“Who would like to share a word of testimony this evening?”
Testimony time in a fundamentalist church is an experience unlike anything one could hope to find in the outside world. It’s equal parts performance art, spiritual posturing, and the kind of long winded delivery that you might expect after mistakenly asking your hypochondriac great-aunt how she’s feeling today. It is, in short, a wonderful and awful spectacle to behold.
Testimony time has many functions. For example, it’s one of a few times when women and divorced folks get to be heard in the church without being accused of preaching. “I’d just like to thank God for the lesson he taught me this week which I’d like to share with all of you. Let me read you a few verses and then after I tell my story I’ll share a poem that I wrote…”
The Biographical testimony is also a popular one usually involving a description of the horrific sin that the teller was involved in “years ago.” The main point to note here is that while some sins are acceptable to talk about in fundy churches (“I used to be such a drunk…”) some are simply not (“I used to be so gay..”).
Another variation of the testimony is the “Bragamony” which is used for establishing the church pecking order by allowing contenders to matching stories of spiritual prowess. In this struggle for dominance, the timing of the testimony is vital. It’s important not to go first lest your story be outmatched by those following and quickly forgotten. Fall into that trap and you may have to postpone until mid-week service with a considerably smaller audience and must less impact.
“If no one else has a testimony to share let’s turn in our hymnbooks…”
Thanks to Mel, Jennifer, and many others who suggested this topic.