Little White Church in the Vale
Little White Church in the Vale
Reflections on Small-Town Faith
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Small-town living and faith come alive in the experiences and personalities of life in the tiny dairy farm community of Addicks, Texas. Let your mind wander back to a simpler time as you read poetry inspired by life in a small Methodist church.

In Little White Church in the Vale, author Bonnie Watkins recalls her childhood in Addicks and paints a picture of her life in the community. In brilliant details, she describes the stained glass windows in her church, the gardenia bushes outside, and even what it felt like to wear her hair in pincurls on Saturday night in preparation for church on Sunday morning. Black-and-white photographs of small Texas churches tell stories for themselves, bringing another dimension to Watkins’ words.
Whether you’re from a big city or a farming community, you’ll find inspiration and refreshment for your soul in Little White Church in the Vale.

Advanced Praise for Little White Church in the Vale:
“You can almost feel yourself sitting in the pews and watching the congregation of this small town church.”
—PJ Pierce, author of “Let me tell you what I've learned": Texas Wisewomen Speak
“Bonnie has brilliantly captured the charm, beauty, culture and even humor embodied in the rural congregation. You'll be reminded of the simplicity of country living and the transcendence of faith while you feel like you’re looking at a Norman Rockwell painting.” —Will Davis, Jr., Senior Pastor of Austin Christian Fellowship and author of Pray Big and 10 Things Jesus Never Said

Small-town living and faith come alive in the experiences and personalities of life in a tiny dairy farm community in Addicks, Texas, outside Houston.  Prose poems reflections of Little White Church in the Vale: Reflections on Small-Town Faith bring insights to your faith and remembrances of characters of by-gone times.  Selections from familiar hymns of the faith are woven into the stories.  Black and white photographs of small Texas churches tell another story in themselves. Keep a copy on your coffee table for a quick read for guests.  Take a restful half-an-hour to enjoy an inspiring, nostalgic return to a simpler time.  Enjoy the following preview from the book:

Little White Church in the Vale


 Blistering Texas summers.
 Freezing, damp winters. 
 No air conditioning or heat.
 Linoleum floors with a carpet strip up to the altar.
 Still, every Sunday (barring flood or fever) we filed into one of the eighteen wooden pews of Addicks Methodist Church to worship and to fellowship in our small dairy community.
 Singing the old hymns of the faith was a large part of the service.  No organ offered the accompaniment, but rather an ancient upright piano with a few broken ivories and not always totally in tune.  On the back of each pew were copies of The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal, thinner than today’s hymnals.  Two wooden boards on the wall flanked the altar and pulpit.  One announced attendance and offering, the other the numbers of the hymns we would sing that Sunday.  Truth to tell, the hymnals were unnecessary because most of us had the numbers committed to memory as well as at least the first and last verses, maybe all four.
 Although not a general practice, we were not above changing the words, if warranted.  Hymn #121 was “The Church in the Wildwood.”  The chorus crooned:
 Come to the church in the wildwood,
 Oh, come to the church in the vale
 No spot is so dear to my childhood
 As the little brown church in the vale.
Since we were a little white church, we conveniently changed the lyric.
 During my childhood in the 1950’s, our church sat 30 miles outside of Houston next to the Addicks Dam of Farm Road 1960.  Today it still remains with practically no changes to the outside, and very few inside.  Its name has changed to Addicks United Methodist Church.  The road is now Highway 6 between the huge highways, IH10 and US 290.  But when you turn off the busy highway today, time seems to stand still.  It’s still the little white church in the vale.  May these reflections of a time gone by and pictures of other little churches bring to you memories of your own “spot so dear.”                                          Bonnie Watkins

Attendance Last Sunday

The heavy, wooden board hung before us.
Glossy. Thick coats of varnish.
Black squares with white numbers slipped into slots.
On it, rows recorded:
 Attendance Last Sunday 32
 Offering Last Sunday  $60.82 (a child’s pennies)
 Attendance This Sunday  24 
 Offering This Sunday  $57.25

The “little white church in the vale.”

The faithful few.

Handing Over the Hymnal

Latecomers always straggled in.
Some wore the badge of tardiness as a part of their personality.
It became a ritual of Sunday morning:
Ethel bustled in noisily with her hat askew and her slip showing.
We smiled.  We forgave.  We handed over our hymnal, pointing to the verse.

Other mornings someone would slip in late,
Someone who was never late.
Everyone puzzled over it.
We wondered what caused the delay:
Did a wayward calf find a hole in the fence?

We remembered our own Sunday mornings when
Combed and clean, we mumbled and climbed back into jeans
To catch a calf gone astray.
Freedom had seemed so sweet,
But usually the prodigal bawled in terror when found.

We came to know why Jesus chose his parables:
The prodigal son, the lost sheep.
The lonely who tried it by themselves
To find how much they needed others.
We all crave the fellowship of the shared hymnal.

Rescue Mission

“Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman\
You may rescue, you may save.”
 --“Let the Lower Lights Be Burning”
 The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal, #100

The drama of the poor fainting, struggling seaman
Played out in my fantasies larger and louder
Than any other romantic vision or
Ten-year old’s cutthroat mystery.

Although I had no knowledge of torrid seas,
My mind’s eye still saw waves
Awash across the deck of a small, weathered vessel.
It lifted upon the swell and danced down into the trough.

Later, bandages on crippled cats,
Then, splints on wounded birds.
The urge to fix, to patch,
You may rescue, you may save.


Personalities of the Parking Lot

The white Cadillac stood silent
Like a corpulent executive
Dead battery.

Nearby, an unassuming little Ford
With its right eye dropping,
A headlight torn loose,
Offered humble help.

A lifeline between the two,
The jumper cable pumped blood
From one to another.
Energy, light, life.

After growing up on a dairy farm near Houston, Texas, Bonnie Watkins was inspired to write Little White Church in the Vale based on her experiences in Addicks Methodist church. Watkins is both a high school and community college teacher and holds a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. She currently lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Dan.

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