You’ve all seen her, that sweet little old lady sitting in church. Her shoulders just barely clearing the back of the pew. This is the church member you need to be afraid of, seriously afraid. Sure she has her Bible and is a lean, mean praying machine, but your concern need not be of the supernatural type. See what you don’t know, is that her hair is a dangerous weapon.
If you are old enough, you will probably remember sitting in church behind someone who had their hair in the ever popular Beehive hairstyle. This classic hairdo was a symbol of piety and tradition. It was said, “the higher the hair, the closer to God”.
Now, I am not skilled at the Beehive, but I do know they require various types of hairpins to keep them in place and that is what got me thinking about holy hair. See Pentecostals are not known for sitting still in church, especially back when I was young. Everybody had their own style of expression in church and interestingly enough the ladies with the elaborate hairdos were always the head shakers.
See when heads start shaking, hairpins go flying. This creates a dilemma for everyone sitting near these ladies. Of course, we regular attending church members knew to steer clear of these ladies and sit somewhere else in the sanctuary. It was easy too because these sweet little ladies always had their designated spot. You would know it was their spot was due to the foam cushion permanently left on the pew. At about 3-4 inches thick the cushion would not only serve for comfort during a long sermon, but would give a little boost to some of the shorter ones.
Imagine your first visit to a church (especially if you were not Pentecostal) and this sweet little lady in front of you starts shouting and shaking her head. Before you can process what is happening you are being pelted by various types of hair pins. You have no idea if you should duck and cover or head for the door. The worst part is that not all hair pins were the fancy ones we use today with the smooth round tips. Many were the straight hair pins that did not have plastic caps and could easily do some damage.
We had one little lady whose hairdo was nothing short of a deadly weapon. She took hair pinning to a whole new level. She did not waste her money on those expensive hair pins, she got her hairpins right out of her sewing box. That’s right, she used the straight pins with the little colored balls on the end for easier grabbing.
I remember sitting behind this particular lady on many occasions when I was young trying to figure out what all those tiny colored balls were all over her head. It looked like hundreds. One Sunday the service reached and intense moment and her head began shaking. Fortunately I was not injured, but as a small child finding straight pins in the floor was a new form of entertainment. It was like a matching game seeing how many I could find of a specific color.
Nowadays I can just hear someone from the church staff trying to explain to this lady how dangerous her hairpins are. We thought nothing of it back then, but looking back I am surprised that no one every stepped on one and got hurt. It was not uncommon for women to take their shoes off to be more comfortable in a long service. Not to mention the many children, like myself, who spent their fair share of time crawling around on the floor under the pews.
Pentecostal church has other dangers too, like how we tend to fall out in church. Now I haven’t ever had this experience, but have witnessed it many times. I remember the first time I saw it happen something in my brain clicked and said “let’s not do that, it looks painful”.
So even as I tried to stay focused in the altar praying, if the preacher thought I should fall he wouldn’t mind giving a subtle push during the laying on of hands and I would have to shuffle my feet around to keep from falling. This is where you’re praying stance become vitally important. NEVER (and I can’t emphasize this enough) stand with your feet close together because one push and you are gone. You need a runners stance, with one foot in front and the other behind to stabilize you. This way the preacher can push all he wants, but you are not moving.
Another option is the slow dance. See some preachers will push your forehead till it is tilted upward and just hold it there moving their arm back and forth. This one gets tricky because you have to pray while focusing on moving your feet to the rhythm of their arm. Certainly not a beginner technique, and it is hard to sustain for long periods of time.
I highly recommend that if you plan to participate in an altar prayer that you find a spot to kneel and keep your head down. I have seen some make the mistake of sitting straight up while on their knees and a skilled preacher will take the challenge. This too can end up in a fall, but usually a side fall and does not look to be so bad.
The biggest problem with the kneeling technique is that it can turn into a side-to-side type of dance as your feet go to sleep. If you stay in this position too long you will be shifting back and forth to allow the blood flow back to your legs one at a time.
My last tip is probably frowned upon my most, but can keep you safe if you get stuck standing at the altar in a crowd. Try to keep one eye open or at least do so periodically. You will find that not everyone has perfected their altar safety stances and if they are standing in front of you, then you become a target. I have seen many people get knocked down from another altar member that was in the middle of a fall.
Remember folks, watch out for flying hairpins and practice, practice, practice you’re praying stance. Y’all be safe.