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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William E. White Jr., October 29, 2000. Interview R-0147. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Belief that Pentecostal worship is too wild

White remembers the Bethel Christian Center, his mother's Pentecostal church, where he gave worshippers nicknames inspired by their unique worship practices. For example, "Sister Earthquake" flew into seizures and the "Top Sisters" spun to show their devotion. All this activity was "too strange" for White, who eventually joined other disaffected Christians in Charismatic Renewal.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William E. White Jr., October 29, 2000. Interview R-0147. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ASHLEY CROWE:
And you said your mother went to kinda a splinter group of the Church?
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
My mom ended up, what bit of time she was there before she died, at Bethel Christian Center, which is a little more Holy Roller. The service at several points takes on a three-ring circus atmosphere. [Laughter] Which for the first ten or twenty times I went was like, "My God, what is going on here." I grew up in a church where the preacher said, "let us pray." Everybody bowed their heads, everybody was quiet and the preacher prayed. At Bethel, when the preacher said, "Let us pray," they all did, out loud, very loud. I was like [voice in a sing-song tone] "Jesus, God, get me out of here." And there were some neat characters. We actually nicknamed some of them. There was Sister Earthquake who would just go into these all but Grand Mal seizures when the spirit was on her. There were the Top Sisters, who would go down to the front of the church and just spin like tops. Sister Airplane would jump up, throw both arms out, and do this war-hoop, and run up and down the aisles. I kept going, "There's something wrong here."
ASHLEY CROWE:
And is that the Pentecostal, Holy Roller church you went to.
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
That's the Holy Roller church. I think most people properly call it the Pentecostal church.
ASHLEY CROWE:
Right.
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
And it was just too strange for me. And I finally got to checking into it. And that's when I ran into places like the Vanderbilt's.
ASHLEY CROWE:
Was that the last Charismatic Renewal churches you were involved in, or one of the first?
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
No that was a Pentecostal church, there's a difference.
ASHLEY CROWE:
Right.
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
The last Charismatic Fellowship I was involved with was Christian Assembly. I'm checking into one now called - [pause] I just love these modern maturity moments - New Horizon.
ASHLEY CROWE:
Where is that?
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
Most of these churches when they first get started meeting in school gymnasiums. And this one's at Little River Elementary, I think. No, Hillandale Elementary, it's on Hillandale Road.
ASHLEY CROWE:
Interesting. And are any of them Denominational?
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
No.
ASHLEY CROWE:
No they're all Non-Denominational.
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
Right.
ASHLEY CROWE:
Okay.
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
They're all, the congregation is made of recovering groups of something. Recovering Baptists, recovering Methodist, whatever.
ASHLEY CROWE:
Does the service lean toward one toward on denomination or another?
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
Most of the time, no. They're more, free form. They don't quite follow stream of consciousness, but close.