October 2015: Ivy Hall Review Features Carmen Lehtimaki

Carmen is an MFA writing student with a growing interest in copywriting and marketing. She currently works as a content creator for social media and will usually be found with a journal in one hand and sipping sweet tea with the other.


I hated going to Church as a kid. Bible study and choir practice I could deal with, but not regular Church on Sundays. It meant that I could only sleep in on Saturday. We went to a Baptist Church, even though I was told we weren’t Baptist. I was confused and frustrated enough already so I didn’t want to make it worse by asking questions about it.  Also, I was afraid to say how much I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to go to hell, although I bet in hell they don’t make you go to Church on Sundays.

On Sundays there were two services. The second service was a little after lunch time and was always quicker and more relaxed. A smaller amount of people went to the second service. It was basically for the people who wanted to sleep in a bit more. The first service was when a huge show was put on. The adult choir marched in after everyone was seated from all three entrances of the sanctuary. They then stood behind the pulpit in their designated seats after singing two songs. And I don’t mean just lazily singing the chorus and the first verse like we did whenever we would take out hymnals and sing as one. I mean they sung the entirety of both songs, all six verses. That alone had to have taken up half of the amount of time they spent during the entire second service.  Both services had a program to tell you what was going on and in what order. I used it so that I could make tick marks on each part until it was done. Once I was at the end of the program I would get a huge burst of energy, because the worst was almost over. I even once compared both programs. They looked identical except for the time each one started. They didn’t add on the second program that what they did in one and a half hours took the first service three hours because of the circus it was made into.

After everyone would sit down for the first service, the minister or the pastor’s son would say a few words. Then it was time for Reverend Creecy. He was the head of the church, and his wife was the first lady. I don’t think most churches call the wife of the head pastor the first lady, but at Olivet Baptist Church they did. And she owned it. She always sat in the first row facing the pulpit front and center. When Reverend Creecy would begin his sermon she sat up a little straighter. I always felt bad for the person sitting behind her because her hat was big enough to compete with the other old ladies in attendance. Reverend Creecy was old. We all knew it. His son was next in line to be the lead Pastor of Olivet. It got a bit political, but I think that had a lot to do with his timid speeches. He couldn’t compete with the original Reverend. Reverend Creecy would start off calmly talking about a passage from the Bible, but the more people would start saying “Amen” and “Yes’ah” while fanning themselves, the more intense he became. He would get louder and start spitting into the microphone. His wife could have taken a bath while in the first row. He would even start saying words that weren’t actual words. At first people murmured that they thought it was a mistake, but after some time you knew he would do anything to get the congregation hyped up.

Church was a fashion show. As a child you were always dressed like a live doll parents cooed at. The adults acted as if the red carpet in the sanctuary was a runway. The men looked like pimps. Men had canes when they didn’t even need them, just because it went with their suit that day. The women wore hats that looked like fruit baskets. It seemed like a competition to see who would have the biggest and most outrageous one. I would imagine looking down from above and thinking it was a tropical rainforest because of all the ridiculous hats in the room.

Usually about midway in the service they would have everyone turn to their neighbor and give peace. It always started out the same with people saying, “Peace be with you” to those in their immediate area. But when the choir cranked up, so did the crowd. They would always sing their liveliest songs and everyone would get up and walk across the sanctuary to talk and gossip with their friends. This lasted about ten minutes. Once it began to settle down Sister Johnson and Sister Beverly went and got into place as if a director told them to stand on the ‘x’ in front of a camera and screamed ‘action’. They began sprawling their arms out and screaming, “Yes lawd.” They would hop around and bend over just to belt it out even louder. The musicians would get back on the drums and piano to crank the music back up and assist with this timely fiasco. I always considered it the dance portion of the Sunday entertainment. Many people thought it was amazing that they always caught the Holy Spirit. Sometimes others would join in as well as if the Holy Spirit was as contagious as the flu. What really got me is that the Holy Spirit would even have them dancing along to the beat.

What I actually liked was communion. It was only every third Sunday of the month, but it was worth it every time it came. My mom always thought I was joking when I called it my snack time. That’s how I saw it. I know they would always talk about it being the blood and body of Christ, but I knew that wasn’t literal and it was so nice. I would always sit where I wouldn’t be as noticed and take two glasses. I thought I was being so sneaky by drinking wine, even if the wine tasted oddly like grape juice. I didn’t mind.

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