This posting is based purely on a description of an incident in which a dog named Buster—my dog, a full grown sixty–pound American Pit Bull Terrier, a dog sporting a bobbed tail and surgically pointed ears, the marks of a fighting dog—caused worshipers to end a Saturday night gathering earlier than usual. Buster was christened at birth by the American Kennel Club as Mars but my brother, his first master, named him Buster in memory of his boyhood pet.
I was not there—my mother and my sister described the incident to me in considerable detail on the same night that it took place. I hasten to add that my sister was given to extreme exaggeration in her story-telling, and in such instances my mother would confirm the story as told by my sister, purely to avoid confrontation with her. This posting therefore, should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt.
When we lived on 19th Street South there was a small church down the street from our house, just across the Big Ditch—I have capitalized Big Ditch because it figured so prominently in my life while we lived on that street, and it is definitely a subject for a future posting—stay tuned!
I don’t remember the name or the denomination of the church, but I do remember my mother and my older sisters occasionally strolling down to the church in the evening, usually on Saturday nights. I am hesitant to use the term holy rollers, but in my memory that would describe the assembly. On summer Saturday nights in the absence of air conditioning, the doors and windows of the church were left wide open to provide relief from the summer heat. The sounds that I remember coming from the church reinforce that memory—no, I wasn’t invited but I sometimes sneaked down the street and listened and watched through the open door of the church.
Holy Roller as defined by Wikipedia:
Holy Roller is a term in American English used to describe Pentecostal Christian churchgoers. The term is commonly used derisively, as if to describe people literally rolling on the floor or speaking in tongues in an uncontrolled manner. For this usage, the Oxford English Dictionary Charles G. Leland, in which he says “When the Holy Spirit seized them..the Holy Rollers..rolled over and over on the floor.” It is generally considered pejorative, but some have reclaimed it as a badge of honor, e.g. William Branham’s statement “And what the world calls today holy-roller, that’s the way I worship Jesus Christ.” Similar disparaging terms directed at outspoken Christians include Jesus freaks and Bible bashers. The name Shakers was created as a portmanteau of shaking Quakers. Gospel singer Andrae Crouch stated, “They call us holy rollers, and what they say is true. But if they knew what we were rollin’ about, they’d be rollin’ too.”
Now fast forward some eight years later to a time when I lived for several months with my mother and my youngest sister on Seventh Avenue South—yep, I intend to devote some time and effort to pulling aside the curtain of time and revealing some interesting facts about life on Seventh Avenue South, life in a small three-room house just fifty feet from railroad tracks, a house with running water and electricity but no bathroom. Strategically placed several yards behind the house was a small tin-roofed two-hole wooden privy that served quite well for toilet purposes.
Our sojourn in that house, immediately adjacent to an active railroad lasted several months, an interim period during one of various times that we were separated from our stepfather and on our own, living life as best we could with the resources we had—spare resources, indeed!
Buster was my dog, a left-over from the time I lived with my brother in Maryland—yep, that is also a future posting—is there no end to this?!! Buster spent his early years as my brother’s dog, but was inherited by me when my brother returned to military service with the United States army. Click here to learn how Buster fared during my service as an indentured servant on an Alabama farm.
Now on to Buster’s breakup of a Saturday night worship service. On a special summer Saturday evening my mother and my sister walked several blocks to the church on Nineteenth StreetSouth to join the assembled worshipers—well, they really went to observe—and Buster, as always when anyone left the house, walked with them. He was a well-trained and obedient animal and stayed outside the church as ordered. However, he could see much of the activities and could hear the sounds, and at a moment when the sounds of the worshipers reached a crescendo he broke and charged through the open door and down the aisle to the altar where those that had been entered by the spirit were demonstrating the spirit’s presence, both physically and vocally. Apparently some of the sounds consisted of keening, high-pitched tones that aroused the bulldog to action—he joined the group gathered near the altar, howling mightily in tune with the worshipers, and pandemonium ensued.
Hey, I’m not making this up—I’m relating the incident strictly as I remember it from the tale told to me by my mother and my sister, with no embellishments other than those that may have been added by my sister—I wasn’t there so I can’t vouch for its truthfulness. I do believe, however, that the basic facts are true. My mother tended to go along with my sister’s embellishments, but she was not prone to supporting details that were obviously untrue.
The way my sister told it, some worshipers abandoned the church through the two open doors. Others climbed up on benches and crawled under benches, and still others exited through open windows leaving the bulldog at the altar, still howling. He made no effort to attack anyone. There was no biting or attempts to bite, but his presence and his howling was enough to empty the church.
After my sister calmed the dog and the congregation returned with its sanity restored—not all returned, but some did—the pastor politely but forcefully asked my mother if she planned to return for future services and if so, to please refrain from bringing the bulldog. I have no recollection of my mother or my sister or my bulldog attending later assemblies of worshipers.
So there—I’ve related the incident as told to me, succinctly and completely as possible—in fine (that’s Latin for at the end), that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!