Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rogers Heights Christian Church 1946-2007, Part 2

One of the reasons I remember the controversy about building a new sanctuary as opposed to enlarging the old one is that I was actually eligible to vote. I was baptized on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1955, by Lloyd Lambert.* I was 11 years, 8 months and 17 days old. This made me a member in good standing of the congregation; I could vote on the issue.

My parents wanted me to wait until I was 12, but in most of our churches there is a class in late winter for children wishing to be baptized at Easter. The tradition is that we make our “Confession of Faith” on Palm Sunday and are baptized on Easter. Not everyone does it this way, I had been lobbying to be baptized for two years prior. My parents gave in rather than make me wait another year until I was past my 12th birthday. I’m glad that I did though. Judi writes in her blog ( that she was baptized at Eastside Christian the following year because the sanctuary was torn up. It is the baptism itself that is important, of course, but still... I’m glad I talked them into it.

Five things I remember best from Rogers Heights:

1. Food
We had Fellowship dinners regularly. Probably once a month. The food was wonderful. Of course, it was plain, simple, midwestern fare, lovingly prepared. Nothing exotic. I think they call it comfort food now, and it is a heart-surgeon’s nightmare, but oh, my, it was good.

In the summers, we had ice cream socials. Home made ice cream, often hand cranked, accompanied by light fluffy cakes and pies with crusts to die for. We ate dinners in the fellowship hall, but the socials were held outside. I remember at least once, but probably more often, table set up on the side of the church where the parking lot is in Judi’s pictures before the three buildings were joined. The rich, cold ice cream melted in the summer heat. My mother’s ice cream recipe called for real cream and I think some of others used eggs. Plural. I’ve lived through a lot of hot summers since; nothing eases the heat like those summer evenings at church eating homemade ice cream.

I have a cookbook from those days written by the Christian Women’s Fellowship of the church. It is a treasure.

But also, I always looked forward to Vacation Bible School every summer partly because we got Koolaid. At my house we drank milk, water, fruit juice, (only for breakfast) unsweetened tea, and on rare occasions, lemonade. We didn’t get Koolaid even as a special treat.

2. Vacation Bible School
Another reason I liked Vacation Bible School was the craft projects. We did things like braiding lanyards and the like. One in particular has stuck with me as a kind of a question that I have never been able to answer. We took a piece of copper foil and embossed a design on it. I remember particularly a cowboy riding a bucking horse. I thought it looked great, but then, we wiped on some kind of coating that darkened the crevices making the design stand out more. Then, even though I thought it looked great at that stage, we did something else to it. And it looked great.

The question I have never answered is how does the artist know when something is finished? I know now the good ladies running the craft projects had some kind of kit that gave them explicit directions, but I didn’t know that then. I remember watching William Alexander’s Art classes on PBS and having the same question. At every stage it looked fine to me, so how did he know where to continue and when to stop. I’m always as afraid of going on and on until the project is ruined as I am of stopping before it has reached it maximum beauty. I still don’t know, but I think a lot of artistic a
bility is in knowing where to stop.

At Vacation Bible School, we sang “Jesus Loves Me” and “This Is My Father’s World.” We heard stories about children in the Bible and stories about our foreign missions. We had extended contact with the women of the church. Now we call them “mentor" and say they were mentoring us.

In the area at left, before we built the part that joined the three buildings,
(the higher roof line) we held Vacation Bible School.

3. Music
Sunday church services for me have always been about the music. I loved the singing. I sang in the choir as a teenager. I am working on a blog about my favorite hymns which I will post later. When I went to the Phillips University Centennial, I noted the beauty in the voices of people who just grew up singing in church.

I don’t think we had an organ in the early years. That suited me; I’ve never liked draggy old organs any way. My father grew up in the Church of Christ, our sister denomination. One of the causes of the schism between us -- we came form the same roots, the Campbell-Stone movement -- was the use of instrumental music. Some have down-played that division saying that the Churches of Christ in the beginning were making a virtue of necessity, but my grandfather truly believed that it was wrong to have instrumental music in the church. I will say this, Church of Christ services were beautiful, a capella voices rising straight to heaven.

Every year at Easter, we sang “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” and our voices carried such joy, such unforgettable joy.

We always sang “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” at the end of the service. I think that it helped to bind us together as a fellowship, as a congregation. Even those of us who were on the fringe of the circle were still tied to it. Ties? No, ropes, ropes as thick and strong as steel cable.

I still love hymns.

4. Bible
At Rogers Heights I got a thorough grounding in the Bible. We believe that the Bible was written at different times by different people. I noticed that Judi referred to it as a “library.” That is the way I have also always understood it. The Old Testament includes some history, some law, some myth, (yes, some myth) some sermons, some hymns, a collection of sayings, some poetry, even a couple of novels, and some writings that were found to be generally inspiring. It is a collection of books that the people found useful in their spiritual journey through life.

I believe that starting with Abraham it is basically true. There is some mythesizing, some “George Washington chopping down the cherry tree,” but it includes stories that aren’t particularly flattering to the leaders. I admire that kind of warts-and-all recording of history. That is part of why I believe it is true. Another thing I’ve noticed about the Old Testament is that it is the version of the rabbis who wrote it. Other people who were around at the time may well have had other versions of what occurred. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it happened, I just think the story might have been slanted a little different.

