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Pastors' Conference 1972

Forward

1972 was a pivotal point in United States history, religious history, and my personal history. Not only was the whole Cold War/Space Race thing going on, but bumbling crooks also broke into the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate Building, the Space Shuttle program was started, The Apollo program ended, the Equal Rights Amendment was sent to the states for ratification, women achieved several major firsts, and Nixon bombed Vietnam on Christmas.

That same year, I started Sixth Grade, bombed most of my piano lessons, started my first job (paper route), bought my own bicycle, crashed the same bicycle resulting in scars that exist to this day, survived a tornado, and most importantly for this story, accompanied my father for the first time to a gathering called the Pastors’ Conference.

Religion was kind of a big thing in our house, given that my father was a Southern Baptist pastor for over 40 years. It was important within my family to note that we were not just Baptist, we were Southern Baptist and that made a tremendous difference because we were right and everyone else was wrong. There was also an important distinction that we were not to be labeled as Protestant, because Baptists trace their history along a separate timeline that does not involve Martin Luther or the Roman Church. All that was really a big deal.

So was the implied assumption that I was going to grow up with all the proper training so that in some form or fashion, I would go into the ministry as well. I did not fight against this assumption too much, despite my core interests being elsewhere. I looked up to my father, respected what he did, and literally took notes about anything that seemed religiously important. I’ve no idea whatever happened to those notes and I’m sure I would be embarrassed to see them now, but I was serious about the whole matter at the time.

Attending the weekly Pastors’ Conferences that summer was important because it opened my eyes to what was happening within the denomination and, to some degree, the greater scope of religion, outside our own very small congregation. Each week, the pastors of Southern Baptist churches within a two-county area would meet, share their successes and challenges, someone would deliver what was supposed to be an inspiring devotional (that “inspiring” goal was not always achieved), and then they prayed. And prayed. And prayed some more. I really had difficulty staying awake during this part. Then, they’d go eat lunch together and gossip. Seriously. They were just as bad as any stereotypical group of older women. 

This book is centered around those events, the people attending them, and how they impacted lives well outside those in attendance. Pastors’ Conferences were important for a number of reasons. At the time, Southern Baptists were fiercely proud of the fact that any adult male who felt “called of God” and led a life relatively void of sin, could be the pastor of a church. Sure, there was an ordaining process, but it was largely ceremonial. I attended several with my father and never knew anyone to “flunk” the tests. The basic rules were that one had to know how to read, had to largely agree with the basic Southern Baptist doctrines, if they were married they couldn’t have been previously divorced, and that was pretty much it. Anything else could be overlooked as long as no one said anything. This approach would later prove to be a problem and the denomination has gotten a lot more careful in the decades since then but in 1972, quiet complicity worked. 

The stories in this book are works of fiction. The people, the places, and anything not documented by news media are all made up. I’m not even using actual town names except for major cities) out of concern that doing so might lead some to guess at real identities of the characters, resulting in judgments that are unfair and inappropriate. 

That being said, many of the subjects approached in the following chapters are based on actual events, real conversations, that happened throughout the 1970s. Honestly, most weeks Pastors’ Conferences were pretty boring, but when I look back across that decade and compact the most interesting and impactful events into the space of a 12-month calendar, a clear storyline begins to emerge and we see patterns of deceit, manipulation, abuse, racism, sexism, alcoholism, and fraud that, spread out over a decade were barely noticeable. Looking back, I am frightened by what seems so clearly apparent now, but no one seemed to notice then. 

Our characters are not based on specific individuals. Each one is developed in a way that best serves the story. I say that in hopes, again, that no one inappropriately assumes that certain stories are about specific people. One may find similarities between these stories and actual events, but to accuse specific people of undocumented activities would be wholly inappropriate.

In writing this book, I bring you, dear reader, into a closed group of people committed to a unifying cause with a legitimate earnestness to do good, to be a positive influence on people’s lives, and to save the world from the firey damnation of hell. Sometimes they were successful. Many times they weren’t. They acted many times on the assumption that no one would ever know what they said or did in private. That assumption was wrong and I do not apologize for the manner in which reality is revealed. There are conversations that need to be had, increased transparency that needs to take place, and a denomination that needs to be held accountable. 

At the same time, though, I want you to be entertained. Remember that before leaping to any conclusions. Enjoy.

