Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Story: Pentecostal (1)

L to R:  Dad, Mom, Sister 1, Sister 2,
Back Row L to R:  Brothers Lowell, Wil and Me

Acts 2:1-4

“ 1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  3And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  4And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Yes, I was born in and grew up in a Pentecostal Family.  My maternal grandmother was the pastor of the local Pentecostal Church in the little saw-mill town of Lacoochee, Florida.  Hearing people speak in tongues and seeing them dance ecstatically in the spirit was as common for me as drinking water from a glass.  Praying for the sick that resulted in Divine Healing and miracles was not at all strange or different.  I grew up thinking that this was the way “church” was supposed to be.  I have seen people “slain in the Spirit” in the church as far back as I can remember.  Let me give you some background to my faith.

Dad had left home at 15 and had become a “hobo” on the freight trains which traveled up and down the eastern seaboard.  There he learned to smoke and drink and swear with his buddies.  It was 1934-1937.  When he and his friends would come back home after a long trip they would play music to entertain the patrons in the dance hall.  He worked awhile in the Cummers Saw Mill, where orange crates were made, making the fantastic sum of $9.00 per week for a full week’s work.  It wasn’t long until he cut off the first joint of his index finger on the saw.  He refused to go to a doctor but just stuck the joint of his finger on, wrapped it in a wrag, poured on the rubbing alchohol and let it heal back naturally.  “Natural” in this case turned out to be a crooked “pointing finger”.  While playing his guitar in the dance hall in the evenings, slipping a sip of whiskey from the bottle and getting himself generally drunk - the little Pentecostal church across the railroad tracks could be heard with characteristic singing, praying and shouting (in the old time way) for, you see, it was summer and the windows were left open for ventilation in the small wood-framed structure so typical of country churches of that day.  As Daddy explained it to us, “While playing at the dancehall, when we heard a shout break out at the church, we would run over and peep in the windows to watch the show!”  While peeping in the window, Dad saw the “most beautiful girl in the world” and was captivated by her beauty.  He made up his mind that he wanted to get better acquainted and soon learned that this 16 year old young lady was the Pastor’s daughter.

“Sister” Jones was a very charismatic leader.  If you have had exposure to almost any Christian church here in the Southeastern United States, you soon learn that all Christians are called “Brother” or “Sister”.  To me, Sister Jones was Grandma Jones.  She was charismatic before most of us ever knew what that word meant.  She found out that Louis could play the guitar and invited him to play with the church band.  I do not believe that was normal for Pentecostal churches in those days for they were also “Holiness” churches but this may give some insight into the wisdom of Pastor Jones.  [“Holiness”: That will be a subject for a later blog] She eventually won the young man to a deep experience with Christ.  During a Revival, while the house was full of fervent worshippers, Dad had “slipped a sip or two” before the meeting started.  At one high point of leading the service, Sister Jones, removed the fiddle from under her chin and called out to the crowd, “Saints!  I feel the SPIRIT in this place tonight!”  Dad, by now feeling the effects of his “slippin’ and sippin’” shouted back, “MEEEE TOOOOOO!”  Grandma then called to the congregation, “Praise God, Church!  The Spirit’s move is so powerful here that even these old sinners are feeling it!”  I’m not positive that it was the same night – but during that or a similar service, the house was so crowded that there was no room to sit in the back of the church.  After playing his guitar for the preliminaries he looked back for a place to sit down somewhere near the back of the building.  There might have been a place he could have squeezed into but since he was a shy young man he wanted to get into a seat and “out of sight” as quickly as possible.  So – young Louis Brannen sat on the only available seat – the front row!  After the sermon was finished a woman directly behind him leaned forward and half whispered into his ear, asking, “Louis, don’t you want to go to the altar and get saved?”  When that happened, He says, “The Devil said to me, ‘Just back-hand Sister Rosier in the face and tell her NO!’”  “I thought…now that wouldn’t be right.  I’m in the church house.”  So instead of obeying the Devil, he obeyed the Lord and, “took two steps and fell into the altar” where he was gloriously converted. 

Events moved swiftly.  Louis was “Sanctified and Filled with the Holy Ghost” with the evidence of speaking in other tongues as mentioned in Acts 2:4.  This Glossalalia Phenomenon was for the common man.  Louis became a changed man.  He immediately stopped drinking.  No more cursing.  No more smoking.  Just like that.  It was permanent.  I was 60 years of age when he died and I can honestly tell you that I never ever observed my Dad say or do anything that would make me doubt his experience with the Lord.  Soon he became the clerk of the church and asked for the hand of Bonnie Jones in marriage.  He was just 20 years old.  Bonnie was 16 when they married.  True to her oft repeated words, “I’ll NEVER marry a preacher, she married this saw-mill worker.  However, it was only a few short weeks after they were married that Daddy announced to the congregation that he now felt “called” to preach.  This was the beginning of 62 years together in full-time ministry before Dad passed from this life into the presence of his Savior.


Ginny said...

What a wonderful story, Fred! And more than a little funny!!!! How are you more treatments?

jack69 said...

I know, you had to be there. LOL

Methinks I met your dad once when you were in the Coast Guard. Met your mama also, but of course with Mama still around we have been to see her a few times since we are back in each others lives. Mama is a gem, a lovely Godly lady. And I'd bet she was a beauty at 15-16!

I know being preachers boys from the same back ground is one major reason we got to know each other.
Your dad would be so proud of his son, I know mama is.

It is amazing how you think all churches are the same as a child, until someone tells you different.
One principal called me in and said, "You are that new Holiness preacher's boy right?"
"You keep your nose clean and stay out of trouble."

Amazed me, I thought he was a mystic, being able to read minds and all." hahahahaha
Good entry Part of it is accurate, I know, the rest is too if I know you!
Love to you and Frances. Love to mom and the family also.

Betsy Adams said...

Oh Fred... I LOVE LOVE LOVE reading your story.. I did not know this about your father. What a transformation...

I'm so glad that you are writing this. THIS is what I love about blogging. I meet so many wonderful people --and they become so very very special to me. Thanks, Fred.

God Bless You.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Fred Alton said...

@ Ginny - I'm doing really good. I still have days of general weakness, hands will shake, feet and hands get cold and tingly (chemo-induced neuropathy) but other than that I'm doing well. Last colonoscopy revealed no polyps, all sutures healed and no sign of cancer! Thanks to you and others who prayed, the Lord kept His words to me.

@ Jack - Had to laugh at the "mystical" teacher thing. I know you're right. I gotta find a picture of Mom at 15 and post here.

@ Betsy - I too love blogging for the same reason you speak of. It's incredible. Hopefully soon I can find some time to do more on this story of my Pentecostal background.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dar said...

Fred, first, I am so happy to read of God keeping his word for you. You have become an important part of my life and prayers.
The story of your father is wonderful and how he found God and kept him in his life. Glorious Days he had.
Blessings and Happy Easter to you and your lovely Frances.

About Me

My photo
Cleveland, TN, United States
I am Fred Alton Brannen, the son of Louis A. Brannen (deceased) and Bonnie Jones Brannen, Louis was an Ordained Bishop with the Church of God. Bonnie is an Ordained Licensed Minister and at 89 years of age is still actively engaged in speaking and singing engagements. I am married to the former Frances Hildreth. We celebrated 53 years of marriage this past June and we are the parents of 3, grand-parents of 10, and great-grandparents of 10. I pastored in Tennessee for 24 years and served the Church in some capacity in missions for over 23 years. I retired from full-time ministry in August of 2008 but remain active, speaking and singing and teaching whenever opportunity affords itself. In January of 2010 I received a letter of commendation for having been credentialed as a minister in the Church of God for 50 years! My family is very important to me. Our get togethers are always noisy affairs and most times will include family sing-alongs. The children love their Mom's cooking so we have the privilege of seeing them regularly! WE LOVE having them over.

TheCabin on Day One

TheCabin on Day One
Fred Alton