Thursday, January 17, 2013
The Preacher’s Corner
Tales from Mississippi Presbyterians
Most people know I’m writing a history of Mississippi Presbyterians. A project like this takes a long time and not every tale I’ve been told can be included. A few, however, should be recorded.
Once upon a time, about 50 years ago, the Natchez Presbyterians decided to organize a mission church in the Natchez suburbs, and the Rev. William H. McAtee Sr., of Brookhaven was on the commission established for this purpose.
Dr. McAtee and his wife Queen Estella McAtee stayed with the pastor and his wife of the Natchez First Church the night before the service that would set the new work in motion.
It seems that before they ate breakfast, Mrs. McAtee had begun laying out her church clothes. Queen McAtee was a Graeber of Marks, kin to our Gay Graeber Stubbs in the present generation, and Dr. McAtee had met and married his Queen during an earlier pastorate at Marks.
Being a very proper pastor’s wife of the old school, she had brought a hat to wear for the occasion — in fact it was a new hat — and she inadvertently left the hat box uncovered on the bed while she went to the breakfast room.
While she was out — you guessed it — the Natchez preacher’s kitty came into the room and had a wonderful time playing with that hat and veil with her claws!
Poor Mrs. McAtee had to go to church hatless — and in the very grand, old First Church of Natchez, no less.
Everybody who made it out to church in Marshall County last Sunday deserves praise. Just before 11 o’clock there was a frog-drowner rainstorm. It continued all through church, and when the hour was over and we opened the front doors, it was coming down hard enough to bring down a mallard. Still, we had a decent congregation.
I have often thought that foul weather actually encourages church attendance.
Some might say this is because rain discourages the golfers, but they are a hardy lot, and if golfers intend to play, they will find a way. No, I think it is a fact that in bad weather a kind of claustrophobia sets in and people have a more than average desire to see other people.
Today, as I set out to teach the ladies’ circle, there is a hint of snow, and I am guessing that the roads will be crowded with people headed here and there — anything but being locked up in the house to behold the frosty desolation. There are always more cars on the street just before, or in the early stages of a snowstorm, than at any other time.
I have long nurtured the suspicion that our grocers are in league with the weather forecasters to hype any possibility of frozen precipitation, for just say the S-word and the store parking lots are filled.
When I drove by our local grocery emporium as I went to the church to get ready for our Christmas Eve service, there was a prediction of snow for Christmas afternoon.
Sure enough, the store had not only the usual crowd of shoppers picking up that last can of pumpkin pie mix or one more tin of allspice, but the predictable run of rabbit folk stocking up for the promised blizzard. The parking lot was filled out to the street. I am sure Fred, Dennis Jr., and Neal were smiling.
Have you ever wondered why the TV reporters who cover this phenomenon say stores always sell out of bread and milk on such occasions? Don’t people need other things, too? What about mayonnaise or cold cuts? Cereal to go with that milk?
When I confronted my grocer with this question, he confided that there is one other item that sells out before bad weather: beer.
I do not think all the people who flock to the store before snow are really that low on food. I think it is that fear of being boxed in that makes them want to see people. It is also a good reason to go to church.
I was glad to see everybody last Sunday. Many must think that preachers want people to come solely for the sake of their egos, or for holy evangelistic purposes, or with a wary eye on the collection plate.
To some extent that is true, but I confess last Sunday, after a week of rain and cold weather, I was also glad to see people — old and dear friends — in that weekly reunion that happens as we enter the hallowed sanctuary and sit in our familiar spot.
By the way, deacons, the church sprang a leak last Sunday. Now, you have a project, and we’ll have to have a meeting to plan it out. There you have another grand Holly Springs custom — with our old churches, there is always something to fix.
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