Thursday, August 15, 2013
The Preacher’s Corner
‘Hold on, we’re going to start it over again’
My friend the Rev. Ford S. Williams likes to recall the service at the Presbyterian Church in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, where the congregation had gotten halfway through singing the Doxology, when all of a sudden the music stopped and the organist called out: “Hold on, we’re going to start it over again!”
Ford tells about a day at the Rosedale Presbyterian Church where Frankie Lawler, the organist, was prone to spring from the bench near the pulpit and run home to adjust the temperature of her oven mid-sermon. Nobody minded, since she lived just two doors away, but they did become amused one Sunday when her little dog wandered in through the little side door of the building which she had neglected to close completely as she eased back into the church.
“Fido” came right to his mistress, who tried to make her pet scarce, scrunching him down at her feet, right on the pedals of her instrument. The only thing was that Frankie had forgotten to mute the pedal stop, and it caused such a noise that it woke up her husband, who was the mayor of the little town, and who, according to his custom, was snoozing through Ford’s overly-long sermon. Mayor Lawler’s hymnbook fell from his lap with a terrific thud, and it made all the babies cry.
People still remember the Sunday in Cleveland, about 1969, when an earthquake struck during church. Our family had stayed home that particular day, so all I can relate is what I heard about the incident.
It seems that over at nearby Immanuel Baptist, Bro. Jimmie Hurt, who was my best friend’s father, was preaching about the return of Jesus. He was reading the Scripture that says, “There shall be wars and rumors of wars, there shall be famines, and there shall be earthquakes,” and believe it or not, just at the moment he uttered those words, the walls began to ripple and the floor began to sway. The Baptists were impressed, and said that quite a few came forward at the invitation.
Meanwhile over at the Presbyterian Church, our minister was halfway through his learned discourse, and decided that this shaking of the earth was a prudent time to implement an emergency evacuation plan the deacons had worked out some years before. He invited the congregation to stand, and as Presbyterians always do, began to close the occasion with prayer. Folks say that when our pastor, the Rev. Lee Gentry looked up from his intercessions, the pews were completely empty. (“O ye of little faith!”) Not to be deterred from his appointed duties, when it seemed clear that no further shaking was imminent, our preacher reassembled the congregation in the parking lot and finished delivering his sermon!
The Catholic Church was so shaken by the earthquake that it had to be condemned and was never again used for divine service, and the Methodists, while sustaining no damage, had lots to say about their panicky Presbyterian friends and their apparent lack of trust in predestination.
Lest you think such uproarious things happen only in little towns or small churches, let me tell you about the day the woman in the big church I served in Chicago mistook the doorway into the pulpit for the entrance to the nursery. Out she came at the beginning of the service, pushing a huge black baby carriage with two little moppets inside. I’ll never forget the look on her face as she began backing out, realizing that 1,200 people had witnessed her mistake!
All these human foibles mean just one thing: the church is about people and for them.
Ordinary people, fallible people, distracted people, and people called sinners are the ones who populate our pews. Some of them are inclined to stay put, and others go running whenever there is some hint of trouble.
Jesus loved people and there is a great story about him when the wine ran out at a wedding feast. I think Jesus understands when things go wrong in church.
News: (662) 252-4261 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax: (662) 252-3388
Questions, comments, corrections: email@example.com
The South Reporter
P.O. Box 278
Holly Springs, MS 38635
©2004, The South Reporter, All Rights Reserved.
No part of this site may be reproduced in any way without permission.
The South Reporter is a member of the Mississippi Press Association.
Site managed and maintained by
South Reporter webmasters Linda Jones, Kristian Jones
Web Site Design - The South Reporter
Back | Top of Page