Certain Songs #1055: Lyle Lovett – “Church”

Album: Joshua Judges Ruth
Year: 1992

The one thing about the Catholic services that I went to before I had a choice was that they were like a well-oiled machine: we were in and out in about a hour, every single time.

So I can’t fully relate to the dilemma that Lyle Lovett describes in the weird, hilarious honky-tonk gospel song “Church,” but most certainly can appreciate it: a long-winded preacher is essentially holding his entire congregation hostage, with predictable results.

And now everyone was getting so hungry
That the old ones started feeling ill
And the weak ones started passing out
And the young ones they could not sit still

For the first part of “Church,” it’s just Lyle singing over a piano with a choir providing handclaps and a running commentary on his story. It isn’t until Lyle takes matters into his own hands, and tries to hijack the service with his own message that any drums come in, and of course that message — by himself the first time, but with the entire congregation after that — was far more concerned with the corporeal than the spiritual.

To the Lord let praises be
It’s time for dinner now let’s go eat
We’ve got some beans and some good cornbread
And I listened to what the preacher said
Now it’s to the Lord let praises be
It’s time for dinner now let’s go eat

And after that, all hell breaks loose. Or, more precisely, “all heaven,” as God provides an instant answer for their praises by sending a white dove to the church. A miracle!

And the dove flew down beside him
And a fork appeared right in his hand
And with everybody watching
The preacher ate that bird right there and then

After that, the preacher is fully on board with the food plan, joining the rest of his congregation in praising both god and food, leaving Lyle to sum it all up at the end.

And the moral of this story
Children it is plain but true
God knows if a preacher preaches long enough
Even he’ll get hungry too

And after that, they all end up having what was probably was one great meal.


“Church” performed live

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2 Responses to “Certain Songs #1055: Lyle Lovett – “Church””

  1. Ira Brooker says:

    Back in my golden age of discovering bands via late-night broadcast talk shows, Lyle did a one-two punch of “Church” on The Tonight Show and “Memphis” on Letterman and won a fan for life. I remember how my smile kept growing as every verse of “Church” got weirder and weirder.

  2. Jim Connelly says:

    I almost went with the Live in Texas version of “Church” because it gets so wild.