Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Preacher’s Corner
By Rev. Dr. Milton Winter

At mealtime — we’re all of the same accord!

Last Sunday our congregation joined with Christ Episcopal Church for a service and picnic out at Strawberry Plains, the guests of Madge Lindsay and the Audubon Society. All of us brought food to share, and Mark Renwick and Ted Howell had a tent set up in which we could have our service and tables to spread the picnic.

We were glad to worship with the Audubon Society, for our two congregations are strongly supportive of the Audubon Society’s mission. Conservation and environmental stewardship seem, to us, to be naturally Christian concerns.

And besides that, it was just good to get outside and have fun!

It is always interesting when two established congregations worship together. We rocked and bumped along, full of good will one toward the other, but in spite of ourselves, manifesting deeply engrained habits — perhaps not “deeply held” but particular to our individual histories.

For example, I had chosen the hymns, and Bruce McMillan, Christ Church’s rector told me that his people sang the first one to a different tune than we use. Well, I thought there was only “our” tune. But the Episcopalians are good singers and, after Ruby Tate and Martha Thomas, our musicians, “raised the tune” all were able to join in a credible effort at singing.

More humor came when it was time for the second hymn. You see, we Presbyterians sit for the middle hymn; but apparently Episcopalians stand up every time they open their mouths. They won this round, and the Presbyterians got a taste of a more strenuous religion!

But Christ Church got a taste of Presbyterian exertion, because since I had been assigned the sermon, I knew they would want a full diet of God’s word, and I am told that it usually takes preachers of the Calvinist tradition a bit longer to dole this out, but I did.

When it was time for the communion, we used the common cup, and the Episcopalians sipped while the Presbyterians dipped.

There seemed to be no differences when it came to eating, which, to be honest, may have been the main reason everybody came. When two Mississippi churches join forces to have a picnic, the results are awesome! We all ate our fill, and the children, especially, seemed to have a fine time. I am grateful to all the good cooks. We ought to eat together more often!

Such gatherings do not always go as well. Two weeks ago John Taylor, my Presbyterian colleague at Sumner, was invited to picnic with the Church of the Advent — the Episcopal congregation there — and he did so and had a fine time. That is, until about bedtime, when to paraphrase The Night Before Christmas . . . “down in his stomach, there arose such a clatter, he sprang from his bed to see what was the matter!”

John was sure it was ptomaine, and as time went on, he confides that the unhappy thought entered his mind that he had been “poisoned” by the Anglicans! However, a visit to the emergency room revealed that it was appendicitis, and my friend is doing much better after a session with the surgeon.

I cannot conclude this week without a word of heartfelt farewell for my colleague Truman Thompson at First United Methodist. Bruce McMillan put it best in his letter to the editor a couple of weeks ago. I cannot add anything to what he said in eloquence. Truman and Linda have been wonderful friends, and have ministered deeply to me during their too-brief tenure here. One does not meet people of this caliber often, and I shall feel their absence acutely. I wish them all God’s best in their new assignment.

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