There is a strange characteristic of New England Congregationalists – restraint. Where you may think of Southern Baptists hands raised praising “Alleluia”; New England Congregationalist are the picture of restraint. Rarely do we even clap or a good hymn or a blessing we have heard. Severe and quiet do we sit with our puritanical ancestors keeping us in line. Today, this tendency actually became comical when the minister tried to teach a lesson in the Children’s Sermon about enthusiasm – literally translated from Greek meaning to be filled with God’s spirit. He encouraged them to share how they cheered for their favorite sports team. The wide eyed children looked queerly at the Reverend. He egged them on. Meekly one girl said the words, “Go Brimfield. Go.” But the voice was so quiet and respectful in the Sanctuary.
“Is that really how you say it? Or do you say it louder?” The girl eyed him. You could see t in all of their eyes – Noise in church? They had been taught well.
There is an animal behavior experiment by Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad (as told in Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover) in which monkeys were put in a cage with a tall pole on top of which sat fresh ripe bananas. Of course, the monkeys were eager for the favorite food. They made easy work of the pole but just as they were about to reach for the prize the researchers blew the monkeys off the pole with a strong burst from a fire hose. After a few times of this the chimp gave up and stopped trying for the banana. More interestingly, when new monkeys were introduced to the cage and enticed by the same bananas, it was not the fire hose which halted them, but their fellow monkeys who pulled them down. Eventually, each of the original chimps was replaced so that no animal had experience the fire hose deterrent. Even so the monkeys continued not to eat the bananas. They had learned that the bananas were off limits.
Were these children the same? Had all these generations later had the descendents of the Puritans remained reserved to avoid the stockades? Even ministerial permission they no longer could be spiritually enthusiastic.
I must side with the minister on this one and believe it may be time for us to reach for the bananas. If the spirit moves you . . .