1924 "Canaan"s Land" is a gospel hymn credited to Bill Fold, 1958.
1920 For the members of this and other churches, the heavenly homecoming, or resurrection of the saints, represents the long-awaited, climactic fulfillment of the Christian life. Preaching on this subject quickens the Spirit and results in shouts and tears of joy.
1921 At the end of each sermon John issues the altar call, or Invitation.
1922 Words and music for the gospel hymn "Are You Washed in the Blood?" were written in 1878 by Elisha Hoffman. The reference is to Revelation 7:14.
1923 After filming this altar call, the prayers and embraces, we asked Kenny and Todd to tell us what had happened. Kenny said, "As far as actually knowing why Todd went to the altar, I never ask him. I didn"t feel that it was my concern. When I say my concern, I feel that whatever he went to the altar for was between him and the Lord. And I"m concerned with what my son does, and we"re strict on him. But, I just went and prayed with Todd. And in fact, he said, "Daddy, if I ever go to the altar, I want you there." So, I felt it my obligation to be there. I felt it and I wanted to be there. I wanted to pray with him, I wanted to talk with him. . . . I don"t know why, as I said before, I don"t know why he went up to the altar, but I"m sure he felt his need to God. It may have been something to God, something that he"d done in some way that he sinned, I don"t know. I prayed with him and talked with him. And he prayed. I didn"t hear his prayer. I don"t know what his prayer was." Todd said, "The Sunday before I came to the altar, I had one of the elders of the church pray for me because I wasn"t feeling right. God was speaking to my soul, you know, "Go to the altar and re-dedicate your soul to God," you know. And so I went up there, and it may have been James [Moomaw] that prayed for me, I"m not sure, but I went up there and he prayed for me. and I didn"t feel right...dad wasn"t in church that morning, and I didn"t feel right after I came back from the altar. And so, that Sunday night, when dad was in church, I"d told him earlier in the day, when I come back home. I said, "Dad," I said," The next time that I come to the altar, I want you to be there with me. I want you to be there with me." And he said, "Okay, son, I will." And so that night when I went to the altar, I looked back at dad and he come up there with me. And he got to praying with me. And after I got up off the altar, I felt so relieved, it just felt so great. You know, it felt wonderful. And I don"t know if it was the thought of having dad praying with me, or...I don"t know just what it was, but it was just so great, you know, that dad was up there with me."
1918 John"s vision of Buddy Wayne in heaven confirms him on his path.
1919 This reference is to people in mainstream churches who disapprove of demonstrative behavior such as shouting in the church. As John says, "When God shouts me, I shout." Like John"s earlier statement that a person can"t buy their way into heaven, it is a way of noting class distinctions and reassuring the church that they make no difference to God.
1917 Life stories, or personal experience narratives, such as this one, demonstrate how God works in individuals" lives and are a particularly important speech genre in the religious folklife of this and similar churches. Conversion narratives, call-to preach narratives, vision narratives, and healing narratives are important types. See PG, chapter 9, "The Life Story," and chapters 6-8, passim.
1914 This begins the longer section of the film on preaching.
1915 John habitually refers to the sermon as "the message," alluding to his understanding that it comes directly from God, while the preacher is the mouthpiece that delivers it.
1916 This begins the climactic section of the film, in which John preaches about the heavenly homecoming reunion, linking family members together. His relationship to his father, and to his dead son Buddy Wayne, is echoed in the film"s final scene, in which Todd Stroupe embraces his father Kenny.
1913 "Amazing Grace," perhaps the best-known hymn in the United States, was written in the 18th century by John Newton. For those who are familiar with this and other folk hymns such as "I"ll Fly Away" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" in a secular folksong context it is revealing to see and hear them as expressions of religious folklife in a church setting like the FIBC.
1910 This begins the "One More Day" sequence, illustrating the power of singing to affect individual lives, in this case Donny"s.
1911 While filming this scene our attention was focused on the dialog and we were unaware of how intrusive the parakeet"s chirping would be; but we feel that the "One More Day" sequence would not be nearly as effective without this particular scene, so we kept it despite the technical problem with the sound.
1912 "I Must Tell Jesus" was written in 1893 by Elisha Hoffman and appears in the Church Hymnal. John leads the congregation in this song, but here he sings it solo, as a special-hymn. It is a good illustration of his singing style, typical among oral traditional singers from the southern Appalachians.
1908 This begins the section of the film on family and "special-singing." "Specials," as they are called, give soloists and small groups (usually family duos, trios, or quartets) a chance to sing and witness. "Going Home" is one of many special-hymns in the Sherfey family"s repertory.
1909 Jeannie and Pammy Sherfey both worked for local businesses, Jeannie at a fast food chain and Pammie at a department store. Some of the women representing an older generation in the church had worked at the local poultry processing plant.
