Thursday, November 15, 2007
The Preacher’s Corner
By Rev. Dr. Milton Winter
Richard did not lack for stage presence or courage
Recently I pulled a pair of trousers from the back of the closet. They were new pants, but preferring familiar, old clothes, I had never worn them before now. I put them on and was quite proud that I was sporting something new. But “pride goeth before the fall,” and so it was that I discovered to my chagrin that I had gone all over Holly Springs with the price tag still attached!
This reminded me of a tale concerning Richard Hurt, the son of the Baptist minister in Cleveland, my hometown, and my best friend growing up. Richard, who is now a law school professor in Florida, was the second of four boys in his family, and was the one everybody thought would become a preacher like his dad. (The youngest brother, Bill, is the one who actually did.)
When we were in high school, Bro. Hurt woke up one morning with a raw throat, and since it was too late to engage a guest minister, reluctantly decided to cancel church. Richard, a “clothes horse” like his dad and having recently discovered girls, was opposed to this idea, as he was looking forward to wearing a new suit for the first time.
The passing of time blurs my memory as to particular identities, but there was definitely someone he was intending to impress!
“I have an idea,” Richard exclaimed! “Daddy, I have watched you preach Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night all these years. I know just how you do it,” he said, practically dancing before his suffering father.
“Let me lead the service in your place!” Richard begged.
So, wilted by weakness, Bro. Hurt consented — although he admonished that no sermon would be necessary. Richard could just assist the music director, and the service would proceed up through the offering (very important) and then would be adjourned with prayer and the singing of the invitational hymn.
It should be noted that then or now, few high school sophomores or juniors (I forget which we were that year) would even conceive of attempting such a thing, but Richard did not lack for stage presence or courage, and he was ready to take on the task.
A few phone calls were made, including one to me, so that I could be present instead of attending the Presbyterian Church as was, of course, my usual custom and obligation.
And then, when eleven o’clock arrived, there were Richard’s mother and brothers, on the front row, with me in the middle of the group. Word had gotten round, and there was an air of expectancy as the organist chimed the hour and the choir began filing in through the doors on either side of the baptistry.
Out behind them came Richard, smiling from ear to ear, walking with great dignity, carrying his dad’s big black leather Bible. He led the service flawlessly. His father would have been so proud! Sometimes it is best to do something like that without the opportunity to work up nervousness. Adrenaline and the Holy Spirit carried Richard through!
Except for one small thing. Remember that new navy blue suit? Richard had it on — hoping I’m sure to impress “you-know-who!” Only all the price tags were still attached, flapping merrily in the air.
People thought he did a wonderful job that day. They all came up and shook his hand and told him how nice he looked. Being good Delta Baptists no one said a thing about the price tags. It was not until he got home that he “noticed.”
I think Richard has been in the pulpit many times since for one reason or the other. I know he has addressed the American Bar Association and other prestigious groups. But I think he still checks the right sleeve of his suits to make sure no stickers are waving in the wind.
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