Thomas Campbell, one of the founders of our movement, said, "Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent." That pretty much sums it up. But of course, you have to know a lot about Bible to know where it speaks.

Most of all, I remember the people

Sometime after my aunt left us to continue her education at the University of Arkansas, my parents hired a couple of the teen age girls from the church to babysit. I wonder if the woman besides Judi who wrote a comment to the Tulsa World article was one of those teenage-girls. ( If so, she may the one I owe an apology. My sister and I were little angels for one of the sitters, but for some reason, we were as bad as we knew how to be for the other. I’m not sure why. I think we had heard stories from other children about defying the sitter and had to try them out. It was a valuable lesson to me as a teacher, sometimes kids just decide to act up. Don’t take it personally. I still wish I could apologize.

I wish I could thank all of the adults who guided us and taught us.

Of course, I remember the other children best.

To Patty and Priscilla who were two years older; to Jane’s brother whose name I can’t remember; to Barbara, Susan and Vickie who were a year older; to Judi, Janie, Jenny, Irene, Russell and Bobby who were in my class; to the Ryans; to Jane’s sister whose name may have been Karen; to Karen who was Priscilla’s sister; to Barry, Debbie, Mike, Susan; (and Timothy, may you rest in peace.) to others that I can recall, but not put a name to; God be with you.

The congregation has disbanded, but in a real sense, it is not dead. It lives on in the lives that were touched, in the contacts that we made, in the examples of the lives of the people who passed through the church.

Blest be the tie that binds.

*Judi’s memories and mine conflict a little about this. The short history in the cookbook gives July 1955 as the beginning g of Lloyd Lambert’s ministry. I can’t explain the discrepancy. All I can do is relate my memories.


judi said...

Tricia, glad to see your part II. I think the woman who commented on the Tulsa World article, Ernestine Keely Woodcock, must have been the daughter of Ernest Keeley. He always led the singing, especially at the Sunday night services (remember those?) and at those evangelistic meetings we would have the week before Easter. If my memory serves me right, of course.

Also, I am sure I was in that pastor's class that you were in, but I remember opting out of being baptized that year. I think I wrote about it in a diary I still have. I'll look it up. And I seem to remember my baptismal certificate was signed by JR Johnson, not Lloyd Lambert, but if your dates are correct (no reason to doubt them) then that is impossible. I'll have to look it all up and get back to you. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to your upcoming post on music. "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" is on my all time top 10 favorite list.

Tricia said...

Yes, I do remeber Sunday night services. I think Earnestine Keely was one of the babysitters, but I can't remember if she was the one when we acted up so much. Of course acting up then and acting up now are very different.

I think that after two years of being told "no" I did a little slight of hand. "Let me go to the Pastor's Class this winter because I'll be twelve this summer and I WILL join then." So the decission to let me go ahead and be baptized with the class just sort of slipped by. I would have joined the first Sunday aftr my 12th birthday, and by then they knew that, but we spent that summer in Denver, due to my father's work. I think they knew we wouldn't be in Tulsa when I turned 12 and that was a factor. But as I said, everyone makes that committment -- and it is enormous--when they are ready. I think now I didn't realise how big a committment it was and maybe should have thought it over a little more carefully. We all have twenty-twenty hindsight.

The cook book says that Lloyd Lambert became minister after I was baptized, but before you were. However, I feel sure that he baptized me, so I don't know. J.R. might have come back for some reason, too. I just don't know.

I've written that blog all but my number one favorite, but it is so enormous, it's hard to know where to start.

judi said...

Tricia, there's a lot to be said for researching before writing, and my imperfect memories have just proven that. This morning I had some time so I dug out my girlhood diaries. Seems I wasn't baptized in 1956 at all, but on Mother's Day (May 9, I think) of 1954. I was only 11 and a bit over three months old. I have told myself so many times that I was 13 that I learned to believe it. There was another detail I hadn't remembered correctly. I knew my baptism was in the afternoon at East Side CC, but my diary tells me that my parents and I went to Sunday School with my grandmother in Sapulpa that morning, something I have no memory of at all. So maybe this clears up the discrepancy. I'll update my blog entry to correct the date. Yes, I was baptized by JR Johnson and you were baptized by Lloyd Lambert. I never did have a copy of that cookbook--mother wasn't active in CWF And for some reason we never had one. I do have an old directory, I think, in a box in the basement. I'll see what else I can dig up. Thanks for making me go back and set the record straight.

Tricia said...

I remember a lot of disapproval of baptizing children before they were twelve. I also remember "promoting' myself to the age I would become in the summer as soon as school is out. I don't think children look at age as adults do. In my mind, I was "twelve" and old enough to be baptized long before I was actually marginally old enough in my parents eyes. So probably you were 13 in your mind when chronologically you were 11. Or something like that.

I'd love to look at some of the entries in that directory. There are names I can't remember, but would like to.

I really am glad to get to know you again after all these years, even if it is in cyberspace.