Chapter 1

Glynn Waterbury stood in front of the small bathroom mirror pushing an electric foil razor over the barely-existent stubble that had grown on his face overnight. At the intermediate age of 42, Glynn had never even attempted to grow a beard. He instinctively knew it wouldn’t look good on his face and had avoided well-meaning endeavors to get him to try. The dark red tone of his skin might have betrayed the indigenous heritage that predetermined his difficulty in growing facial hair but he fought hard to keep that a secret. If anyone ever asked if he was “Indian,” he replied that he was “Black Dutch” and the inquisitive person would nod their head as if they had a clue what that meant. 

Glynn wasn’t especially tall, standing about 5’ 8” when he convinced himself to stand upright. An inescapable paunch of a stomach kept his weight around 180 pounds and that put him in a very normal category for men his age. Sure, he was sort of fat, but not the real fat that plenty of other men carried around. He felt good about himself, good about this day, and excited about what was going to happen.

“Think you’ll shed any tears this morning?” Marve, Glynn’s wife of 13 years, asked as she slipped behind him to wipe her hands on the towel hanging from the bar on the wall. Marve was significantly more petite, barely coming up to Glynn’s shoulder in her stocking feet. Her blue eyes sparkled with excitement this morning, a welcome change from the weariness they had shown the past three years. 

“I suppose there’s always that chance,” Glynn answered as he turned off the razor and reached for the aftershave that defined his personal fragrance two feet before anyone met his personality. “I mean, I am leaving my home state, sort of. I’ve been up here in Michigan for 20 years. I don’t hate the place or most the people.”

Marve rolled her eyes and gave him a knowing “Hmpf” as she adjusted the straps on her slip. The light reflecting off the pink walls of the bathroom gave her skin a soft, attractive glow that she thought was impressive for a woman in her late 30s. She was actually more native in terms of ancestry than Glynn but her father’s French heritage dominated her appearance. She knew as well as Glynn that their shared race was a liability in his line of work. This was a white person’s game and success meant pushing down the culture in which she’d been raised. 

“The kids seem excited,” Glynn said as he finished his grooming routine, giving his jet-black hair an extra shot of Brylcream to keep it in place against the wind. “Although, I’m not sure Hayden actually knows what’s going on.”

Marve pushed Glynn out of her way and stood on her tiptoes to see her full face in the mirror. “I’m not sure Hayden ever knows what’s going on. He’s four. Every day is a new adventure for him. Lita, on the other hand, is feeling a lot more anxious. This whole changing schools in the middle of the year thing has her worried. She’s very much afraid she won’t make new friends.”

“I didn’t realize being nine years old was such a socially delicate age,” Glynn said. The starched white shirt felt extra stiff this morning and he pulled at it in hopes of getting the fabric to relax a bit.

“She’s a girl,” Marve responded. “They’re all delicate ages.” She turned around and helped Glynn finish buttoning his shirt. “She’ll be fine. She’s bright, she’s pretty, and as soon as everyone gets over her Yankee accent they’ll love her.”

Glynn pulled a bright red tie off the doorknob and tossed it around his neck. “You don’t think they’ll get that horrible Oklahoma drawl, do you?”

“I’m sure of it,” Marve said as she turned back to the mirror. “It’s inescapable. We’ll come back to visit your parents and they won’t be able to understand a thing either child is saying.”

A scream from the kitchen stopped them both and they ran toward the sound. The little house was barely 800 square feet so it didn’t take long for them to respond to the apparent terror.

“What’s wrong?” Marve asked as she rounded the corner first.

Lita looked up at her mother with tears streaming down her face. “He got butter on my brand new dress! It’s ruined!”

Marve knelt down to examine the effects of the crime while Glynn lifted the culprit from his chair. “You’re coming with me, little man,” Glynn said, carefully holding Hayden away from his own clean clothes. “Let’s remove the evidence from your hands.”
“Mommy, I have to change now! This dress is ruined!” Lita continued to wail.

“Just calm down,” Marve instructed. “Daddy, hand me a damp rag, I think the dress is recoverable.”

“It will leave a stain,” Lita objected.

“Not once it dries,” Marve assured her.

“But it will still smell like sink. I can’t go to church smelling like sink!” Lita maintained.

Marve fought the urge to roll her eyes again. The child had her father’s flair for the dramatic. “I’ll give you a spritz of my perfume so you won’t smell like the sink,” she told her daughter. “If I were you, I’d worry more about what those tears are doing to that pretty face. That’s how you get wrinkles, you know.”

