The Overseers

The Church Of My Youth

A while back, when in Pensacola, I visited an old friend. We first met in 1971 where we were attending Pensacola Christian High School, forming a bond which has lasted ever since. We laughed and shook our heads as we both sparked each others memories of the days of our youth. We wondered how we had survived the foolish things we had done when we waged war against ourselves, fully engulfed in the drug culture of that time. Many of us, who fought in that war, did not survive. None of us who did escaped the battle unscathed. I find it interesting how people, places and things can bring back memories and so it was, when returning home, I passed the church of my youth. A flood of memories overwhelmed me as I caught sight of it ahead. Compelled to stop and reminisce, I pulled into the parking lot where I noticed a vehicle parked and a light on in what I knew was the minister's office. Being as it was a Saturday, just after dark, I wondered if he was inside preparing a sermon for the following morning. Walking up to the side door, I knocked but got no response, so I meandered around to the front. I leaned against a palm tree that I had played around when I was 6 or 7 years old. I remembered Sundays when services were over and folks stood around endlessly, reluctant to leave the company of those, who by being there, truly defined themselves as being some of the best human beings who ever lived. Bittersweet memories of my parents, old friends and my first love, all now long gone, filled my heart and mind. Walking up the front steps, I saw the lights were on inside and as I gazed through the window in the front door, I could see the pulpit down at the end of the center aisle. I could remember a time when I had stood up there making announcements, participating in communion and leading the congregation in prayer and song. But that was a time in my life before I had been distracted by unimportant things, before I had made the biggest mistakes in my life and truly outsmarted myself, as I held all the wrong answers, to all the right questions, too close to my heart. I felt the urge to go inside as a feeling came over me not unlike that which I am sure we all have felt when we return home after being away for a long, long time. I knew whoever was in there would not know me or remember who I used to be when I held the hand of the Devil. I wanted to go inside and sit down for a moment where I had sat next to loved ones so long ago. I knew it would be the closest thing to going home I'd ever be able to do. I was not surprised to find the door locked. An older gentleman appeared inside and as I watched him move about, I could tell he was involved in custodial work and likely a member of the church. And so, I knocked. Peering out the window, he looked me up and down, eyeing me suspiciously. I stood there smiling, clean cut and shaven, wearing a new pair of jeans and a clean white shirt, cell phone clipped to my side, a member of his race, and I raised my hand and politely waved to him, saying "Good evening, Sir.". With a look on his face I can best describe as disgusted, he swung his arm from left to right as if to motion me away. He reached off to his side and turned off all lights inside. I stood there momentarily gazing into the darkness inside, shook my head and then headed for my truck. The wonderful feeling I had been experiencing was replaced by an overwhelming feeling of darkness and void. Sadness, the likes of which I have never felt, even greater than that which I experienced when my folks died, filled my heart. For the first time in my life I truly understood the term 'You can never go home, anymore.'. Optimistically, I thought to myself, surely he was just a hired janitor. As I started to leave I looked up at the church's sign and saw the office phone number. Calling from my cell phone, the gentleman answered after a couple of rings. "Sir." I said "I'm sorry if I disturbed you. That was me who was just knocking at the door and I just have to say that it is a shame that good and honest people are afraid to open the door of a church in America today ". He replied, "You're right, I never open the door after dark any more.". I told him that I used to attend church there long ago, how my father had helped build that church, that the switches he had turned off had been installed by my dad. After mentioning the names of families who had been members and some who still attend today, the suspicious tone of his voice melted away and he warmed up to me. "What was your name?" he asked. "I'll mention you came by, tomorrow at services." "It's not likely my name would be remembered." I replied. It's not likely they'd have wanted to. "But, mention my parents names, Cecil and Mary Barr.". A good feeling resurfaced inside me, as what it was I had expected occurred. "Good talking to you, Sir." I said. "And you." he replied. "Come by and visit the next time you're in town, Brother Barr." It's been a long time since I had been called that. The feeling it gave me I could never explain but it was close to home. I did go back to visit but was sad to see that only a small handful of members remain. The moral standards of our society have so declined. I miss the America that was and should have been. There is a war going on in America between good and evil. I do not understand the complex issues regarding global politics nor do I want to. But, if good and honest citizens hide behind locked church doors, afraid of their fellow Americans, maybe its time to deploy troops here at home.





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