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The Old Church of God in Williston---Lives in My Heart

My Old Church of God in 2023

I pray the new year of 2023 brings more people happiness than the world has seen in the last few years. I know that if I didn't love God and his son Jesus, my life would be miserable.

Visiting my family at Orange Hill Cementry is what my cousin Martha, my sister Paula, and I do at various times when Martha can come up to visit. Paula and I visit our loved ones all year and take flowers. However, I visit alone to let our hearts visit in loving silence together. I believe their spirits are still with us.

My cousin Martha, who is more of a sister since we grew up together, is a flower arrangement artist. She designs and makes all the bouquets of flowers we place on the graves. We put any extra flowers on graves that never get them.

I still drive by the "Old Church of God" when I visit Williston; I still feel its spirit as I slowly drive by.

Thanksgiving Celebration Will be Soon for November for 2022

I visited my sister in Williston again so we could go shopping for Thanksgiving. I passed the new Church of God, which looked welcoming for members and visitors to enter God's home, as I always thought as a child.

My heart wanted to see the "Old Church of God" that no longer stood on a cherished piece of ground. This did not stop me from riding by slowly letting my mind recall the days of spending time with my angel grandmother Knight on the wooden benches. I listened as prayers were said, peeking through my fingers that covered my eyes. I loved watching the children to see if they understood what was being said. I didn't like folding my hands and bowing my head because I couldn't peek then.

My mother and I lived with my grandparents on their farm for the first five years of my life. Every day was wonderful being with my grandmother, while my mother worked in town. I was her little shadow, hanging onto every word she spoke. She taught me to read when I was four years old. She was an angel.

My grandmother taught me what church and family really meant. It is all about love and being kind to everyone. My grandmother believed in turning the other cheek without retaliating. I don't believe I will ever be able to be as wonderful as she was in this belief.

My Grandmother Knight and How She Dressed as a Christian

I recalled a time when my grandmother invited her other Christian friends to the farm for tea and prayer. I asked my grandmother why all the women wore long dresses with long sleeves in the hot summertime.

She said it was from the Bible that women should dress modestly and decently every day, not just on Sunday. Grandmother took my smiling face between her hands and said, "Remember this, my sweet angel; God looks at your heart, not what you are wearing." And all the goodness and kindness you show others is what makes you beautiful. Your beauty comes from the good deeds you do. "Your beauty does not come from wearing fancy clothes or diamonds and pearls." Then, she kissed me, and I knew she was one of God's angels from the glow on her face.

My Cousin Martha and I

My cousin Martha and I had a long talk (we were 3 years old at the time), and I told her what our grandmother said about being a Christian. We decided that our dolls had to be Christians too.

My doll had a pearl necklace around her neck and a pearl bracelet around her wrist. I took them off. Martha took the diamond (her grandmother called them rhinestones) and pearl necklace and bracelets off her doll.

We went out into the backyard next to the fence where the hogs lived and buried all the things that made our dolls not beautiful. We were so proud of ourselves, but our mothers had what my grandmother called a "fit."

We would not tell our mothers what we did with the not-Christian pearls and diamonds. However, we were punished by listening to that story for many years.

We never could decide what made our mothers laugh so much that day and many days after. Martha and I were happy that our dolls were Christians. I love you, Grandmother Knight, and my "old church of God."

My Journey into the Fall of 2021

Last week, I went to Williston to visit my sister Paula. The thoughts of seeing her and John—her husband—put me in a joyful mood.

Just outside of Williston, Florida, stood the new Church of God. A mighty building where people worshipped God and little children learned about Jesus in Sunday school.

A blanket of melancholy wrapped around my heart as I thought of the "Old Church of God" that no longer stood. Its white boards on the outside were showing their age. In the summer, the windows were opened as the women cooled their babies with fans on a stick. (My grandfather helped build the church—with a hammer in hand.)

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What did the old Church of God people—now Angels—watching over us think of this new church?

