping inspiration would come during the process. In fact, I had no intention of using the picture at all, as I had many more abandoned churches with more, uh, picturesqueness. But the story flowed, and I can’t deny there was some influence from outside.
It’s called a muse.
The church is in Phillips County.


R Butler said...

For a man than does not believe you shure do talk about GOD alot! This is a great story and just remember just because you do not believe in GOD he believes in you and can use you to do his will. GOD bless you for this story!

Jay said...

I will pass your comment on to my brother. I appreciate your input.

Abandoned Arkansas said...

Hey I am with a team that loves documenting not only abandoned churches, but also everything abandoned! Where in Phillips county is this? I would love to make a post about this church! My email is would love to hear from you! And of course I will give credit on the post to you guys! Thanks,