Holy Roller Country
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West Virginia Meeting 32

A Cross and a Ukelele

UkuleleThe Rector from Longview Church in West Virginia liked to hold open-air meetings in Holy Roller Country. West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian mountains of the Southern United States. It is significant for its logging and mining industries. Unfortunately, on this occasion, only the clergyman and I were willing to go out and as he insisted on observing the crowd's reaction at first hand, so I had to stand alone. With a beautiful jeweled processional cross in one hand and my ukulele under my arm, I marched to the center of the town. I propped the awkward cross against a telegraph pole, and strummed "Onward Christian Soldiers" to the painful accompaniment of my broken voice. New courage seemed to come to me "to do the work of the evangelist." As I spoke, many stopped and stared. Some were curious, others astonished at this strange sight. All the time the Rector in the background was noting their reactions.

Holy Rollers

War West VirginiaI was myself astounded years later in the nearby coal mining town of War in West Virginia, by what I saw. Young people, filled with holy joy, rolled down the aisle of the church during the service. This was holy roller country.

Shotgun Reaction

Fiddle and Guitar PlayersMuch of our time in War we visited door-to-door. We were warned that some mountain folk could be very aggressive. Once as we were approaching a gray-haired old lady sitting out on her porch in her rocking chair, she suddenly lifted a rifle out of her shawl and warned, "Don't come too close, or I'll shoot!" Most mountain folk in War went out of their way to welcome us. When they came to our mission services, those who were familiar with the Old Time Revival Meetings were soon at home. Beginning each night with a Gospel Hymn Concert led by an accordion, mouth organ, guitar and pipe organ, things soon warmed up. On the first two evenings, the service was very informal, full of lively singing and hand clapping. On Wednesday, we used part of the Prayer Book for the worship. Beginning in their own mountain music, they responded from their hearts in the Prayer Book's ancient language.

"Holy Roller Country"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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