Thursday, February 12, 2009

Holy Rollers

At one time, Pentecostals were called "Holy Rollers." The label came from the early Pentecostal movement that took place in the first decade of the twentieth century. Out of the Asuza Street Revivals came true revivals, and a lot of other things. Pentecostalism was born, and so was a flood of behaviors that brought labels like "Holy Rollers" into being. I was born in 1949 and attended a pentecostal church from the onset. Now, whether or not the term "holy roller" is justified, I don't know, but I have never seen anyone roll in the aisles of a church. But, I do admit that I came into the church in the third generation. And, I also admit that I have seen other things that could have earned the church other labels. This chapter is about some of those things. Having said that, I believe that there are some great people of God in the Pentecostal movement, and it is this movement that woke the church up in the twentieth century.

The Gospel Tabernacle in Brainerd, MN, is where I attended church in my youth. My grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins all attended there as well. Several hundred people called that their church home and attended each week. At age three I received my first Bible for having perfect attendance for an entire year. I was sitting on the left side of the church toward the back when the pastor called me up to the pulpit. I didn't know what for. Then he handed me this big black book and told everyone I had perfect attendance for a year. I grabbed the book with both hands and on my way back to me seat said way too loud, "Gee this book is heavy." Everybody laughed. That is the earliest memory of my life. I think I was wearing a pink seersucker shirt that mom had made.

Other memories include the lady with white hair and and lots of jewelry speaking really loud in a language I did not know. Then she would follow that with the interpretation of what she said. I always wondered why the church preached against makeup and lots of jewelry and this lady had lots of both. It was here that I learned that girls weren't supposed to wear pants unless they had a dress over them, and they weren't supposed to wear nylons with seams in the back because they were worldly. Stirrup pants were okay when we had sledding parties. I also learned that we weren't supposed to go to the movies, play cards, or eat where they served liquor. I went to the movies and played cards, but I didn't eat where they served liquor. We were too poor to eat anyplace except home. Our church believed in "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord."

We had a church league basketball team that we called "The Holy Rollers." I must admit that I wasn't very proud of the team's name. I wasn't good at basketball, and we lost all of our games. Of course, I was relegated to the bench. I didn't really know what "Holy Roller" meant since I'd never seen one.

I did see, however, people getting baptized in the Holy Ghost. I had no idea what this meant. But I saw people at the front of the church on Sunday nights standing their with their hands raised while others laid hands on them and prayed. They prayed and prayed until the one being prayed for began to speak in a different language that no one else could understand. Then everybody began to rejoice. They said he was "filled with the Holy Ghost." Sometimes I saw lots of people get filled with the Holy Ghost in a single night. They said we were having revival.

We had revival at Baseview, too. I'll tell you about that next time.

It was at the Brainerd Gospel Tabernacle that I had one of the most meaningful experiences in my life. It was communion Sunday, and I was sitting in the balcony of the church with the other teens my age. We usually didn't exactly listen to the sermon. We would whisper to each other, jab each other and talk about other things. But this particular Sunday, the pastor's message was getting to me. It was about partaking communion unworthily. "He that partakes communion unworthily eats and drinks damnation unto himself." I knew I was unworthy. I also knew they were about to serve the communion. I began to weep. I knew I could not receive communion that day. That was the beginning of my Christian experience. It was soon afterward I accepted 
Christ as my Savior.

No comments: