The Mourner’s Bench

Nobody talks about it anymore, but a focal point of the early African turned American church was the mourner’s bench. It was the center of activity back then because the best energy of worship was devoted to invoking the presence of God into the place, revoking any misguided invitation to the enemy and his imps from hell and exchanging the ownership of souls from the devil to their rightful Owner and Creator.

Down on the knees. It was the expected posture, if not lying prostrate on the face. It was the place from which warfare was waged, from which heaven was bombarded, from which redemption was claimed. On the knees. At the mourner’s bench.

In traditional churches, sinners waited for the Lord to save them. In holiness churches, the wait was never complete without the speaking of tongues. Mothers of the church, fathers in the word would gather and encircle the patients in the incubator, as they awaited the promised rebirth. They would speak in their own tongues to arouse the desire in the newbies. They would urge them on with cajoling, enticing them to repeat the name of Jesus… say it faster… until their recitation morphed into their own unique heavenly language to be used in personal conversation with the Lord.

It was expected that by a certain age, children would be saved. The “moaning” that went on was akin to the groaning emitted from a mother in labor with the expectation of new life. The kind of groaning described in Romans 8:22, characterizing the basic guttural unrest in the whole creation waiting for the manifestation of the children of God. The sound requires the use of abdominal muscles from the deepest part of the body.

And there’s no release or relief until the birth is accomplished.

And great shout of hallelujah when it’s done!

We don’t see this anymore.

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