Flora Bama


If you don't know what the FloraBama is or that it is located on the beach real close to the Alabama Florida border, then nothing written here will mean much to you. However, if you've ever been to the FloraBama, but not for worship, then you might appreciate our experience.

We arrived about half an hour before the eleven o'clock service was to start. Hundreds of comfortable folding chairs had been placed theater style under the big tents. These chairs were about eighty per cent full. Before the service began all the chairs were taken and there were people sitting at tables behind the chairs, sitting on picnic tables off to one side and standing in back on the beach side. At least 500 people were present for the service.

As far as attire goes, the word informal doesn't do it justice. Any dress that covers more of your body than a string bikini and you are okay. Then again, if someone came in a string bikini they would be welcomed. I wore a shirt with a Mississippi State Bulldog on it and a maroon windbreaker with black pants. I was way overdressed.

The praise band struck up hymn number 15 in the Honky Tonk Hymnal, The Old Rugged Cross, with a country flair. The image of Hank Williams driving an orange and white Studebaker convertible across dusty Alabama roads came to mind. He was tuning his AM radio and sure enough playing was The Old Rugged Cross.

Over my left shoulder and high up on a wall was an advertisement for the FloraBama Bikini Contest. Suitably attired young women adorned the poster. Following the ribs in the roof were hundreds of small flags advertising Budweiser. There were others with the name of NFL football teams.

No sooner had the service started then people holding bottled water over their heads, much as you might see at a baseball game, marched up and down the aisles. There was also one lady who held the page number of the hymn being played in large black numbers on white cardboard. She also walked up and down the aisles so people could turn to the correct page number in the Honky Tonk Hymnal. There were no fancy screens with videos or the words of a hymn. It was strictly old school.

In addition to the free water there were free Bibles for adults and a kids version as well. To keep things lively there was a contest for the person who had traveled the greatest distance. A man from Scotland won the t-shirt. No collection was taken but colorful tackle boxes provided a place to give.

After The Old Rugged Cross, came You Are So Good To Me, Pour Out My Heart and All I Have Is Christ. The regular preacher was on National Guard duty and a 23 year old Marine took his place. The message was simple: Everyone will stand before God; Not everyone will enter; Everyone will spend eternity somewhere.

After the sermon came more music, The Wonderful Cross. A benediction was said and they released everyone with a rousing version of I'll Fly Away. The whole experience was somewhere between a Baptist tent revival and a Methodist contemporary service. The people were warm and friendly as you would expect in the South. About a quarter of the folks in attendance were there for the first time. Nothing I've said here should be construed as detrimental. It is a great opportunity for worship and one taken advantage of by many.

Copyright Jack Kean 2013

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