Smith Hill Chronicles
Smith Hill Chronicles
As a teenager, I went for several consecutive summers to the Methodist Church Youth Camps at “Epworth By The Sea” on Saint Simons Island Georgia. This is a wondrous place, of huge Live Oaks draping themselves across sweeping green lawns.
That first year,(I must have been 14) the Preacher of our Church, Br. Rudolf Dixon drove a group of us down and spent several days, if not the whole time (about a week) with us. It was all so new, so different.…
I would frequently go missing from group activities, because I was walking around, exploring; the “Tabby House” (a restored slave cottage with tabby walls 3 feet thick); the “Lovely Lane Chapel” (my favorite). This was a small wooden church with high, soaring interior spaces, of open beams, dark finished wood all around, and stained glass windows. To me then, it felt huge. I felt compelled to whisper in this place. There was an ‘aura’ of sanctity.
When Br. Rudolf dropped me back at my Daddy’s shop upon our return, he pulled my Daddy aside, and told him about how I would leave the groups and wander off by myself; he was concerned that I may have some problem, some “disorder”.
Funny how adults don’t think kids can hear things like that.
Fast forward two years, once again at Epworth. Jesus Christ Superstar had broken out into the world, creating much debate and controversy in the “fundamentalist” world of my church and family.
I loved it, and having progressed exponentially for my age in my study of music, I got the music book when I got my first copy of the vinyl LP, and had learned to play most of the songs on the piano.
At one of the nightly teen music/inspirational “services” I was particularly moved, and once the service was over, I, along with quite a few others (but I was among the first) began making our way across the grass, in the dark, to the chapel.
When I entered, there were only two or three ahead of me, so I went straight to the rail and knelt, looked up in the dimness, and began to pray.
I don’t remember just what I said, or thought, but I remember that suddenly it was as if I were engulfed in a warm, golden glow! It was almost as if I floated up above the ground. I was safe. I was loved. I was accepted.
Some time later, I came back to my senses, to reality. I was still kneeling at the alter rail, but now the room was packed with teenagers. All of us kneeling at the rail had our arms over each other’s shoulders. Everyone was crying, singing, rejoicing. It was wonderful!
The next night at the music/inspirational service, there was a sort of “open mic”; people got up, sang, or spoke, or recited, or read…there was a piano, so I went up and played “King Herod’s Song” from Superstar; BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN!!!!! What a RUSH!
Then about 15 minutes later, I went back on stage, this time to the microphone (in those days of teenage boy voice changing, I didn’t sing in front of people) but I went to the microphone, and told about my experience in the chapel, that I had met Jesus there! The house was in an uproar once again!
After that service was over, I was approached by a couple of men, who asked me if I would be willing to come to their church in a couple of months to give my testimony! (My testimony? What was that?) Did they want me to come play some music, I asked?
Yes, you can play some music as well if you like, but we want you to speak and give your testimony (there it was again!)….I agreed, not really knowing what it was they were asking of me. They said they would pay me for my gas, and put me up overnight, and we set a date.
Back home, after returning from St Simons, the world was as it was before, no more groups of teenage peers, back into the run-of-the-mill south Ga existence, filled with all the real world temptations, conflicts and resentments, teenaged angst…
That feeling I had felt in the Lovely Lane Chapel was quickly lost in the din of reality, not to be regained for many, many years. What I now know to have been a “Mountain Top Experience” was what I thought being “Saved” was all about, and since I no longer felt that feeling, I felt I was no longer “Saved”….how sad.
When I went to give my “Testimony”, those men were surely disappointed. I played another piece from Superstar, as I still thought that was the focus of what they wanted from me, and the “experience” of that night, had settled into the dust of disuse…
About the author:
I write poetry, which I hope is inspirational.
I am also a working musician, in that I am an old guy who is still making money working and playing music.
I've been playing now for 51 yrs
These days I mainly play for older folks in Nursing Home, Assisted Living and Retirement Communities, plus the occasional party or wedding.