Church Girls (Feb 2013)

By Matt Dabbs

By Amy Bost Henegar

I was ten years old when my Sunday School teacher unveiled The Learning Center, along with her elaborate new reward system. Only the fifth and sixth graders were mature enough to participate in such a sophisticated educational system. The classroom was divided into stations and every station had an activity. Each of us would work through the stations at our own pace, racking up points as we went along. The reward system was simple. The more points we got, the better the stuff we could buy from the Sunday School Store. And boy did I get some fantastic things. A pocket mirror with a pink rose on the back and the words “New Life in Christ.” A wall hanging with that read “If any man is in Christ he is a new creation.” A quilted Bible cover and a lovely assortment of cross, fish and dove jewelry.

While the stations in the learning center were the meat and potatoes of the points system, there were some other ways to earn points as well. A student could get a lot of bang for her buck with a little scripture memory. Of course, the scriptures were ranked according to difficulty, the easy ones earning you only 5 or 10 points. This was a good system — no wise guy was going to get rich by memorizing John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible, (“Jesus wept”). However, with a little determination one might be able to tackle the armor of God or even a whole psalm, securing upwards of 50 points.

As a church girl, I was not only eager to please, but I was also highly motivated by the big ticket items. So when my teacher suggested that my friend Dwayne and I memorize Isaiah 53, I was immediately up for the challenge. I took it a verse at a time, pacing the halls of my home repeating the words. Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed. Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed. Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed… One might imagine my parents to be annoyed by such repetition, however the fact that their daughter was feasting on the word of God seemed to soften any such reaction.

After months of practice and diligent hard work, the feat was accomplished. The only challenge remaining was the recital. Dwayne and I were to recite the lengthy passage before the congregation. Our presentation was scheduled for a Sunday evening service. Now, I think I should take a moment and tell you a little about those Sunday evening services. All of us church girls got up bright and early every Sunday morning, put on our cute church clothes in order to show up, Bibles in hand, for Sunday School. Sunday School was followed by worship which was followed by lunch. When I was very young lunch was at home, but as I grew so did my mother’s practicality, and by the time I was eight years old the lunch venue had been switched to a restaurant. After lunch we all went home for about three hours, only to turn around and return to church for yet another service in the evening.

The evening service was almost identical to the morning service, except for the special practice of Sunday evening communion. After the hymns had been sung, the prayers had been offered and the sermon preached, an invitation was extended to those who had been unable to partake in the communion that morning. They were instructed to process down the aisles and sit together on the front left hand side of the auditorium. As church girls we looked with concerned curiosity upon those who needed to partake. Perhaps these were people who had been sick in the morning and experienced a quick recovery just in time to get to church and take communion before the Lord’s Day command was broken. There were always a few women who we knew had been working in the nursery during the morning service and had piously opted to wait for the more meditative experience of evening communion rather than downing the cracker and grape juice with a rushed silent prayer in the middle of screaming babies and babbling toddlers. Finally, there was that strange group of people who only came to church on Sunday night. Content with being a sort of second class Christian, they had jobs or some other commitment that prevented them from being at church on Sunday mornings (it never crossed our minds that they might be sleeping late on Sunday along with the rest of the country). Thankfully for this group, the Sunday evening walk down the aisle to the second chance communion service offered them the very same promise of salvation that it did to the rest of us.

While we weren’t much of a special presentation people, generally tending toward routine and order over anything much out of the ordinary, any and all special presentations were scheduled for the Sunday evening service. Somehow we felt that we didn’t have to hold to those first century rules quite as closely in that smaller, more informal service. When missionaries came to town and wanted to report on reaching the lost in foreign lands, they were always scheduled to speak on Sunday night. Thus, Dwayne and I were scheduled to recite our super scripture memory projects during a Sunday evening service.

We both did it. We may have stumbled over a word here or there, but we were good students and we both pulled off the entire twelve verses to the admiration of our parents and friends. As I concluded the words of the complex prophesy, telling of the suffering servant who was silently led as a lamb to the slaughter, the congregation breathed sighs and voiced amens. I’m sure I left the church building that evening, in the back of my parent’s 1980 Chevy Suburban, adding up my points and making plans to purchase those big ticket items in the Sunday School Store. And I’m equally sure I never once considered the fact that I was the only female to speak into a microphone that evening. I didn’t think about the fact that I had never heard my mother read a scripture to the congregation, or the bizarre truth that she, a mature woman, would not have been permitted to recite Isaiah 53 if she had done the memorizing. I do, however, remember, to this very day the words of that great passage.

And I’m daily reminded that by his wounds we are healed.

categoria commentoNo Comments dataDecember 3rd, 2013
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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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