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home : opinion : opinion July 18, 2019

4/28/2019 6:13:00 PM
After-Thoughts On "Hops & Hymns"

L. Wayne Howard

I am not naive enough to believe that editorials and Facebook posts of opinions really have any significant effect in changing people's minds. Those who write the posts must surely realize that those who agree with them will continue to agree and those who disagree will not be convinced by whatever they've written.

That said, the musing here is presented as much or more for my own benefit as for anyone else's. Mark Twain said it well in his essay "What Is Man?" If you have never read it, I highly recommend it. I consider it worthwhile enough that I'll supply you a link--you won't even have to visit the library:(

When I first read it years ago, I found the tale that begins on page 20 (in this online pdf version) especially interesting.

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Sunday morning, after attending church in Dallas, I made my way to Lincolnton for lunch. I passed several other churches where Sunday morning services were still in progress. I came up the old way (Business 321 thru High Shoals) so I passed the flea market north of Dallas. There was a huge crowd, and many, many more turning into the parking area--far more than the number of cars I had seen at all of the churches put together.

It occurred to me that there was some similarity between the two diverse groups of people. Those going to the flea market were there because they were looking for something: some for a bargain, others for some item or items they hadn't considered until they happened to see it there. Some would leave with a purchase; others would leave having spent some time, perhaps enjoyably, perhaps in frustration, with nothing.

I penned an article Saturday about the "Hops & Hymns" event that was held Thursday at Untapped Territory--a pub on East Water Street in Lincolnton.

As often happens when listening to the sermons in church, my mind wandered--considering other things not said but very much related to in this case the music or in others, the message.

One of the songs sung Thursday night was "I Saw the Light," a song written and first performed by Hank Williams in 1947. It wasn't an immediate success, but after Williams, who had first been rejected by the Grand Ole Opry, became the hottest artist in country music, it became his closing song for his performances. Covered by a plethora of other artists, it became a well-known gospel song.

As I listened to it on Thursday, I recalled an interview with Minnie Pearl. In 1952, not long before the Opry decided to part company with him, she said she was one of three performers who had the job of taking Williams for a ride before his performance, doing their best to keep him away from alcohol and sober enough to perform. On the radio, his recording of "I Saw the Light" was playing. Minnie said Hank began to sob. "What is it?" she asked. "That's just it, Minnie," he replied, "there ain't no light; there ain't no light."

A part of the article I wrote about "Hops & Hymns" is about the current situation of churches and religion in America. While some Americans practice other religions, Christianity is still the predominant religion in the US; but 75% of youth have left church after high school; and 23% of American adults say they are atheists, agnostics or have no particular preference.

It occurred to me on Sunday morning that just like those who were spending time at the flea market, many of those who were attending churches would also leave with nothing; they would have gone through the motions, perhaps out of habit, perhaps out of some less than fervent belief that it was what they should do.

I don't know that "Hops & Hymns" serves as anything more significant than this commentary--those who like it will agree; those who don't won't change their minds. I do know that church attendance is shrinking, and that many churches are populated these days only by old people like myself. Mike and Amy are trying something different. If it brings them--and their friends who attended Thursday or will at other times--pleasure, that may be enough.

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