the time that I was still being knit together in my mother's womb
with some defective parts God had left over after making my big
brother (he made me write that part), I've been attending Southern
In fact, one of the first known photos of me was taken on a Sunday
morning in 1970 when I had recently been de-wombed and my mother
was posing with me in the front yard, both of us wearing heavily-polyestered
So I guess you could say that I grew up with red Vacation Bible
School Kool-Aid coursing through my veins, and my Southern Baptist
heritage has had a profound impact on my worldview including
the high value I place on a 9 X 13 casserole dish.
Here are a few signs that you, too, were raised in the nap-proof
wooden pews of Southern Baptist (or similar) churches in the 1970s
First, you were always excited about the prospects of a trip to
the fellowship hall-because it usually involved red Kool-Aid and/or
several 9 X 13 casserole dishes.
And speaking of food, you knew that "dinner on the grounds" was
a sacred form of congregational picnic that featured, you guessed
it, red Kool-Aid and several 9 X 13 casserole dishes.
And speaking of more food, you knew that when the Lord's Supper
was being administered in "big church," the sermon might be a little
shorter, and the Dallas Cowboys were probably playing at noon.
And speaking of even more food, you considered stale Certs mints
and Clorets gum from your mother's purse appetizers to get you through
that fourth verse of "Just as I Am" before you headed to the fellowship
hall, dinner on the grounds or home for a lunch that was probably
baked in a 9 X 13 casserole dish.
Before any meal, you could say a blessing in the King James version
because you could use "Thee," "Thou," Thine" and "Thy" without sounding
like Daffy Duck.
During "big church," you could do amazing sketch art with one of
those eraserless pew pencils and the back of a complimentary tithing
When you ran out of tithing envelopes, you could play about 50 games
of tic-tac-toe in the margins of the church bulletin with your dad
when your mom and the preacher weren't looking.
You knew the first, second and last stanzas of almost every selection
in the official Baptist Hymnal located in the back of the
pew right next to the improvised art supplies. (The hymnal also
served as an excellent lap desk for tithing envelope sketch art
You also knew that "God," "Jesus," "Pray," "Read your Bible" and
"Go to church" were the correct answers to approximately 90% of
all Sunday School teacher questions.
When the choir director told the congregation to "make a joyful
noise unto the Lord," some of us only paid attention to the "noise"
Seriously, though, I feel truly blessed that my parents exposed
me to the gospel shared in church when I was growing up. I've often
heard that going to church doesn't make you a believer any more
than standing in a garage makes you a car. But for the sake of protection,
repair and general maintenance, a garage seems like pretty good
place for a car.
And for an imperfect human like me, the church has been instrumental
in helping me to stay aligned, balanced, and all those other car
metaphors I might know if I wasn't so automotively challenged.
A recent Gallup study showed that since 1999, church membership
in the U.S. has dropped by a full 20%, which seems to explain quite
a bit about the times in which we live. And although churches aren't
perfect places full of perfect people, America might be a different
country if more folks still attended church, loved one another and
recognized the value of a 9 X 13 casserole dish.