Lita immediately stopped crying and looked up at her mother with spirited blue eyes. “Does your face cream make them go away?” she asked.

“Only sometimes,” her mother replied. “You see, there’s a chemical in our tears that changes depending on why we’re crying. Happy tears soften your face and make you look young. Sad tears cause your eyes to droop just a little but can be fixed by smiling. Angry tears, though, those tears have acid in them and they leave lines on your face that are very difficult to remove, even with the best face cream.”

Glynn turned from the sink and met Marve’s eyes briefly, shaking his head at the fib she was telling Lita. He didn’t approve of lying but considered it sometimes necessary to get children to change their behavior. This myth was no worse than invoking the name of Santa Claus. He set Hayden down, the child’s hands temporarily clean from the butter he had joyously squeezed as though it were clay. “Where are your shoes?” he asked the child.

“On the roof!” Hayden answered.

Glynn looked quickly at Marve who shrugged in response. “What are your shoes doing on the roof?” he asked, certain he didn’t want to know how they got there.

“Holding it down so that Rocky doesn’t knock it off with his tail,” Hayden said innocently.

Both parents laughed as they realized the roof to which Hayden was referring was the one on Lita’s dollhouse. Rocky, the family’s springer spaniel, frequently knocked off the unsecured roof, as well as other objects around the house, with the enthusiastic wagging of his tail.

“Well, we better get the down from there,” Glynn said, playing along. “We don’t want to be late for our last day at Grace Baptist Church!”

Hayden ran off toward the small bedroom he shared with his sister. Lita, satisfied that her dress would survive the morning’s terrorist attack, followed Marve to her parents’ bedroom. “Mommy, are you sure I can have my own bedroom when we move to Oklahoma?”
“Yes, dear,” Marve assured her. “We’re getting an almost brand-new house. It’s only a year old. So you and Hayden will have separate bedrooms that you can decorate however you want, within reason.”

Lita sat on the edge of her parents’ bed. “That sounds great for a big girl like me,” she said, “But do you think Hayden’s ready for the responsibility of having his own room?”

Marve smiled. “No, I’m sure he’s not. That’s why he’ll need a lot of help keeping his room clean. We wouldn’t want any of his clutter invading your space, would we?”

Lita shook her head, her black ringlets bouncing around her face. “Nope, no boy stuff in my room, ever!” she said emphatically.

That made Marve laugh. “You’ll have to help him make sure his toys get back to his room, then. You know how Hayden’s toys tend to end up all over the house. Can you do that?”

Lita sat looking into the distance as though peering into the future before finally answering, “Yeah, I suppose so. If I don’t have better things to do.”

“Well, right now, you need to get your shoes on,” her mother responded. “Wear the black boots you got for Christmas. We had  more snow last night.”

“Does Oklahoma have snow?” Lita asked as she jumped off the bed.

“Yes, dear, they have snow, just not as much as Michigan does,” Marve said. “Move, quickly! No more distractions.”

Lita darted from the room only to crash into Glynn’s legs in the hallway. “Woah, careful there!” he warned. The playful tone in his voice was different than the normal stress of a Sunday morning. The pastor seemed almost playful by comparison. He walked into the bedroom and gave his wife a playful pat on the backside while she fastened her earring. 

“I’ve not seen you this upbeat on a Sunday morning in several years,” Marve said. “Are you really that anxious to leave?”

Glynn stood in front of the mirror over the dresser and adjusted his tie. “I’m anxious to leave the plant, do this full time, and maybe make a change in the world for once.”

Marve stepped behind him and put her arms around his waist. “I understand you wanting to be a full-time pastor and all that, but doing that and leaving your home state, going from your family being close to my family…” She paused and sighed. “Dad’s already talking about how much he wants to visit. I’m not sure you understand how disruptive he can be.”

Glynn turned and kissed his wife on the cheek, careful to not smudge the makeup she had so carefully applied. “There’s no way he can be more disruptive than my spending 8-10 hours a day at a parts plant 50 miles away. I’ll be home for dinner every night. I’ll be able to help put the kids to bed. I won’t be so exhausted every evening. Your Dad coming to visit isn’t going to take away all the good things that are going to happen.”

“I know,” Marve agreed as she leaned in against his chest carefully, still being mindful of her makeup against his white shirt. “We’ll adjust. We always do.”

