Some time ago, after the release of my first book Simply the Savior, I was invited to give a message to a fellowship of ladies in a small local congregation. I arrived before the appointed time and found my way down to the basement of the little church where they had their meetings.
You haven’t been there, but you’ve been there. Cinder block walls, linoleum floor, tiny windows letting in just a bit of natural light to supplement the fluorescent lighting, and brown folding chairs set up around collapsible banquet tables. Immediately my attention was drawn to the one feature of the room with the most promise: the big open window between the main room and the church kitchen. Coffee pots were already perking away on that spacious window counter when I arrived, the sound and the aroma taking me back to so many other church basements I’ve visited over the years.
At the church in East Tennessee where I grew up, the church basement was called the Fellowship Hall, but it was still the church basement. I remember everything from youth group meetings to Girl Scout fly-up ceremonies and talent shows being held in that basement—a center of community life for sure.
Many brides on a budget even opted to have their receptions there. As kids we’d stand on the stairs leading down to the basement in our finest clothes waiting our turn to go through the receiving line to see the beautiful bride and her handsome groom up close. Then we’d work our way through the crowd to the same folding tables used for every event—but now draped with lace tablecloths and festooned with ribbon garlands. There we’d find such delights as bowls of pastel-colored mints, nuts, wedding cake with sugary icing, and punch sweet enough to knock us right out of our patent leather shoes! On the counter under the big window, those coffee pots would be perking away.
As the ladies filtered in to that gathering where I was to speak, I noticed several of them were pulling portable oxygen tanks along behind them. Others had canes or walkers. A wave of sadness passed over me then as I thought, when these ladies are gone, no one will be gathering in church basements anymore. No one will be hosting potluck dinners and swapping recipes for tuna casserole or pineapple upside-down cake. It will be the end of an era.
But sometime after that I found out my “doom and gloom” prediction just wasn’t true! Due to a scheduling mix-up at our church, our women’s Bible study group had to move our closing potluck luncheon from the room we had planned on using to, you guessed it, the church basement. In keeping with our luau theme, my co-leader and I were taping grass skirts along the counter under the big window (where some wonderful potluck dishes would soon be arrayed) when I realized that, praise God, women’s fellowships and church basements are both still thriving! And oh, yes—there was coffee, too.
Just recently I learned that the church basement culture I cherish inspired a musical comedy! “Church Basement Ladies” premiered in 2005 and has six sequels to date. Long live the church basement!