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Primitive Baptist, Matthews, Indiana, USA
Worshipper: William Dewy.
Harmony Primitive Baptist, Matthews, Indiana, USA.
A good discussion of the beliefs and practices of this small
sect can be found here.
The brick structure was built in the last half of the 19th century.
The present building replaced an older one that was located
on the other side of the country road. The interior of the church
is simple, with painted plaster walls. It is without ornamentation
of cross, candles, or pictures. Some fresh lilacs in a glass
vase and a hand painted porcelain vase on a table in front of
the pulpit were all I noticed in the way of decoration. The
room was lovely, though, and bright and airy and clean. It appeared
that the original building was a single large room with double
doors on each end. A generation or so ago, an addition with
bathrooms was built onto the east end of the church.
There were members of at least three congregations present.
Harmony has services on first and third Sundays of the calendar
month, and several of their members were present. A number of
people attending were visitors from other Primitive Baptist
churches in central Indiana, but I was the only unknown visitor
Matthews is a small town in rural Grant County, Indiana. The
town has a population of about 600, but it was once quite a
boom town in the middle of the central Indiana natural gas fields.
Matthews once had a population of many thousands and made a
serious bid to replace Indianapolis as the state capital. When
the gas boom went bust in 1903, so did the townís dreams of
Brother John Edward Johnson led the service. The guest preacher
was Brother Bill Blackburn, from Mount Carmel, Indiana. I didnít
catch the name of the sister who started the hymns.
The date & time:
April 15, 2012, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
There was plenty of elbow room. Fifteen souls were present for
the first note of the singing and a few more came in before
the preaching started.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Oh, my, yes. No fewer than a dozen people shook my hand, introduced
themselves to me, and welcomed me to the service before the
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, the wooden pew was comfortable. There were several seat
cushions scattered about, which some people used. There was
a vertical board for support under each pew. I didnít know that
I have a habit of putting my feet under my pew, but I banged
my Achilles tendon against the brace a few times.
How would you describe the pre-service
Warmly friendly. People were talking and visiting and shaking hands (and hugging necks) with other folk.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Itís time to sing."
What books did the congregation use during the
John R. Dailyís Primitive Baptist Hymn and Tune Book.
A few people brought their own copy of The Holy Bible, King
James Version, to which they referred during the sermon.
Primitive Baptists believe the KJV to be the one authoritative
English translation of the scriptures.
What musical instruments were played?
Absolutely none. Not so much as a pitch pipe or tuning fork.
Primitive Baptists believe that there is no precedent in scripture
for the use of musical instruments in New Testament worship.
The people sang in two or three part harmony. I could generally
hear soprano (or lead) and bass, and sometimes an alto.
Did anything distract you?
Not really. I found a couple of modern folding tables a little discordant with the woodwork and pews in the same space, but it wasnít particularly jarring.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Primitive Baptists say that their church services "consist
of nothing more than preaching, praying, and singing."
I wouldnít call the worship formal, but it certainly had structure.
We sang hymns for about a half hour: a person would request
a song by number and we sang every verse. After the singing
part of the service, Mr Johnson read Psalm 100 and a portion
of the Epistle to the Ephesians, and said a few words. Then
followed Mr Blackburnís sermon and two or three more hymns,
during which we shook hands with the preacher and each other.
That end of the service seemed to me like passing the peace,
and I found myself telling individuals, "Peace be with
you" instead of singing the song (which I didnít know from
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
4 Despite Mr Blackburn's earnestness, I can't say I came
away knowing what I was supposed to do to live a Christian life.
I was, however, reminded several times of the strong sense of
election or predestination. Primitive Baptists reject many elements
of Calvinist practice, although they do embrace what are generally
called the Five Points of Calvinism.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The principal text for the sermon was Matthew 16:13-19 (Peter
confesses Jesus as the Christ). Flesh and blood do not reveal
Truth, but the Spirit reveals Truth to whom he wills. The keys
to the kingdom of heaven are given to the elect by Jesus himself.
Which part of the service was like being in
Twice during the singing, a song was called that had been pasted
into the front or back of the book. People within reach of me
handed me a hymnal opened to the right page. No explanation,
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
Although I felt welcome in the assembly, I stuck out like a
sore thumb. And I was fearful of leaving the Mystery Worshipper
calling card. There was no passing of an offering basket or
plate. So instead of being fully present at the service, I was
preoccupied wondering how I was going to leave the card.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people (at least five members of different families) invited, nay, insisted, that I stay for lunch.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
A meal, carried in by the various church families, was served
in the church after the service. A member told me there was
a full basement where fellowship could take place, but since
some church members had mobility difficulty, meals and other
social events took place upstairs in the church proper in recent
years. Lunch included salads; some garden sass; a homey yet
delicious boiled dinner of smoked sausage, green beans, and
potatoes; and desserts of lemon pudding, cakes, and cookies.
I found it noteworthy that while the men and women sat together
for the church service, during the meal they were sitting at
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 I would love to visit frequently, but I would miss
the Prayer Book sacraments.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The overwhelming and sincere hospitality of the people of God who worship in that place.
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