Back in the seventies (I never thought I’d begin a sentence like that), churches were for the most part very traditional, unlike today’s churches which feature live bands, and contemporary Christian music, and lots of things that are unique to today’s church experiences. Okay, back in the seventies (it was lots of fun to say that so I needed to type it again), I was a member of a youth group at a nearby Methodist church.
I lived in the south (Dallas) and things were different back then. There was still segregation, but not the type mandated by the government. Businesses were mixed, but neighborhoods and churches, not so much. The church I attended was rather small and very welcoming, and while there were a few black families, it was attended primarily by whites and Latinos.
About two or three miles north of this church was another Methodist church, attended mainly by black families. Leadership at our two churches decided it would be beneficial for both churches to team up in order to expand parishioners’ horizons. For several weeks we would do things together. It was an excellent plan and I think everyone, from both churches, learned a lot about love, faith and how we are all simply human and not a color.
The first Sunday, a handful of visiting black parishioners attended my church. I loved it when one of the women seated near me raised her hands and arms, then cried out, “Hallelujah!” at something the minister said.
This was a new concept to our church. Mostly until then, people may have bobbed their heads in approval, but there was no waving or shouting. The idea of Spirit being so intense as to induce a verbal salute was novel to most of us. And I, for one, truly loved it.
What a joyful cry!
The following Sunday it was our church’s turn to attend the sermon at the other church.
Their service was like going to a party! People stood and danced during the hymns (traditional songs, played on the organ). They cried out their happiness and their approvals with Hallelujahs and Amens.
That Sunday service was profoundly beautiful and the experience has remained with me ever since. It gave new meaning to the verse from Psalm 100: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”
The teaming up ended all too soon, but from then on, when I feel the depth of the Holy Spirit on me, I’m stirred to cry out, “Hallelujah!”