An Alabama writer is feeling nostalgic for the Sunday School songs of her childhood.

children choir

Is your memory taking the more logical chambers of your mind on a few unexpected side trips these days? Mine is. It’s happening more and more as Easter approaches.

For example, I’m supposed to be writing about children’s Easter songs, but I find myself drifting away from musical salutes to The Rabbit and instead gravitating to the gospel songs of my childhood—songs like “The B-I-B-L-E” (yes, that’s the book for me). Don’t tell my editor. We’ll keep this between us.

It’s not that my family didn’t give the Easter Bunny his due. Mama made a bunny cake (one round layer was his face; from the other, she carved a bow-tie and bunny ears). I always got an Easter basket, and we had egg hunts at home and at the church. I learned to sing “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” and “The Bunny Hop” and “Little Bunny Foo Foo.” And I had a well-worn copy of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

But when I think about Easter songs and childhood, I think about church. Specifically the Southern Baptist church in my little hometown of Harpersville, Alabama. (When I was in college, one of my friends asked me the population of Harpersville, and I said, “It depends on whether or not I’m home for the weekend.”)

In Sunday School we learned songs like “I’m in the Lord’s Army,” which had spectacular choreography that let us "march in the infantry, ride in the cavalry, shoot the artillery." We pounded one little fist on top of the other as we sang “The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock.” Another favorite was “I’ve Got That Joy, Joy, Joy,” especially the verse that made a defiant stand against evil: “And if the devil doesn’t like it, he can sit on a tack—OUCH!—sit on a tack—OUCH!—sit on a tack.”

There was “Father Abraham,” with his many sons, “Praise Ye the Lord Hallelujah,” and my personal favorite, “Deep and Wide.”  I’m right now picturing Bernice Kidd, who was one of my childhood Sunday School teachers, leading us in that song as we used our arms to animate the deep and the wide. We sang both words on the first verse (deep and wide); the second verse was “hmmm and wide”; and the third verse was “hmmm and hmmm”—as in “There’s a fountain flowing hmm and hmm.”

Singing together was childhood fellowship. We all knew when to clap and when to stomp, when to measure the deep and open our young arms to the wideness of it all. We weren’t just having fun. We were learning to be brothers and sisters in a shared faith.

First we sang it. Then we grew to believe it: Jesus loves me—he will stay, close beside me all the way.

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