Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Harmony Homecoming

This past weekend I read the new Southern Living magazine, which featured a story about the Southern custom of “dinner-on-the-grounds.”  (I don’t know – maybe Yankees have the same custom?)  The recipes all sounded fabulous – especially the desserts -- but the story brought back wonderful memories from my childhood.  Every summer, the little church in rural Arkansas that my great-grandparents had attended held Homecoming Sunday, and my parents made the trip from Little Rock with us kids several times that I recall.  My great-grandparents are buried in the graveyard behind the church, and we always went out to see their headstones and hear stories about them.  I even have a photo of my baby sister holding my daughter as a toddler next to my great-grandparents’ headstones!  (You know you’re Southern, if you take photos of children in graveyards.)  My sister is going to kill me for posting a photo of her wearing tube socks.

A church service was always held before dinner-on-the-grounds, and I remember sitting in the un-air-conditioned building, dressed in my Sunday best and fanning myself for dear life.  I was always more than ready for the service to end and the meal to begin.

My grandmother and aunts would have been cooking for days in preparation.  Each had her specialties, and we knew to look for them on the long tables set up under the pines to hold all the food.  Some of my favorites were Grandma Rachel’s fried chicken, caramel cake, and fried pies, not to mention Aunt Ava’s homemade bread and Aunt Lottie’s “goop” salad.  The grownups usually sat on folding lawn chairs to eat, but the children sat on blankets and quilts spread under the pine trees.  

After lunch was the hymn sing, and I enjoyed that part, too.  As I recall, the pianist was one who could play everything with a real flourish.  We sang all the old-time hymns, but my favorite song was Little Brown Church in the Vale.  It was a song I learned from my parents, who would sing with us on long car trips.  My daddy and my brother would sing the “Oh-oh, come, come, come, come” part while my mother, sisters, and I sang the refrain.

In wonderful synchronicity, this past Sunday was our church’s annual Gospel Sunday, and we sang FOURTEEN of the old beloved hymns, including Little Brown Church in the Vale.  After standing on the promises – and Jordan’s stormy banks--, leaning on the everlasting arms, and counting our blessings, all present were singing When the Roll is Called up Yonder with conviction!  (By the way, my offspring have strict orders to include that last one in my memorial service.)

I am thankful for the fond memories I have associated with dinner-on-the-grounds and old beloved hymns. 


  1. What a nice memory to share, Tricia! Sadly, my only memory of visiting relatives in the country at church was to attend a revival held outside in a tent. What caused my amazement at seeing the first live mouse ever encountered. I remember paper fans, but it was at night, not during the day. We sang Onward, Christian Soldiers, Rock of Ages, Abide with Me,Just as I Am and Were you There When They Crucified my Lord. I have never heard The Little Brown Church in the Vale, though.

  2. Oh I so remember all the old hymns and sing them all the time, I love the Little Brown Church in the Vale too. We use to have so much fun at the chuch dinners too, I miss those. Thanks for a sweet post and for the memories. Hugs, Marty

  3. Sweet story, Tricia. Hope you are enjoying this cooler weather! ~ sarah

  4. But my sweet sister, you didn't mention Grandma Rachel's chocolate meringue pie, so popular that she would keep one back just so I could get a piece before it was all gone! Thank you for this memory, it stirred several of my own!

  5. Oh yes, I love "Little Brown Church in the Vale"! We are having a hymn sing this Sunday and enjoy having dinner on the grounds fairly often.
    I feel sorry for those who miss out on this grand event.
    Precious memories!

  6. Oh Tricia, I love this! I wish we had something like that in Europe.. maybe we do and I don't know about it. But I know my dad's family in Ohio doesn't! What precious memories you have. Thanks so much for sharing them with us!! xo marlis

  7. Hi Tricia, I love the way you write! This really brought back memories of visiting my husband's church back in the early years of our marriage, it was very much like your childhood church. Thanks for visiting me at We Call It Junkin. I've been waffling about what to do with the little wooden sewing stand, but when/if I reno it, I'll do a post on it. My projects are always on Fridays. Take care - Dawn

  8. What a great post. Loved reading about your memories.

  9. I loved the word "you know you are Southern if you take pictures of children in graveyards." Well, it wasn't exactly that, but similar. I loved hearing your memories. Our church has never done something like that. Oh we do get together and eat, but it is not on Sunday. Love the pic of your sister. When I look at pics of us as kids, I sometimes think, Who are those poor little kids and who dressed them? "How Great Thou Art" was sung at my mom's funeral, and I want it sung at mine :).