I want to continue to ponder the metaphor that the church is like a tree. In my last post I used the practice of anointing with oil for healing as an example of what might be considered miracle life among the roots. Now I want to call attention to a few other matters that nourished the church in the 1950s and 60s in the Mennonite Church.
The church of my youth sang hymns without benefit of a piano or organ to assist them. As a youth I was among the song leaders of the congregation. To get the right pitch I used a pitch pipe like the one pictured above. My sense of sound wasn’t good enough to remember the pitch after I blew it. So I chose to use a tuning fork. I tapped the fork on the book and quickly moved it to my ear to get the tune in my head. In the Mennonite conference of my youth even special singing by quartets, octets, etc. was forbidden from regular church services.
But throughout the church in the 1950s and 60s smaller and more innovative churches began to deviate from the rules. Some of the events are amusing.
- When a bishop came from Pennsylvania for a communion service, he ordered that the piano be pushed into a side room, out of sight, while he was there. When the bishop left town the piano was returned to the sanctuary for use until the bishop returned.
- A bishop came from Virginia to Florida to serve communion in a mission church. He required the members of the mission church to follow the standards of the Virginia Conference to receive communion. In the absense of the Bishop the pastor called a meeting of the believers, gave the meeting another name, and served them communion in the migrant community in which they lived.
- The pastor of a Florida church afiliated with the Conservative Conference told me that he had protested on the floor of their ministers’ meeting that the wedding bands worn by the members of the Florida congregation were not as expensive as the wrist watches commonly worn by the members of other congregations. The Florida congregation continued to set the standards for its own members.
These incidents are examples of the spiritual dynamic in the roots of the tree. Worship styles, wearing wedding rings and other jewelry, the size of prayer veilings and when they should be worn, how short women may cut their hair, and membership privileges for divorce and remarried members were all matters that required spiritual discernment by local churches and their pastors.
It is true that innovative congregations were regarded by some as worldly and rebellious. But in the mind of the Old Fool, the Wind of God was blowing and the roots were gathering nourishment that flowed throughout the tree, and the whole church was fed and changed.