“Twenty years ago I came to this country. During these twenty years I have done my utmost to preserve and defend the faith of Mount Olivet church.” The person who spoke was Preacher Bonds. The place where he spoke was in his own pulpit. The persons to whom he spoke were his twenty members, who were the fragments of the once thriving and powerful rural church. Bonds was at his best on this particular Sunday morning in April, and he had planned to give his hearers a sort of history of the events during his twenty-years pastorate at Mount Olivet.
The morning was a most beautiful one. All nature wore a smile. Only those who have experienced the rare joy of taking a stroll through the wooded dell in the famous Ozarks on a spring morning can fully appreciate the scene. Spring had made her long-delayed journey from the southland and by the strength of her warm and winning ways had forced grim old winter to a hasty retreat northward, and now exulted in her unchallenged sway. All the birds on this morning seemed to have come out to help her in her celebration. A red-bird, perched on the tip-top twig of the venerable oak which stood near the church, bathing his crimson feathers in the morning sun, warbled his sweetest notes to his mate in a hawthorn thicket across the field. Rollicking robins were vying with each other in their quest of worms in the meadow east of the church. A gray squirrel chattered in a hickory-tree near by and scattered particles of bark all around. A red-headed woodpecker sat in the round door of his cozy house in an old snag and seemed perfectly content in his utter inability to sing. Frolicsome spring lambs amused themselves by butting each other off a low stump down in the old Gramps cow pasture.
The Church itself showed signs of dilapidation. The belfry on the roof had been torn away and the old rusty bell, silent for many years, stood exposed to the ravages of summer and winter. Its only purpose now seemed to be to afford a shelter for the wasps which from year to year built their nests in its dome. The brick chimney, which projected from the roof near the rear of the building, had lost its crowning bricks and presented a very jagged aspect. For the accommodation of the squirrels who were accustomed to take up winter quarters in the attic of the church, the wood-peckers had pecked numerous holes in the paintless walls. The eaves were daubed with mud carried by the pewees in the building of their yearly nests. Bats, at their own good pleasure, came in and out through the paneless windowsashes and found daytime repose on top of the sagging beam which, just above the windows, spanned the room.
The physical condition of this Church house formed a fitting counterpart to the spiritual condition of the people who worshipped (?) there. Physical, spiritual, and moral spelled the trinity of its decay.