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.
-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.