So I was raised as a very quiet Congregationalist. The services were very quiet. So down in Georgia I got sick once and the family invited their minister over to visit. I had the flu or something at home. This black minister came over and said, “Can we pray with you?” And I said, “Sure.” He got down on his knees next to my bed and the family got down on their knees and he put his hand on my head, on my forehead, and prayed that I would get well. I was just astounded by that.

Now a much more dramatic experience of that was that I met a girl, a young girl, a college-aged girl, and she was religious. And she said, “Would you like to come to a revival meeting?” She’s white. And they had a traveling itinerant preacher coming through. So she was concerned for my soul. At that time I thought this was so stupid, but I wanted to get next to her so I said, “OK.” She said, “Well, come to this meeting.” This is Deep South, this is southern Georgia. I had no idea what a revival meant. And I said “Sure.”

So we went to this little teeny backwater somewhere, just in the sticks of Georgia, this teeny church that maybe could hold 100 people and it was a Saturday night. Well, what I didn’t know was that she went Friday night and told this traveling minister that she was bringing a sinner Saturday night. So she brought me and we’re sitting there and this preacher is sweating and screaming and hollering and makes the call, “I want everyone under the age of 25 to come up to this altar and pray.” And she grabbed me and brought me up and all the young women went to one side of the altar and all the guys went and you all got down on your knees. The only thing I was thinking about was “Thank god there’s nobody here that I know.” So he comes over to me because I had been a marked man and he said, “Are you a Christian, son?” And I said, “Yes, yes.” He goes, “Do you believe that Jesus is going to save you?” And I said, “I think so.” But I was very defensive. I was scared. And he goes, “Can we pray with you?” And I said “Sure” and I didn’t know what that meant.

So he calls over two or three or four of his followers or henchmen or whatever. So all of a sudden I’m on my knees with four men standing around me in a circle and they all at once put their hands on me, laying on of the hands. They laid eight hands, and they were not just putting their hands gently, they were grabbing me and shaking me and all yelling “Come on, Jesus, come on into his body! This man needs to be –” and I was like so upset. My eyes must have looked wild. And they took their hands off me. People are screaming. And they said, “Do you have the spirit, son?” I absolutely said, “Yes.” What am I going to say, “No?” I was afraid they would sacrifice me if I said “No,” so I wobbled back to my pew. And the girl was crying. She thought I had been saved and tears were coming down. I looked like just a wild man. And so I remember telling Gaudino about that and he just laughed and laughed and laughed at that. Oh, my god. A little Williams boy out in the backwaters of Georgia. Oh, my. I’m sure my eyes must have been bugging out of my head. I like wobbled back. I was just weak. I thought, “Oh, my god.”

John Neikirk '73