By Vernon M. Herron
|The late Benjamin E. Mays|
It is interesting to note that one’s declaration can be legitimized by one’s observation. Several years ago, the late Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, a former President of Atlanta’s Morehouse College declared that “any Sunday, the 11 a.m. worship hour is the most segregated hour in America.” This observation was based on historical rural America. The 11 a.m. hour was at the half-way point between the morning and the afternoon milkings. This time was practical for the average American farm family without regard to race, class, creed or culture. This declaration had legitimacy at that time.
Since the time of Dr. Mays’ observation, many factors have influenced the difference in the time we worship; economics, sports, educational pursuits, travel, social and the mass media and many more elements. Today, at the 11 a.m. hour on any given Sunday, one could be at work, sitting in a classroom, attending a tail-gate party before a super football game or engaged in numerous other activities deemed essential to life in the 21st century. We now worship at any hour on the clock, whether it be morning, noon, afternoon or evening. Of necessity, for convenience or pleasure, we are most likely to worship at some hour other than on Sunday at 11 a.m. The spirit of worship is not confined to a date, nor time.
The folk song, “The Little Old Wooden Church on the Hill” made an indelible impression on me regarding the 11 a.m. service. Here is a story in song:
It was in my childhood, many years ago,
with the spirit of the Savior, I was filled,
at an old fashion meeting, my memory lingers still,
in that little old wooden church, way out on the hill.
You could hear the people singing, about a half a mile away,
and your heart begin to get a sudden thrill,
it would start your body moving, till you couldn’t keep it still,
in that little old wooden church out on the hill.
Every Sunday morning, we had a family prayer,
then into that country wagon we would fill,
then we’d start out on our journey, over rocks and over reels
to that little old wooden church on the hill.
Many folk have passed us, and many folk have gone,
but the sweet old golden memory lingers still,
I’m gonna keep that Holy Spirit, til death my body chills.
I got in that wooden church, out on that hill.
Then, when that old fashioned preacher gave out a metered hymn,
the crowd with the Holy Ghost was filled,
people would be shouting, thank God, I can hear them still,
in that little old wooden church way out on the hill.
Now, I worship at a church which gives you the option of worshipping at a time for your convenience or pleasure; 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. Pick your hour but come just as you are!!!! (See blog 27)
The church’s demographic make-up is interesting. The membership is approximately 7500 of which 62% are females; 38% males; 60% adults; 8% children; 23% senior citizens and 8% unidentified.
While the seating capacity of the sanctuary is at 3000, a review of the three services shows the following commonalities, similarities and differences.
All three services have the following in common:
Full range of officers in service. (Deacons and Trustees)
Full core of ushers
Full core of medical staff
Nursery in operation
All services begin in the a.m.
Prayer room for special needs
Distinction of the 7:30 service
Smallest in attendance
Least number of children in attendance
Worshippers have the rest of the day for desired needs
Distinction of the 9:30 service
Largest in attendance
More children and youth attend
Largest offering received
Half way point between 1st service and 3rd service
Church school simultaneously held
Distinction of the 11:30 service
Second in size attendance; more than the 7:30 service but less than the 9:30 service
Attendance caters to older church population
Hour for baptism and right-hand of fellowship
See you at church Sunday; but, at what time? Dr. Mays’ 11 a.m. hour is obsolete. What about the 9:30 a.m. service? We will be out by 11 a.m. This will give us plenty time to see the giants defeat the patriots. What about it?