When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder

A discussion about requirements for church membership on a discussion list got me to remembering.  The Baptist church I grew up in had Roll Call Sunday each fall, and I believe this was common to Baptist and other Protestant churches.  On Roll Call Sunday, we read the names of all the members.  If you didn’t show up or sent an excuse three years in a row, you were removed from membership.  My Aunt Elizabeth, who played the organ at the Presbyterian Church in Glenville, where she lived, didn’t join that church for decades, and came to answer the roll call each September at our church, where she had grown up. There was always a covered dish dinner afterward, the only one we had on a Sunday.  We had Fellowship Dinners one Wednesday a month.

The hymn “When the Roll is Called up Yonder, I’ll Be There” is based on this custom.  My grandmother, Maude Hersman deGruyter, was famous for the hot rolls she always made for covered dish dinners.  She would make large trays of them at home, up to the last rising, and then bake them in the oven at church.  The joke was always made that “When the rolls are served up yonder, she’ll be there.”