Still feeling the call of a little country revival

Published 9:33 am Wednesday, November 30, 2011

by James D. ‘Archie’ Howell

The windows are open. I don’t know if it is to let the heat out or the cool in. Neither seems to be working. It’s hot.

The shirt and tie that I’m wearing are not helping. If God knows my heart, can see my soul, knows my thoughts, can see and feel every nuance of my body, I don’t understand why we have to cover it all up with a lot of clothes when we go to church.

Tonight I’m with my mother and father. We’ve come in the truck the two miles or so from our house. We’ve traveled up to the crossroads and turned left onto Delaware Road, passed by the house where I was born, crossed the railroad tracks at Isaacs, rounded that bad curve at Mr. Joyner’s house and parked under the pine trees in the churchyard.

Many other cars and trucks fill up the area and some park across the road in each direction.

It’s summer, and for a week or so every summer, my church holds a revival. I don’t know what we’re reviving from, or if I’m going to feel any different after. I just know that our church, Joyner’s Church, is meeting every night this week.

There’s a lot about revivals I don’t know. They always happen in the summer; they’re always for a week, and the main preacher is from out of town. I guess somebody feels that someone from out of town can do a better job of saving souls that our regular preacher.

It’s strange, if that is the case, because our preacher often travels to other churches to conduct revivals. There’s a lot I don’t understand about revivals.

An opening prayer of welcome is made, and a song is sung, and announcements are made, and the offering plates are passed. Our church deacons and ushers take care of that, standing at the end of each pew with hands folded until the plate reaches their end.

They receive the plate and pass it back along the next row until everyone has had a chance to put something in. I have a nickel that my parents gave me for this moment, and I place it respectfully into the plate as it passes. I’m even allowed to accept and pass the plate along. It makes me feel important and a part of.

This year a lady preacher is holding down the pulpit. Her hair is long and blonde; she’s wearing a long-sleeved, light colored, flowing dress, and she waves her arms frequently to make a point. She walks from one side of the small stage to the other, sometimes holding a Bible and sometimes not. She appears to sometimes be reading from the Book, but I think she has it all memorized. Nobody can walk and read and explain, and gesticulate and expound all at the same time. I think she has it memorized.

Tonight’s sermon is about the lost sheep. I think that is chosen to make people feel that they have somehow lost their way and she knows the way home. At least, that’s what I think.

I also think it’s hot and the collar is itching.

There are usually two or three songs before the night’s sermon, and one or two repeated songs or verses to songs during the call to salvation, or repentance, or something else after the sermon part is done.

The last part of the service is where the preacher asks for those that have been moved by the ceremony to rededicate themselves, or dedicate themselves for the first time, or feel some need to demonstrate to all present that they are dedicated or repentant (I don’t know what that means), to come down the aisle to the front of the church and stand. While people are making up their minds, a well known hymn is being sung:

“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,

Calling for you and for me;

See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,

Watching for you and for me.”

A few answer the call.

“Come home, come ho-o-o-me,

You who are weary, come ho-o-o-me;

Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,

Calling, O sinner, come home!”

One more answers.

The chorus is repeated until it is deemed that all who wish to have answered.

All who answer during the revival will be baptized over at Mr. Underwood’s place on the Nottoway River at a later date.

The meeting closes with a prayer and benediction. I’m ready to go.

In summer, when I’m swinging on the back porch, my mind drifts to a little country church and a lady preacher saving souls. I hear the call to “Come home, come home”.

I am home.

JAMES D. “ARCHIE” HOWELL is a Southampton County native and 1955 graduate of Franklin High School. He can be reached at