Memories From A Pulpit By Philip North

In Nehemiah 8:4-8, we find the following said about the minor prophet Ezra, as he stands before the reuniting of God’s chosen people, who had returned from Babylonian exile: “And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Ruijah, and Hilkiah, and Masselah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pediah, and Mishawl, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Anariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. So they read in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.”

A great many pulpits used in the churches of our Lord in this country and abroad are made of the very substance the pulpit was made of that godly Ezra stood behind—-wood (verse 4). Not surprisingly, these Jews were now ready to be quite receptive to the Word of God, after spending 70 long years exiled in Babylon! They showed reverence to the Creator by lifting up their hands and bowing their heads to the earth.

I would like to share my memories of a certain pulpit made of wood. This pulpit, for a great many years, stood in the meetinghouse of the Spring & Blaine congregation in south St. Louis. This church met on 3800 Blaine Avenue, which was on the corner of (guess!) Spring and Blaine Avenues, from the mid 1930’s to 1973. Like a lot of churches back then, they started out assembling in a basement, then erected an auditorium over the basement. When the neighborhood escalated in crime, the brethren then moved to the Affton area, a nearby suburb, where their building was located on the corner of Valcour Drive and Weber Road. They remained there from mid 1974 until the very end of 2007. Upon relocating from south St. Louis, they took, along with many other items from their former building, that very same pulpit. When I attended the final service of this congregation on the eve of December 30th of aforementioned year, the pulpit was yet there. Over the years, like anything else material and physical, this wide piece of wood had aged and somewhat deteriorated. I viewed this pulpit (a.k.a. a podium) after that final service, stood behind it for a few short moments, and some of the wonderful memories then began to flow.

This was the same pulpit where many a fulltime preacher stood behind and did their best to “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). Likewise was the case with many a visiting preacher conducting a gospel meeting at this congregation, along with those men, some of whom were student preachers, who were there for just a Sunday engagement. More sermons than one could shake a stick at were declared from this podium. I reflected upon this from time to time while still attending this congregation. Yours truly also preached behind this stand a few times, although this pulpit was not the first one for me to use in which to declare God’s Word. So many preacher’s names come to mind, some of whom later on down the road of life, said to say, went off into doctrinal error. Among those preachers whom I remember seeing behind this pulpit, both fulltime at Spring & Blaine, along with holding meetings there, were T.T. Carney, Wilson Wallace, William Wallace, Foy E. Wallace, Jr., John Gerrard, Grover Stevens, Ferrell Jenkins, Jimmy Tuten, Jr., Homer Hailey, C.D. Plum, Bob Owen, Harry Pickup, Jr., Marshall Patton, Franklin T. Puckett, Robert Jackson, James P. Miller, W. Curtis Porter, and ever so many more who stood behind this structure of wood to preach the Word of God with power and from their hearts. What sweet memories! Memories that nobody can take away from me! This goes for even Satan himself!

One day while my father (who served as a deacon, then later as an elder, before having to resign by reason of age) and I were cleaning the auditorium the Saturday following the conclusion of another gospel meeting that previous night, I remarked to him how so many preachers have stood behind that pulpit. In referring to an elder there at Spring & Blaine, Dad replied, “To told Brother Granvil Sewell recently that there’s been enough preachers in that pulpit to save the world, if the people would only listen!” How true, given the age of this congregation even at this particular year, which was 1969. If the people would only listen! Of course, “if” though quite numerically small in length of letters, is still a big word, nonetheless.

This very same pulpit of wood was also occupied by many song leaders, of which this writer was one for 7 years. On this particular point, I realize that the reader will most likely know either so few or none of these boys and men. However, among them, besides myself, were Kenneth Joel, Neil Anderson, Gene Paxon, Benjie Norris, Ralph Dean, Terry Corzine, Keith Majors, Albright Goodjohn, and various others. Too, there were many men who made the announcements and led public prayers from this pulpit. Of course, a great many of the evangelists, song leaders, announcers, and those who worded prayer from this podium have gone on to their final reward. That makes the memories all the more sweeter, for sure! No doubt, many of you who read this can also relate to these sentiments from the congregation where you come.

In all the 22 years I attended Spring & Blaine, I never really began to think much of a wooden pulpit’s containing so much history, (which continued for 37 more years after I left St. Louis, before the congregation finally dissolved) until that particular Saturday afternoon in 1969 while Dad and I were cleaning the auditorium.

In the hymnal known as “Sacred Selections of The Church,” edited by Ellis Crum, song #397, entitled “Precious Memories,” was changed in its third verse to read as follows, which very much echoes the sentiments of this writer:

In the stillness of the midnight,

Echoes from the past I hear

Saints are singing, brethren bringing,

Lessons from the book so dear

For the most part, this church of our Lord experienced a rich history, and I am glad that I was a part of this congregation of God’s people for 22 years of my life. I feel ever so thankful to the good Lord of Heaven having been raised in the truth, of which I still feel strongly true of today that this was so. Though the congregation is now gone, there are so many members I recall from there of whom the ever so very larger majority of encouraged me, were friendly, taught me the Bible, and truly cared for my soul. Of course, my faithful parents too played a role in this. I was baptized at the age of 14 ½ in the baptistery of this building.

Now there is not so much as such an address as 3800 Blaine Avenue, for the lot contains no building. For a number of years, there was only, if memory serves correctly, a grove of trees occupying that property, which later gave way to the present picnic area containing a small gazebo with a picnic table underneath it. What is more, the onetime Affton church building is, at this writing, currently occupied by a denominational group. My former “home church” is now just a memory. For this writer, there are so many “precious” memories of a congregation where I was indeed proud to call “home,” as I grew into adulthood. However, a large part of my mind concerning this one time wonderful group is occupied with the many men who, for various reasons and separate occasions, stood behind a wide piece of wood. Just like the Bible says of Jesus’ mother, where it reads, “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart,” (Luke 2:19), so has this writer done likewise concerning large a certain large chunk of wood shared by many brothers in Christ.

Memories of a pulpit.

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