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19 March 2005

The First Time That I Went To Church

The following is a poem written by a musician named Larry Norman. The poem appears on a record called Street Level. The album has since been released on CD, but I believe it's out of print at the moment.

Actually, this is a reworked version of an older poem. Unfortunately I can't remember who wrote the original. Sorry. Anyways, Adam over at The Pub has been posting lately about being a bit disgruntled with the state of church. That made me think of this:

The first time that I went to church was on a Sunday morning.
And from what I’d heard, I figured I’d spend me whole time yawning.
At 18 years of age or so, I thought I knew it all.
Me hair was long, me jeans were tight.
I loved a knife or buckle fight,
Providing mates stood left and right,
And those we fought were small.

But me mates and me, we’d never been,
So off to church we filed.
We marched inside, ‘bout three abreast,
Straight down the middle aisle.
Some of us were smoking cigs. Ron was sucking candies.
We sat in what they called a pew,
And look around to see just who would come inside.
Let me tell you, everyone dressed like dandies.

The row behind was full of dames, you shoulda seen their looks.
And one old dear, she gave me a smile, and offered me some books.
Ha! We opened them, passed them around.
You shoulda seen the words, all set out like poetry is.
The words put us in a tizz,
And Fred says through his lemon fizz,
“These books is for the birds.”
“Shhhh! Tsk tsk tsk tsk,” one old lady says,
And the whole place buzzed.
Sam turns and says, “Oh, do hush up.
You make more noise than us.”

We looked around the building and it really was revealing.
Sam says, “Hey mates, hey, get this score.
There ain’t no carpets on the floor.
See the rafters. They’re so poor they can’t afford a ceiling.
Can’t afford electric either, using candles everywhere.
And colored windows like me granny’s, at the bottom of her stairs."
“Shut your face,” I says to Sammy. “I’m for listening. So is Ron.”

And from the left, without a noise came a line of little boys.
And Sam says in a puzzled voice, “Q, they’ve all got nighties on.”
Then came men, in robes, with banners.
“Look at that one, must be queer.
Then they dare condemn us for the way we choose our gear.”
Then there’s a minister, you know, the minister
Whose job’s to preach. The minister, what’s his name?
Those real long prayers and what he preaches sounds just about the same.

I came to church to listen, close, but I can’t dig the chair.
It’s like, shifting sinking sounds,
And words like judgment and reprimand.
Well, me and me mates don’t understand a language quite like that.
I’m used to talking with me mates in words that have a meaning.
But that there church was just about the weirdest place I been in.

If people like that kind of thing, well, then let them. That’s OK.
But let me tell you what I feel.
I feel we need someone who’ll deal in words and thoughts and things that’s real.
I’d listen to what he’d say.

Me mum once said, “Jesus came to help young men like you.”
But Jesus came so long ago, mum, I don’t think it’s true.
But is there someone who can explain to me right now,
Is Christ a myth? A madman’s whim?
Some say that Christ can cure our sin.
Is there a way to contact him?
Or will I die not knowing how.

Listen, I only came to church to see if they could offer hope.
But everything that happened there was way outside my scope.
Like afterwards, outside, there was a beggar on the grass.
He held his hand out to the people,
And they’d smile and then they’d pass.
I’m sure he reached for something real,
For something more than cash.
He begged them for a little cheer
And they all pretended not to hear.
I get the message loud and clear.
Church is middle class.

Comments on "The First Time That I Went To Church"


Blogger Peter from England said ... (1/16/2010 02:08:00 AM) : 

er - that poem was written by Gordon Bailey - I used to recite that in 1969 - the last verse has been changed from the original - which (if memory serves me) read:
"I only went to church to find a little hope, but everything that happened there was way outside my scope. A beggar wanting something real; they smiled and let me pass. I pleaded for a little cheer; they all pretended not to hear. I got the message loud and clear; I wasnt middle class"


Anonymous Alan from north England said ... (11/12/2010 10:18:00 AM) : 

I agree with Peter. I first heard this recorded on an LP issued around the late 60's. A few parts have been altered, though I can't remember all the poem. If anyone can come up with the original I'd be really pleased to see it again after all these years.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2/02/2012 08:24:00 AM) : 

It's also missing one of my favorite lines from the processional...Fetch the 'oly water missus, Vicar's 'andbag's caught on fire!


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