Watching the Andy Griffith show this morning reminded me of the church I grew up in, The First Freewill Baptist Church of Owasso. Now it is called Rejoice Freewill Baptist Church of Owasso, or maybe they took the Freewill out of the title, I’m not sure.
I know someone who has put down the church recently, saying they didn’t learn anything there. I found that shocking as I learned so many life lessons in the church in Owasso.
I learned humility, they practice feet washing, something I believe has been lost, I remember when I was a teenager and the feet washing ceremony was going to happen. In my snotiest voice I told my mother there was no way I was doing that, it was disgusting. My mother looked at me, raised her eyebrows and said “Angie, do you think you are better than Jesus Christ himself?” I said no ma’am, she said Jesus himself washed his disciples feet, how could I put myself above Christ. It drove the point home, we are no better than the other, I happily participated after that.
I learned giving from Al and Grace Wemberly, they were not native Owassoans. They moved to Owasso when Brother Al retired. I never found out what he did or how they came to choose Owasso. I’m simply blessed that they did. They were couponers before it was all the rage. However, they would add up how much they had saved and put that money in a jar. In late May they would bring the money to the church and tell them to use it to pay for a child to go to church camp that could not afford to go otherwise. I was the recipient of their generosity one year, as my parents were retired and their budget did not allow for that. I never knew we had a budget by the way, as I had everything I ever needed. The designer clothes and shoes I wanted, my parents told me to get a job and work for those, it was a good lesson.
I gained knowledge of other religions and learned Catholicism was a different denomination not a different religion thanks to Caroline Hall. She worked at the Christian Bookstore in Tulsa and insisted we study other thoughts and beliefs so we could better understand why we believed the way we did. It was a revelation to read about other religions in the world, she told us that to understand how someone believes is to respect them. When you respect someone they are more open to listen to how you believe and respect you in turn.
I learned that what I put into my mind was just as important as what I put into my body. In a class taught by Ed and Fleeta Sunday, as a young adult, they led a class on the importance of filling your mind full of good things as opposed to worldly things. Your thought process is shaped by what you put into your mind. If you only fill it with negative and unclean things what will your view of the world be like? It changed the way I choose my reading material to this day.
The First Freewill Baptist Church shaped who I would become. From Leonard Pirtle’s sermons, filled with life lessons laced with humor, to watching adults serve others, to Sunday School teachers that cared enough to go beyond the surface lessons. I am fortunate indeed to have grown up in that place, in that time.