27 July 2019

[Ellis Millsaps] - Shall We Gather at the River?

 Son of a Preacher Man: A  Rock And Roll Cowboy Grows Up Southern Baptist         
Chapter VI: Shall We Gather At The River?

Baptists, perhaps surprisingly given their name, are among the minority of Christian sects who do not believe that baptism is essential to salvation. Early on they shared this view with the Anabaptists who arose in Switzerland in the late 1500s followed by the Baptists, founded by the Englishmen John Smyth in the early 1600s.

 They teamed up early on, but soon split over several issues, but principally the Baptist belief, God bless em, that once in grace always in grace. The Anabaptists we know now are chiefly the Mennonites and Amish, obviously good Christians but they have not produced Little Richard or Jimmy Carter.

 For Southern Baptists baptism is a ritual generally prescribed for one's entry into a particular Baptist congregation. And so it was for me.

 The next Sunday after getting saved I joined the Holly Springs Baptist Church where as you know my father was pastor. Everyone in the congregation paraded around to shake my hand the way that used to view the corpse at funerals.
And no we shall not gather at the river for my baptism. This was 1959 and by this time most uptown Baptist churches had baptisteries, a rectangular tank usually curtained off behind the choir loft.

 I remember I got to watch a girl go before me. Steps led down to the bottom of the tank and steps on the far side led one out to someone waiting with a towel.

 The water came up to my six-foot father's waist, so at seven I was likely ninety per cent baptized before I pinched my nose and got dunked.

 It was not a spiritual experience. No dove descended, but I was now officially a church member and now I could concentrate on the tricky business of being a preacher's kid.

 Preacher's sons fall into two groups. You either toe the line and head toward being a preacher yourself or in many cases a minister of music ( Did you ever know of a minister of music who wasn't at least closeted gay? Not a criticism just an observation. ),  or else you  went totally the other way to prove yourself as sinful as any other schoolkid. I’m guessing you’ve guessed I chose door number two. 

 Ellis Millsaps

Ellis is a recovering Attorney but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield. Usually funny and at times irreverent and subversive, he leans left in his political philosophy but can always be counted on for a pretty darn good write-up. The Chronicles are proud to have him involved... 
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