Rushville Republican


August 10, 2012

Keeping the Faith

There is Electricity in the Air

RUSHVILLE — My Uncle Joe was a pastor. I would stay with him and my aunt from time to time, where they lived in a tiny church parsonage. Today, churches have gotten out of the parsonage business for the most part, and that's a good thing. No one wants to live with the ghosts of all those dead preachers in an old house that notoriously lacks maintenance anyway.

Uncle Joe's parsonage fit that bill perfectly. It had low ceilings, matted, yellow, shag carpet as deep as a wheat field, and in the center of the living area Ð the only heat for the entire house Ð an upright gas heater with the little blue flames dancing behind a ceramic grate. The combination of these things (the low ceiling, shag carpet, ghosts of former pastors, and dry gas heat) caused the house to be so sufficiently charged with static, it could set off an electroscope.

I would walk around the house in my tube socks, sliding like I was wearing snowshoes, building up an electrical charge. Then I would wait for my sister or brother to walk by. Unknown to them, not only was I ready for discharge, but I had a paperclip from my uncle's study that I had unwound so that it was a long thin, metal conductor.

As they unwittingly walked by, if I was stealthy enough, I could just touch the bottom of their earlobe with my homemade electrical probe. It was like reaching out and taking hold of the hem of Jesus' garment. The power surged through with three inches of blue flame.

This made for especially interesting gatherings at dinner time. Uncle Joe always had us stand around the table and say grace. Most of the time we held hands or even held on to one another, grabbing arms and shoulders, hugging the whole time; I remember once he even shed a tear because there was "so much love in the room."

It wasn't love. It was electricity. My siblings and I were constantly touching one another to ground ourselves, afraid of being shocked by the other and even more afraid of picking up a spoon with the static still attached to our sleeve.

I wish church was more like that. No, I'm not talking about the mischievousness of children, though some of the more stoic congregations I have encountered could stand a good dose of mischievousness. Nor am I talking about yellow shag carpet. A few congregations need to be told that "Harvest Gold" went out of style more than three decades ago.

I'm talking about the spark; the sense and knowledge that there is a power in the room, a power that animates, moves, and stirs us. It is something far more than emotionalism, histrionics, or religious sentiment. It is a desire for the living Presence that will not allow us to sit still or remain where we are.

It is no wonder why some people won't go to church; it is because they have already been to church, and have found it to be as lifeless and dead as a dodo. There is no passion in the pew or in the pulpit; the liturgies and songs are without spirit; and it often appears as if the leaders and participants don't believe Ð not remotely Ð in what they are saying or doing. Worshippers are left to snooze at their leisure with hardly a spark to wake them.

Annie Dillard, that exquisite wordsmith, recognized the same. She said of those of us who casually enter our church sanctuaries each week, "Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it?"

"It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pewsÉFor the waking God may draw us out to where we can never return." To this, I say "Amen," and let the awaking begin.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at


Text Only
  • Things I have learned in my lifetime In celebrating my recent birthday, I found myself caught up in a case of nostalgia. I never imagined I would really get this old. Not that I am old, mind you, but I have reached the point in life I never thought I would when I was younger. Had I know

    August 1, 2014

  • What a wonderful world This coming week marks the birthday of a man who Bing Crosby called, “the beginning and the end of music in America.” Born in the sweltering heat of a New Orleans’ August, the grandson of former slaves, and suffering abject poverty, that man was Loui

    August 1, 2014

  • Church Briefs First Southern Baptist ChurchFirst Southern Baptist Church will host a REVIVAL in South Memorial Park at 7 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Bro. Kevin Cain will be preaching at each meeting with The Highlights providing ministry in

    August 1, 2014

  • Let go…or be dragged A friend who has some experience with rodeo horses sent me a most picturesque proverb: “Let go or be dragged.” Whether this phrase was first spoken by a Zen master who had achieved enlightenment on the mountainside, or by a battered cowboy nursing hi

    July 25, 2014

  • A year older, but not that much smarter I think I am in a rut. No matter how hard I work, I do not seem to be getting any further along in life. Could it be that somewhere in my past, I peaked and did not realize it? If so, I wish I knew about it so at least I could have the consolation th

    July 25, 2014

  • church briefs Faith Baptist Church - Morristown Dr. Wayne Scott, pastorSunday, July 27 - Sunday school at 9:30 a.m., worship service at 10:30 a.m., followed by a pitch-in lunch at noon and an afternoon service at 2 p.m. with a baptismal service at Hancock Reform B

    July 25, 2014

  • Church Briefs First Baptist Church of Rushville“Children should be seen and not heard.” I’ve heard adults say that at times, especially in years gone by. I understand what they mean in some respects. “Children should not interrupt or be a distraction when importan

    July 18, 2014

  • Keeping the Faith: Hitting the Road Here we are, deep in the throes of the rituals of summer. School is out, vacation days are being cashed in, and picnic baskets are being packed. Barbecues are firing, pools are splashing, and ice cream trucks are rolling. Meanwhile, thousands, yea mi

    July 18, 2014

  • religion briefs Senate Democrats seek to reverse Hobby Lobby ruling WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate is preparing to vote on a Democratic-sponsored bill aimed at ensuring that women receive free contraception coverage even if they work for a company that has a religious

    July 18, 2014

  • Let It Go, Let Go, Let It Go This year I celebrate my 20th year as a practicing grandfather. I am not sure that after 20 years I know anything more about being a grandfather than I did before. I have not found any books written on how to be a grandfather, maybe I should write on

    July 18, 2014