1907 To prepare for this scene we transferred edited clips from the film to a videotape and showed this to John on his tv set. We feel it is important to have, directly in the film, John stating his reasons for giving permission to film and for his participating in the film.
1905 This begins the section of the film on the present (i.e., 1985-86) church context. Note that the ethnographic present described in the book Powerhouse for God is about 8 years earlier. By 1985 some of the members of the congregation who play a prominent role in the book were too old to attend church, so they do not appear in the film.
1906 The well-known gospel song "I"ll Fly Away" was composed in 1905 by Albert E. Brumley.
1901 This begins the brief historical section of the film. We were aware that this way of presenting history, with still photos and narration, was very conventional, but we wanted the viewers to understand that these people"s religious beliefs and behavior were rooted in tradition.
1902 This begins the section of the film on praying. The action centers on the "altar prayer," which follows prayer requests and consists of the congregation members all praying aloud as the spirit moves them, rather than a single person offering a prayer, perhaps from a written source, on behalf of the entire congregation. In this and a number of other traditional practices, the FIBC differs from mainstream churches.
1903 i.e., the age at which a person knows right from wrong.
1904 The name of the film, book, and recording arose from John"s metaphor spoken here, from an interview recorded in 1977.
1899 The southern Appalachian version of this gospel hymn became well known to the general public in the folk music revival of the 1960s, but it dates from 1907. The text was written by Ada Habershon, and the music by Charles Gabriel. Go to http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/w/i/willthec.htm to hear the original version.
1900 John and Pauline"s son, whose death in childhood brought John back to the Lord. A later sequence of the film is built around this event as John tells the story and preaches about it.
1894 The theme of this first section of the film is conversion. John"s conversion occurred in August, 1952 at a tent revival in Gray"s Station, Tennessee. Milburn Morlock was the name of the preacher holding the revival. In what follows, John gives a brief version of his "conversion narrative," his story of how he got saved.
1895 The FIBC practiced a healing prayer with laying on of hands on the authority of James 5:14-15, following the biblical instructions literally. The prayer was done only when a church member requested it. See PG, pp. 268-271.
1896 This is John"s "call to preach" narrative, or the story of how God called him to preach. Among preachers who believe God calls men to preach the gospel, and that this call, rather than seminary education, is the qualification for a true preacher, "call to preach" narratives are common and usually fall into a pattern: the call comes suddenly, the narrator does not want to accept it and tries to avoid giving in, but after a period of resistance and increasing anxiety the narrator accepts the call, feels as if a burden has been lifted, and begins his life as a preacher. In its basic structure the "call to preach" narrative parallels the "conversion narrative." See PG, pp. 311-322.
1897 This is a brief section illustrating the power of John"s preaching and its affect on the congregation. John preaches extemporaneously as the Spirit moves him, rather than from notes or a prepared sermon that he has written out beforehand. He does meditate and think on Bible passages beforehand, connecting them with themes he wants to bring out; but when he preaches, he lets the Lord lead him. The congregation, made up of working-class people, appreciates the idea that getting to heaven does not depend on wealth or social class. Like many of the church members, John grew up poor, in a sharecropping farm family; he had worked in a paper-making factory, as a truck driver, and in supermarkets before becoming a full-time pastor.
1898 This begins the section of the film on congregational singing. Most of the hymns sung at the FIBC are gospel hymns, a 19th-century development in Protestant hymnody, that grew out of the evangelical movement. The FIBC uses the Church Hymnal, ed. Connor Hall (Cleveland, TN, 1951). The text for "Sweet Hour of Prayer" was written by William Walford in 1845. The congregation sings a version of William Bradbury"s 1861 hymn tune, but in a style that is typical of Appalachian mountain singers. See PG, chapter 5, "Singing." The film"s structure follows, roughly, the order of worship at the FIBC, which is as follows: (1) congregational hymn-singing; (2) prayer requests and altar prayer, (3) scripture reading, (4) Sunday school, (5) Bible count [John asks for a show of hands from people who have brought their Bible to church], (6) birthdays, (7) offering, offering prayer, and hymn; (8) special hymn-singing, (9) healing prayer, if requested; (10) sermon, (11) altar call (invitation), prayer, and hymn, (12) prayer (if someone steps forward to the altar), (13) testimony, (14) closing prayer.
1893 John and Pauline Sherfey learned this gospel song in the 1950s from the singing of Henry Barker and his wife in Morrison City, VA. John said, "I used to go, back when I first started preaching, and him and his wife would sing this song at the State Line Mission, right where Kingsport, Tennessee and the Virginia line met. They had a church there and they called it the State Line Mission. And I had an appointment there every fourth Sunday in each month. Him and his wife would come there, and they were two of the sweetest people I ever saw. And they sung that song so much, "Preaching by the Roadside," and I learned it by heart." See PG, pp. 236-239.