Paris Goodnight: Sunday morning when we go down to church

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 12, 2023

Sunday mornings have always been special times for me. When I was younger and would go to church with my parents, outside the front entrance I always noticed a line of men standing in their finest suits talking as we headed off to Sunday school.

I wondered what they might be discussing as the bells proclaiming the time to head to service chimed from various locations off in the distance. I thought maybe it was just at our church, but then as I got a little older, I heard a song on the radio that might not have been one in rotation on the pop stations, but it included these lyrics:

On Sunday morning when we go down to church see the menfolk standing line.

Said they come to pray to the Lord, with my little girl, looks so fine.

My, I thought, someone all the way from the great British invasion was singing about the same thing I’m seeing here in North Carolina. Must be something that happens all around the world on that first day of the week. As for that girl and how she looks, well I’ll let your imagination run with that one.

I like to picture myself as a wee laddie back in those days looking up to the older gentlemen. But of course I’d have to be far across the pond myself to be considered such. Around here, I was just a young feller trying to stay away from spankings if I got caught misbehaving  during the church service.

Nowadays I’m left wondering: why don’t the men line up outside church any more to pass the time before they head inside?

That must be one of the many ways in which church activities have changed over the years. Many things about the services and music are not the same as they once were, not that I could say any of it is better or worse now than back then. But it definitely has changed.

Portrayals of church don’t look the same on TV or in movies these days, but I never did find anything coming out of Hollywood that matched what I was used to seeing around here.

We didn’t know anything about what men of the church really did, inside or outside the walls. I guess we didn’t know what women of the church did either, but we had a pretty good idea when we’d see what the older ones provided for family night suppers or when the iced sheet cakes came out at the end a meal. That was a treat you could not beat as a youngster enjoying a feast away from the more mundane meals crafted at home.

Another standard as I got older was the men of the church breakfast that I was allowed to start attending at some point. My father, an uncle and grandfather all rode together to arrive early for the feast of eggs, grits, sausage and other treats, all prepared by other men.

That was a much more hearty way to start a day than my normal cereal and orange juice. I think that may have been when I was first started to enjoy the pleasures of a morning cup of coffee poured from a large pot too.

I really enjoyed that time about as much as I ever did any other activity in the fellowship hall. I probably wasn’t old enough to be a man of the church, but I felt like I belonged nonetheless.

I was glad I got to take part in those gatherings, though it’s been a long time since I’ve found just the right group to join in and return to such things.

But in my mind, those occasional Sunday morning breakfasts were always the best way to start that special day of the week.

Paris Goodnight is editor of the Post.