I wondered if these people welcomed visitors and new members of the community like the Old Church of God. Did the preacher visit the sick and shut-ins?

Were the older members picked up in cars and delivered to church for the Sunday service? I wonder about all the love and kindness the Old Church of God women showed to the families who needed food and clothing.

As a little girl, I went with my grandmother Knight to take food to shut ins. Sometimes, other women of the church would meet us at the homes of shut ins.

The smiles on their faces made the bumpy rides on the old dirt road we sometimes had to travel a little less bumpy. I told my grandmother I should bring my little mason jar of cream, and we could give them butter by the time we arrived. She smiled her sweet smile, which was just for me.

When I reached my sister's home, I said a prayer for the "New Church of God," hoping that they would show love and kindness like my Old Church of God, which lived in my heart forever.

And yes, before I left Williston, I went by where the "Old Church of God" stood. I envision a memory from eons ago, it seemed, where my grandmother walked up the front steps of the church holding my hand as I skipped.

I was so happy i would hear about my Jesus and see all the beautiful, kind and loving people of the church.

My Mother and I on the Farm

My Mother and I on the Farm

My Mother and I on the Farm

My Life with My Angel Grandmother Knight

Sometimes, when one reaches a certain age, it is easier to remember a time when you were very young; than to remember what you ate for dinner the night before. And for me, this is one of those times, which I will share with you as a special time at the beginning of my life.

When I was a baby, my grandmother and grandfather took me to church with them every Sunday. When I was probably three years old, I began to realize that church was where God lived, and we came to visit with him. I could not wait to walk through the double doors of the "Old Church of God in Williston, Florida."

I always held my Grandmother Knight’s hand as I skipped up the church steps every Sunday. We walked through the open doors into God’s house. I could not reason it out in my baby mind that God was all around us and that he did not live only in the church.

I am Holding My Angel's Hand--My Grandmother Knight and I


Learning about God and Christians

This little church is where I learned about Christians. And I learned about the good Christians in the church, where help was always given with joy in their hearts when there was a need. And in Sunday school, I learned about the Bible and how to pray.

I remember the beautiful music Norma Yancey played on the piano as her fingers flew across the keys while she sang with John Yancey and Nolan Smith. I can still hear them singing "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, Rock of Ages, The Old Rugged Cross, He," and so many more.

The little church had a choir behind the pulpit, where beautiful singing echoed through the church and made my baby heart jump with happiness because I knew God was there listening with us. My grandma said he was all around us, so I could talk to him anywhere and remember to thank him for all my blessings. I really didn’t know what blessings were then, so I told God I loved him and was thankful for him.

The Beautiful Unadorned Church Women

I loved everything about church until the man up front, whom everyone called the "preacher," talked really loudly. Grandmother said he was trying to get our attention and make a point about God’s words in the Bible. I always wondered what God thought about the loudness that scared little children like me. Maybe the preacher needed to be put in timeout for a while. I knew his son Jesus loved children—I learned about Jesus in Sunday school.

I remember the beautiful faces of the church women and how they always glowed with happiness; and some of these women were: My grandma Alice Knight, Mrs. Goodman, Mrs. Nail, Mrs. Cribbs, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Hoppings, Mrs. Chesser, Mrs. Sullivan., Mrs. Norma Yancey, Mrs. Nolan Smith, Mrs. Othie Chesser, Mrs. Hazel Lee, Mrs. Frazier Sullivan, Mrs. Slater Sapp, and there were others---but I cannot remember their names.

I remembered most of the women had long hair, like my grandmother, who wore her hair braided and in a bun with long hairpins to keep it in place. Their dresses had long sleeves, and the skirts were long—halfway to their ankles over thick stockings. And my grandmother Knight did not wear jewelry or make-up. Since my angelic grandmother did this, it had to be right with God.

