My Daddy was a church-going man; an old-line, foot-washing Primitive Baptist. Most Sundays (and some Saturdays) were spent going to one of the churches in our regular rotation. Each church held services only one weekend per month, having a service and conference on Saturday, just worship on Sunday.
The third Sunday of the month was not the weekend for “his” church, the one where he was a member and church clerk, so we often visited different churches on that weekend. Sometimes on the third Sunday in June, Father’s Day, we would go to Damascus Methodist Church in the community where locals would gather for a gospel sing. Gospel groups from all around the area would come and sing. There would be a mix of congregational singing, too.
It was always a memorable day with friends and relatives and friends of friends and friends of relatives coming in and out and visiting and listening to great harmony. It was especially joyous for me and my mother if the Oakes Family came to sing. L.A. Oakes was Mama’s first cousin. He and his wife sang beautifully and were joined by other strong voices over the years. It was always a thrill to hear them and to visit with them. And to tell people, “I’m related to them.”
Some of these groups were accompanied on a piano, but never any other instrument. And some of them sang a cappella. We were accustomed to that. Primitive Baptists do not use musical instruments in their song service, so the pure harmony of humble voices sounds more heavenly to me than any other. Nonetheless, a good gospel quartet with an ivory-pounding accompanist thrilled me, too.
I miss being with my Daddy on Father’s Day and every day, for that matter. I know the image our culture has portrayed of Heaven includes harps. But for the corner of Heaven where my parents are now, I hope there is some good, soul-stirring, a cappella harmony being lifted today.