Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Church Youth Group: Part I - Choir and MYF

My family has always been church goers.

I grew up going to church every Sunday morning, and as I became of age to be categorized as one of the “restless youth,” I attended MYF on Sunday nights.

Methodist Youth Fellowship met on Sunday evenings at 6:00 at my home church in Sylvan Hills, Mary Branan, and after a casual youth dinner of chili, hot dogs, or sandwiches, prepared by the formidable and intimidating Annie Maude {that’s what we called her; I can’t remember her last name}, the leadership parceled us into small group meetings [I think this was grouped by grade], and then Sunday evening worship service in the sanctuary where the music was provided by the youth choir.

Encouraged by my parents, I did some "time" in the youth choir. All of my siblings sang in the school [except me -- I took PE instead] and church choirs, and it made sense to me since they all  have very good voices; however, I am a pretty, bad singer. If I had to just sing melody, I was okay, but if it came to harmonizing, I usually ended up mouthing the words -- cause, seriously, in that small, youth choir of twelve to twenty voices, depending on that week’s attendance, a bad voice like mine could stand out.  Trust me, some folks stood out -- and not in a good way. I didn’t want to add that to my long list of aspects about my adolescent self of which to be self-conscious. I was already skinny.

Before we could drive ourselves, Daddy took us early to Sunday evening church so that we could go to youth choir practice. For thirty minutes, we went over this week’s song, learned the parts, and then sang it one or two times through. Maybe. I have no idea if we were ever any good -- the adult choir wasn’t, so I am banking on the fact that the youth choir wasn’t either. It was a different era -- the pool from which the voices were pulled was quite shallow.

I did not like choir practice; I believed it was full of the nerdier church youth, and I wanted to be edgier -- hang out with those who showed up just in time for food. That  feeling would change later when the church hired a young minister of music, a graduate of Shorter College and his side kick, a graduate of  Berry College -- but I digress.

BTW: Neither my mother or daddy could sing very well either.  As a child when I sat next to them  in church, sometimes when they shared the Methodist Hymnal and sang  “My Hope is Built” or “He Lives”  off key, I looked around to see if anyone else noticed my mother‘s low alto sounding voice or my dad‘s, well, bad one.  Usually not, since in that church, there were a lot of bad, adult singers --- most of them in the morning service choir, in their white robes with velvet stoles, singing solos.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s,  more young people became attracted to Mary Branan.  I don’t know if the church leaders began instigating some more progressive programs [hiring young people to be youth leaders, allowing us to listen and talk about Jesus Christ Superstar, or providing a place for the youth to gather], but I know that a lot of my brother Ken’s and my friends from high school, whose parents did not attend church, began to come to church on Sunday night for MYF. {As far as I know, this could have been a trend in all Methodist churches.}

I  was greatly curious about those friends of mine who didn’t attend church, but what was even more puzzling to me were those friends of mine who came to church but their parents didn’t.

You don’t have to come to church? Really?

I imagined that they could have these leisurely Sunday mornings:  sleeping late, watching television and listening to the radio, or lying around on the floor with the Sunday, color comics from the Atlanta Journal spread out before them, toast and jelly in hand, and reading every comic three or four times each.  

Life without the rituals and traditions of church ? Unfathomable.

In retrospect, there were probably more people who didn’t attend church than did, but in my young mind and insular up-bringing, to not go to church seemed, well, uncivilized and the families who didn‘t go seemed -- well -- un - family - like as if something was inherently wrong. I noted that I was much more likely to get permission to hang out with someone whose whole family were church goers, as in my parents knew them, than in a family who was not, a prejudice that I didn’t quite understand at the time.

--- end of Part I ---


  1. I don't know half of what you wrote about -- beings that I most certainly did not grow up in a Christian home. And I love the bit about the choir as I am not a singer, no way, no how, but it is all a glorious noise/sound to the Lord, aye?

    Thanks for sharing this piece of your history.


  2. Oh Harriet, this was memory making for me, looking at all these pictures and reading the stories...I was raised in a Baptist Church and it was much the same...my Aunt, my Mom and I were all in the choir at church. We went every Sunday and I am so glad we did. My Mom, bless her heart took us and Dad stayed home and read the Sunday paper. Later, he too met the Lord and went along with us :-)