At least one branch of our family tree has leaned toward ecumenicalism for at least three generations. My great-granddparents were married in the home of a Presbyterian minister. My grandmother, Arline, was baptised protestant, confirmed Roman Catholic, and buried from a local Bible fellowship. Her sister Mercy was a devoted Seventh Day Adventist. My mother was baptised Roman Catholic but worshiped at Baptist and Evangelical Churches all her life. And her sister married a Texas Bible Church preacher.
Grandma Brown never went to church without her hat, gloves, and pocketbook. This photograph captures the small community where they worshipped each week.
I believe this is the Bible Center Church in Santa Ana. Second from left in the front row is my Aunt Frances, next to my grandmother, Arline Brown. Behind Auntie is her husband Benny C. Turner next to his mother, Willie Turner.
We have missionaries, preachers, Sunday School teachers, choir members, ushers, and summer camp counselors in our line, but no altar boys until my own sons.
Growing up, Sundays followed a strict schedule — Sunday School followed by worship services, then home for lunch and “rest,” and back to church for the evening service. On Wednesday, we attended mid-week services; as teenagers, we spent Friday nights with the Teen Group, and many weekends attending church-sponsored trips to Disneyland, the beach, or the mountains. Summers always included at least a week of Vacation Bible School and one or two weeks at church camp. When we grew to old to be campers, my sister and I signed up as counselors.
My grandmother, aunt and uncle attended church in Santa Ana, twenty minutes from our hometown, so I only heard Uncle Benny preach when I stayed overnight on the occasional weekend. I remember him as a tall, handsome, and very kind man. He and my pretty aunt were popular with the congregation and favorites of all the children.
Birth records for Kansas City are rare before 1900, so I was excited to find this in my grandmother’s trunk.
This certificate holds two surprises: Arline converted to Catholicism in 1929 one year before she married my grandfather, and she is using the name of her third husband, Charles Parker.
This undated church certificate was probably issued in the 1950’s when my grandparents lived in Santa Ana, California.
This article was written for the September Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.