[continued from here]
II. At West Side
Again, as with my Harding University-related leading opportunities, my family reputation preceded me: as a 17-to-20-year-old, I was pleased to be entrusted with regular leading responsibilities at the church I attended — the West Side Church. I rode a bus there, since it was about two miles away. One of the elders—a dear professor named Baggett, for whom my parents had sung when he directed the Christian academy chorus, and a man my other grandparents counted as a friend—put me in front of the church about once a month for the three and a half years I was in college.
I don’t remember the weekly planning process, but I don’t think there was anything submitted in advance for a bulletin or “worship program.” I don’t believe anything was coordinated with the preacher or other leaders. I would simply choose songs from the hymnal, a copy of which I owned, and then I showed up to lead. There were no “contemporary music” options available at that time, but I would have led a balance of songs that ranged mostly from 50-250 years old (plus one from the 3rd century) from the hymnal, and would have chosen appropriate songs and stanzas well in advance. Thinking things through is always good.
Although I have few specific memories, I can guarantee you that there was bona fide worship content when I led. I had been taught well by my grandfather, father, and others. Songs like “Lord of All Being, Throned Afar” and “Day Is Dying in the West” and “Father and Friend, Thy Light, Thy Love” would have been likely choices for me during this period (and beyond!). I believe that much worship occurred during such times, no matter whether I was leading or someone else, as in certain churches today that think they’re worshipping more, and better.
Despite my youth, I put relatively mature thought into leading and did some good things. Since I had some prior experience leading in my home church, at youth events, and at camp before coming to college in Searcy, I was accustomed to conventions such as writing out lists of song numbers, inserting prayers and readings at the “right” spots with other men’s names filled in (often, at the last minute when brother so-and-so didn’t show up to fill his assignment), announcing song numbers twice in two forms (“four hundred fifty six . . . four-five-six” [to make sure someone didn’t accidentally turn to 466), and holding up fingers to indicate stanza numbers.
Since leading at the West Side Church was a regular thing for me throughout my undergraduate college “career,” I probably owe Eddie Baggett (the elder, professor, and family friend) a lot more than I’ve realized for giving me the opportunity to develop as a leader at this important time of life. He and his wife are now in their upper 80s, and we had a nice visit with them a few weeks ago in their home.
To be continued . . .