Children Should be Seen and not Heard

These were the women who impressed me with their gentle spirit, and I learned by watching them how Grandmother Knight said ladies should always act. I don’t know if I became the lady she wanted me to be because I never accepted the saying, "Children should be seen but not heard." I received many disdainful looks from my grandfather Knight when I talked at the wrong time. However, I tried to always please my grandmother Knight—just to see her smile was worth all the effort it took—she was my sunshine.

The men I remembered were Grandpa Tom Sullivan (not a blood relative---but close enough), Mr. Goodman, and Mr. Smith, Mr. Hoppings, Mr. Nail, Mr. Edgar Chesser, Mr. John Yancey, Mr. Slater Sapp, Mr. Frazier Sullivan, and Mr. Nolan Smith.

Grandmother Knight's Old Paper Fan

The Old Church of God is no longer standing, and most of the older people who worshipped there are in Heaven now, with my grandparents.

In my heart and mind, it is still there, waiting for me to enter, because this is where I first felt the powerful presence of God so many years ago.

I can still envision the women fanning their babies on warm Sunday mornings with the paper fans fastened to a flat wooden stick because there was no air-conditioning in the church, and I doubt there was heat—I do not remember.

The men put the church windows up in the summertime and everyone used paper fans. Years ago, my aunt Dora and I found a fan in the back of Grandmother Knight’s closet: a fan with Jesus on the front talking to children. I cried. My grandmother had saved it because she loved it.

Old Church Fan


God's Church

The essence of that little old Church of God has carried me through many sorrowful times, especially when I lost a loved one. I would let my mind recall the glorious days I spent sitting with my grandparents on the wooden benches as I watched everything happening around me.

During these times, I listened intently as a song softly echoed through my mind and is now branded on my heart forever: "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder," because my grandmother loved this song.

My mother remarried, and she joined the Baptist Church, so I went there most of the time. Although I went with my grandparents as often as I could to God’s Church, it was like going home to my grandparents' farm—it felt right.

God's Church


Church of God Christians

I thank God for the blessing of knowing where the roots of the good Church of God Christians began, and I pray it’s carried on by their descendants.

I wrote this in 2012, after we found the old paper fan on a wooden flat stick. I can still see the young mothers fanning their babies in the old church without an air conditioner.

The men opened all the windows on hot Sunday mornings. I loved watching the fathers carry their babies as they guided their wives with one of their big hands on the small of their wives' backs. So loving, protective, and adorning were these "Church of God men."

I told my grandmother I liked the Church of God Men. She smiled as she sang with the other ladies. I was too busy investigating to sing. I was looking for who would be in my conversation with my grandmother later when we went berry picking.

My Grandmother Knight's Favorite Song

Sundays My Grandmother Knight and I visited God and Jesus Church

If anyone is in heaven, it is my grandmother Knight. She walked with Jesus and lived by God's rules every day.

I happily held her hand as I bounced up the steps of the old church of God. My grandmother's smile lit up my heart and all the church women around us as they welcomed us once again.

I could not see Jesus, but I knew he was smiling too. I went to my Sunday school class for little girls my age. I learned more about my Jesus every Sunday.

My faith told me I would see him one day in heaven. I learned about faith from my grandmother and in "The Old Church of God Sunday School."

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Barbara Purvis Hunter


Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on June 03, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I didn't know if anyone would enjoy this or not--but I did it anyway. I hope your life is wonderful with your family.

Until Later,

Bobbi Purvis

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 03, 2021:

Loved the true story of Bobbi! "Children should be seen and not heard" can bet I heard that saying growing up. lol It still rings in my head, and my dad's way of saying it still stings. :)

Barbara Purvis Hunter (author) from Florida on June 03, 2021:


Thanks for reading my story. I appreciate it.

Have a wonderful day.

Bobbi Purvis

CHATRA RAM from BARMER INDIA on June 02, 2021:

Religion makes a person the center of faith. Religion teaches a person to walk on the right path.

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