AND WE CALLED HIM BROTHER MEYERS
There was no better person than the preacher to be the most admired adult in the community. It was the morning of the third Sunday, and a barefoot, nine-year-old Cajun boy sat at the end of the third row by his mother at the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. The congregation had finished singing LEANING ON THE EVERLASTING ARMS, and Mama Miller had moved from the piano stool to her reserved seat on the front row.
The hymnals were carefully placed back in the racks, because next to the Bible, they were the most sacred books in the church. Although the congregation knew the words, it was a tradition to open the hymnals, and hold the books firmly with both hands while singing.
The windows of the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church were opened because the conditions inside the church were hot and humid. Beautifully shaped, hand-held fans were placed in the racks next to the hymnals. On the front was a bright colored picture of the little Jesus in the nativity scene, and on the back was the advertisement for the local funeral home. It was a sophisticated art for Southern ladies to use short wrist motions making fanning an acceptable procedure for feminine church-goers.
Many things made Brother Meyers a special country preacher. His bright red suspenders and his fluffy-sleeved white shirts were unique fashions for a preacher whose chief mode of transportation was riding on the back of a mule. The fluffy sleeves would often get caught in the wind and become inflated during his emotional sermons. Therefore, he wore elastic garters above the elbows to keep the sleeves in place.
It was not only the strong gospel words which flowed from his lips that made him so effective, but also his ability to continue preaching through extraordinary occurrences. Often Sister Simmons and others would become overpowered by the Holy Spirit and shout. Sister Simmons was famous for what the church members called the head jerk. Possessed by the Holy Spirit, she could pop her braided pigtails like whips and send hairpins flying through the church. Brother Meyers, from years of experience, had learned to dodge the hairpins and never skip a word in his spirit-driven sermons.
Even though it was difficult, he could hold the congregation’s attention while Mama Miller did the Holy Roller shakes. When Mama Miller shook, the whole church shook, and trinkets of jewels would drop from the rich lady’s body and dance on the hardwood floor.
Then there would be the time when Brother Meyers would move from behind the pulpit and do a two-step rhythm in accordance with the words of his sermon. Forceful preaching would continue, and near the end of the sermon he would offer an Altar Call.
For the nine-year-old, the sermon had been too long. He had become restless. He had seen the shouting, the shaking, even the rolling in the church aisle, and he needed something different. He wanted entertainment, the kind of entertainment he had seen the second night of the week-long revival. A big bug, an unusual bug, a buzzing bug, got caught up in Miss Ethel’s bird’s nest hairdo. To the nine-year-old it was entertainment, but to the congregation, Miss Ethel had been zapped by the Holy Ghost causing human actions never before seen in the church. Finally, the bug was freed, but the entertainment continued. The big bug dipped into several fancy hairdos before finding an open window. The nine-year-old had watched it all.
There was another night when something unusual occurred in the Amen Corner. The Holy Spirit worked in mysterious ways when a church mouse ran up Mr. Dennis’ pants leg. The church nearly experienced a Holy Ghost striptease, but lucky for the congregation, the mouse became frightened, ran down the other pants leg, and out the front door.
It was during a Sunday morning service when yellow jackets escaped through a mysterious knot hole in the hardwood floor. One yellow jacket, of the stinging kind, got caught up under Miss Nellie’s dress. The congregation witnessed hand gestures and body movements never experienced by human eyes. Plus, there were audible words spoken in the unknown tongue, never before heard in any church.
But on this Sunday, the young boy’s wait was over. Miss Loretta ran down the aisle and fell on her knees at the Altar. She had been referred to by some as a lady of loose morals, and on this day she was seeking forgiveness.
The experience of an aged preacher went into affect. He placed one hand on top of Miss Loretta’s head and continued the two-step spiritual dance around her body. Her trembling turned into a full, out-of-control, body shake, and soon she lay stretched out on the Altar.
Trained church ladies were on track, and a spiritual séance progressed with the laying on of hands, and the repeating of a Holy Ghost chant. When the chant had taken affect, Miss Loretta jumped to her feet and began a series of divine utterances referred to in the Bible as the unknown tongue. Brother Meyers stepped aside, only for a moment, to allow the congregation to experience an actual example of the Holy Spirit descending from heaven and occupying a physical body. The speaking in the unknown tongue was nonstop, and the ladies escorted Miss Loretta to a room behind the pulpit, and Brother Meyers gained control.
With the sounds of an unidentified spiritual tongue in the background, Brother Meyers moved to the center aisle. He dropped to his knees and resumed powerful preaching.
With Brother Meyers on his knees pounding the floor with his fists, the nine-year-old had to stand to see over the head of Mr. Crain, the tallest man in the church.
“Don’t do it, Lord! Don’t do it!”
The begging’s continued, and the name ‘Noah’ became the recognizable subject of the sermon.
Brother Meyers stood up and moved farther down the center aisle. He stopped unexpectedly and began pushing and shoving with an invisible being.
“Let me go! Let me go!”
With his entire body shaking, he turned and ran back to the Altar.
“The Holy Spirit won’t let me go. I can hear the voice, and he’s saying there is somebody here who needs to be saved.”
He reached in his back pocket and pulled out a neatly folded white handkerchief. He removed his glasses, and instantly wiped the sweat from his face, but he never stopped preaching.
“I know! I know! Yes, I KNOW, the Holy Spirit is here today. Just like in the days of Pentecost, the Lord is speaking to us.”
His neat, ironed shirt was wet, wrinkled, and sticking to his arms. His bright red suspenders were drenched with sweat, but he never stopped. His throat was sore, and his voice was cracking. He took deep gulps of air with each breath, but Brother Meyers preached on. The congregation sat in fear thinking any minute the man would pass out from exhaustion or would suffer a heart attack. But like a marathon runner, Brother Meyers got a second wind, and he continued.
“I know, there is somebody here on the verge of a decision.”
Once again he moved to the center aisle, fell on his knees and repeatedly beat the floor with his fists.
“I beg of you, Lord! Don’t it! Don’t do what you did in the days of Noah. Give us just a little more time.”
He stood up and began jumping up and down in rhythmic motions and speaking in an unknown tongue. The church members sat spellbound, and Mama Miller moved to the piano but did not touch the keys.
Brother Meyers remained the center of attention, and he crawled to the front door. Someone opened the door and he stood up. He continued preaching while he walked down the steps.
Inside the church, the congregation could hear the words, “Now old Noah, he was a good man. So the Lord spoke to Noah, and he told him, he said Noah, I’m gonna send the waters. Noah believed the Lord, and he tried to tell the people, but the people wouldn’t listen.”
Outside the church, it was a never–ending sermon. The mule was waiting. The preacher hopped on the back of the mule with the agility of a twenty-one-year-old. Old Bessie knew what to do. With the preacher’s voice echoing through the woods, she trotted off down the dusty road.
When the voice of the preacher could no longer be heard, Mama Miller hit a strong chord to the gospel spiritual OH, HAPPY DAY. She lifted her voice, and with the words she sang, “OH, HAPPY DAY, WHEN JESUS WASHED MY SINS AWAY.”
The deacons were the first to leave. They, in single file, marched from the Amen Corner down the center aisle and to the front door. Only then was the congregation allowed to exit.
The nine-year-old nudged his mother and whispered, “Come on, Mama, let’s go.” His mind had wondered from the antics of the Primitive Baptist Church to the platter of fried chicken his mother had prepared for the after-church Sunday dinner.