When our other managing editor, David Neff, spotted a news item about a Pentecostal congregation in Georgia joining the Episcopal Church, he floated the idea at one of our regular brainstorming sessions. It sank, and would have remained submerged on that great reef of rejected ideas were it not for a phone call from Randall Balmer, a college professor looking for offbeat stories from the evangelical world to include in a PBS feature he was working on.
Balmer wrote Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory (a sort of back-roads tour of evangelicalism) to counter some of the negative coverage given evangelicals by the mass media. The book attracted the attention of both PBS and the BBC, which needed more material to fill up six half-hour programs. As we talked with the personable religion professor, the little church in Georgia kept popping up. Balmer, who grew up in an Evangelical Free Church parsonage, and who considers himself an evangelical “in the sixteenth-century sense,” agreed to visit Valdosta over his Easter break.
The rest of the story begins on page 19; but you might be interested in knowing that after several years away from evangelicals, Balmer says his return has been pleasant except for one thing: hand clapping during worship services. “It just seems so out of place,” he explained.
And although applause may also be out of place in your easy chair, you have our permission to clap if you enjoy Balmer’s article.1