And then there was the week I went all the way back, to the beginning.
I wrote last month about revisiting Southside Baptist Church, where I attended prior to my divorce, and the experience of what it was like to go back to a church I had been a member of but which I’d not been to in years. It was an interesting experience, and made me curious about going even further back.
So I went to Mountain View Baptist Church.
To the best of my knowledge, Mountain View is the first church I ever went to. Pretty much from the time I was born until I was in high school, my family and I attended Mountain View, save for a couple of years we weren’t living in Huntsville. When I was in high school, we moved to Southside because of the larger youth program. I’ve set foot in Mountain View only sporadically since then, but it’s been many years since even the most recent of those visits.
Nonetheless, the first words I heard upon walking in were “Hello, Mr. Hitt.”
I’m impressed anyone recognized me. I’ve changed quite a bit since I last regularly attended Mountain View, but there were still a few familiar faces, more than recognized me without introduction than vice versa, I should add.
These posts about churches that were once home are the hardest in some ways, because it’s easy to take for granted some of the details. What was it like? Well, in a hundred little ways, it was like Mountain View, you know? I could still find the area in the wood paneling at the front that looked to me like Sark from Tron when I was a kid. When I walked through the church, the library still had the collection of Tom Swift books that were old when I read them decades ago, sitting on the same shelves. They were evenstill using the same offering envelopes.
The music was a mix of old and new. It was the first time I’d been in Mountain View and not used a hymnal, and despite the fact that the first song projected on the new screen up front was a praise chorus, we still sang “Just As I Am” as the invitation.
The congregation was also an interesting mix — Mountain View was most likely the most integrated church I’ve ever attended, with several mixed families. I’m curious as to how the Mountain View broke the church race barrier more effectively than, perhaps, anywhere I’ve been before.
And, of course, the other thing that was different was the pastor, as tends to happen. The consensus has been that Mountain View has a tendency to drift more liberal with new pastors, though I think there has been some back and forth rather than a continuous trend. I couldn’t tell about the new pastor. I could tell preached loudly, in sort of an archetypal old-fashioned Southern Baptist manner. It distracted me from the actual content of the message, but was fascinating for a while.
Two people joined the church at the end of the service, and the church body voted then and there on whether to accept them. Also, before dismissing the congregation, the pastor asked whether anyone else had a word they felt called to share, which I thought was pretty cool.
Right now, I feel like I sort of got what I was going to out of visiting Mountain View, but can’t swear that I won’t be going back.