What does “M Night” mean to you?


Suppose you have made it to “Final Jeopardy” and the answer is “M Night.” What would you scribble down as your question?

Alex Trebek would nod approvingly if you offered: “Who is the Indian-American writer and director of such films as The Sixth Sense?” (That would be M. Night Shyamalan.)

But “M Night” means “Mirth, Music, Mondays and Merrymaking” (see photo) to those who gather at the Yellow Deli in Chattanooga for weekly Israeli folk dancing. (If you’re not into Israeli folk dancing, just show up anytime for a great sandwich and papaya juice, and to gaze at the ’60s-’70s inspired decor.)

But for those of us bred in the deepest traditions of Southern Baptist life, “M Night” — no matter how widely used today — means only one thing.

Associations of Southern Baptist churches would host an annual event called “M (Mobilization) Night” that brought out the competitive nature of neighboring congregations unlike anything other than church-league softball.

Tied to Sunday evening educational programs (known as Training Union and then Discipleship Training, with roots in BYPU), congregations rallied to be well represented at the annual event — and, ultimately, to bring home the M Night banner that would be proudly displayed on a church wall until the next M Night when they would have to defend the crown.

For example, the Oct. 29, 1971 edition of the Rome News-Tribune reported that the Floyd County Baptist Association drew nearly 1,000 persons to the First Baptist Church of Rome, Ga., for the annual M Night.

Park Avenue Baptist Church took home the banner with 80 members in attendance. And Mount Vernon Baptist Church was recognized for having 33 percent of its Church Training members present.

Oh, it was a different time and place. But for those of us who grew up in such environments, the mark never leaves us.

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, you were probably raised Southern Baptist if “M Night” means going to an annual association meeting.

Or:

-If Saturday nights involved polishing shoes and studying Sunday school lessons.

-If you made ashtrays in Vacation Bible School that lasted for two weeks each summer.

-If you measured your faithfulness in terms of the little boxes you could check on your offering envelope each Sunday.

-If you’ve heard hundreds of different persons pray that God would “lead, guide and direct us.”

-If as a young person you “rededicated your life” occasionally on Sunday morning for something you did (or thought about doing) on Saturday night.

4 Comments

  1. …or "moved your letter" to a new church…or glued macaroni on a cigar box and painted it with gold spray paint…or heard someone "give their testimony" on a Wednesday night

  2. Stephen-
    You definitely "are one." Can't fake it with that kind of experiential evidence.

  3. Or remember two week revival meetings, usually corresponding to those two week Vacation Bible Schools each morning.

    Or remember when evangelists stayed in church members' homes and at dinner in other members' homes, rather than hotels and restaurants.

    I went to three VBSs sponsored by our church every summer from about 6 years ole to age 14, our church and two prospective mission church locations. After the first couple of years, the revival that went along was the second week only. Also gave up my bedroom every summer for a couple of weeks for the summer missionaries — college students, who worked in VBS, canvassed, and then participated in the revival meetings.

  4. In realpolitik implementation you should take these kinds of stories to the RickN Bubba show.
    Rick is kind of the essence of Baptist culture in Alabama now.
    These kinds of stories resonate with him, in the kind of way Lewis Grizzard carried a certain Methodist tradition with him to his grave from Moreland, Ga.
    David Currie did a good job with such homespun stories but the BGCT is dicey to this day.
    Do a Cover story in Baps Today on Alabama baptist TV celeb Pam Huff and one time gubernatorial candidate Lenora Pate.
    Explore all this and the RickNBubba factor with them.
    At a minimum could further move some dollars toward Baptists Today as a newsjournal, and the Baptist World Alliance.
    In the sense that whatever other mixxed signals he sent in the Baptist struggle, Truett Cathy was able to stand by Kirby Godsey and by extension I imagine and hope Underwood.
    Pam Huff, PAte and RickNBubba. May be worth the conversation. Seems to me a logical extension of these MNight/Foxworthy musings.

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