Church of the True Worship, Clover SC – Visited on 9/24/12

In the northern reaches of Clover, SC, on the eastern shoulder of Highway 321, there lies a strip mall.  Among its modest tenants are a tanning salon, an empty video rental store, and a church: the Church of the True Worship, a Ministries Holiness Church.  The church’s plate glass front is backed by heavy curtains during the week.  A sign in the window lists its times for worship and names its pastor, Paul Mackins.

The church has two rooms, the bathroom and the main room.  Its floors are white linoleum tile, and fluorescent lights beam in its ceiling.  Single chairs stand in close-set rows, laid to encircle a broad square of red carpet against one wall.  The carpet holds a pulpit, draped in red cloth on the Sunday of the 23rd, side-tables laid with plastic flowers, and a row of three modest wooden chairs for ministers.

Behind the chairs, in the back of the main room, stands a solitary filing cabinet.  To its left is a wooden desk and small, low table set with chairs.  To its left are a drum set and an electric keyboard.  Beside the bathroom door is a sign, red text on a white background: “HOLY SPIRIT YOU ARE WELCOME IN THIS PLACE”.

Dozens of chairs were set out on the morning Churchspotting visited, but only a few of them were put to use.  Eleven people attended the Church of the True Worship that day, including children.  Its members tended towards formal dress with men in polo shirts and slacks, women in dresses.

The morning’s service began at 11:30 AM, preceded by Bible study.  Two men from the congregation sat the church’s instruments, while two women–Paula and Nancy Mackins–took to the chairs upon the red carpet.  The music began almost immediately.  Drummer and keyboardist provided a rhythm while the whole group, impelled by the two Mackins’ strident voices, progressed through a cycle of gospel hymns.

Almost every group visited by Churchspotting uses music during worship in some way, but few make it so constant a feature of the service as the Church of the True Worship.  From the start of worship music only ceased to permit the reading of some scripture from the Book of Psalms.  The songs were simple, expressive affairs, with refrains including “Everybody ought to know who Jesus is,” and “Lord I just want to thank You.”  The singing of them was not just entertainment, or a form of communal expression.  Moreso than is common in the groups visited by Churchspotting, these were explicitly praise songs–they mere singing of them was meant as a glorification of their primary subjects, Jesus and God.

Even when hymns gave way to the morning’s sermon, the drums and keyboard never ended entirely.  Thumps of percussion and skirls of electric piano emphasized each phrase as Nancy Mackins, the younger of the two, took the pulpit and began to preach.  Members of the congregation underscored her words with shouts of “Yes God!” and “Amen!”  Her style was boisterous, even aggressive.  At times she was fairly shouting into the pulpit’s microphone, which redoubled her voice’s strength in the church’s confined space.

Ms. Mackins’s subject was change, in the seasons and in human life.  She said that change was a necessary, natural part of life.  “All change is not bad, some change is good.”  She encouraged the congregation to accept the wicked ways of others, to focus on doing good in their own lives and leave the punishment of evil to God.  It was God, she said, who allowed one to wake in the morning, who gives men and women their power in life.  There was no life, she said, and no peace, without Jesus.

After the sermon, Paula and Nancy Mackins invited members of the congregation to approach and be blessed.  One man neared the podium.  Nancy stood before him and took his hand, while Paula stood at his side.  Another man, the church’s youth pastor, stood behind him.  The Mackins anointed the man’s forehead with oil, set their hands on his shoulders and chest, and prayed.  The man stood with his eyes closed, his features shifting between furious emotion and relieved calm.  The drums and keyboard continued throughout.

Afterward, the floor was opened for anyone to stand and speak.  The man who was prayed over thanked God for bringing his wife through surgery.  His voice thickened with emotion as he said that God took care of him when he couldn’t take care of himself, and watched over his children when he couldn’t provide for them.

After his speech the church took up offerings and sang one last song together.  Then, after some announcements and a final prayer, the group was dismissed.

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