“Lavon Brady called after you went to bed last night, by the way,” Glynn said quietly. “He said they have a love offering gift for us but he wants to give it to us privately, not make a big deal about it during the service.”

Marve pulled away and checked her dress in the mirror. “Lavon can go… “

“Marve…” Glynn interrupted. “We agreed, we keep our attitudes about people here to ourselves. The kids have loved it here. We don’t need to spoil their memories.”

“Sure,” Marve huffed. “Thanks to Lavon, our kids think peanut butter and jelly on the same sandwich is a luxury. You’ve not had a raise from here or the plant in three years and he’s responsible for both of those.”

“Things at the plant have been tight since Ford changed their engine design,” Glynn said. “Lavon didn’t have much choice there.”

“Still, I’m not going to miss him,” Marve said. “And I’m not going to miss all this snow. Did you put Hayden in his rubber boots?”

Glynn laughed. “Yes, he’s excited to be wearing them.”

At that moment, Hayden wandered into their bedroom, his feet completely bare.

“Hayden, where are your shoes and socks?” his dad asked.

The four-year-old looked down at his feet and shrugged. “I put them in the snow.”

His parents looked at each other and sighed. 

Chapter 2

The moving van pulled up to the front door of the small parsonage at exactly 7:00 AM the next morning. Glynn already had their light blue 1964 Impala packed with what they would need for the three-day trip to Oklahoma. Marve had the kids bundled in their snowsuits for now but had stashed a slightly lighter set of clothes in the back seat in hopes it might get warmer as they traveled South. The plan was to go eat breakfast while the van was being loaded, then they would say one last goodbye to the house before leaving.

“Adelbert, Oklahoma, huh?” The van driver said as he brought Glynn a clipboard with the required paperwork to be signed. The driver was a bit shorter than Glynn and probably a hundred pounds heavier. His partner was slightly taller but older and was putting out a cigarette as he stepped from the other side of the cab. “Never heard of it. They got much goin’ on down there?”

“Mostly farming,” Glynn replied. “A little bit of ranching. Pretty quiet for the most part.”

“Small town, huh?” the driver asked.

Glynn carefully read over the limitation of liability before signing his name at the bottom of the page. “Yeah, a little over 400 people. A bit of a change.”

The driver nodded. “And I call this number, 918-555-2311 when we get close?”

Glynn pulled a piece of paper from his shirt pocket and checked the phone number he had written down. “Yeah, that’s it. You’ll want to talk to Buck Edmonds. The houses down there don’t have street numbers on them, so he’ll have to give you directions.”

The driver wrote Buck’s name next to the phone number. “If you don’t mind me askin’, why would a nice young couple like you guys move out to the middle of nowhere like this?”

“I’m going to be the pastor of First Baptist Church there,” Glynn explained.

“Oh, you’re a preacher, huh? Baptist? I’m Episcopalian myself but I’m usually on the road most Sundays,” the driver said. “I go when I’m in town.”

Glynn smiled and nodded. Everyone had an excuse.

The diver handed Glynn a business card. “That’s the office with the boss’s phone number right there,” he said. “We’ll be checking in with them a couple of times a day so if you have any questions or concerns you can give them a call. Which route are ya’ll taking down?”

Glynn stuck the card in his shirt pocket before answering. “We’re going to try and make it to Indianapolis today, then stop at Joplin tomorrow night. I don’t want to go into Adelbert too late. They don’t have any hotels.”
The driver nodded. “They have us stopping in Muncie and St. Louis. We should arrive in Adelbert around 4:30 Wednesday afternoon.”

Marve stepped out the front door and called to Glynn, “There’s a Rev. Watkins on the phone from Oklahoma. He’d like to talk to you before we leave.”
Glynn handed the clipboard back to the driver and smiled. “If you’ll excuse me, please. The house isn’t terribly big. Just ask Marve, my wife, if you have any questions.”

“Thank you, Reverend,” the driver called as Glynn walked into the house.

The preacher picked up the phone, “This is Glynn Waterbury. How may I help you?”

“Mornin’, Glynn,” said a cheerful male voice on the other end. My name is Emmit Watkins. I’m the Director of Associational Missions for both Ridell and Mishawaka counties here in Oklahoma. I understand you’re taking the pastorate at First Church, Adelbert this week?”

“Yes sir,” Glynn replied, trying to match the level of enthusiasm coming from the other end of the phone line. “We’re moving in Wednesday afternoon and then Sunday morning will be our first service.”

“That is absolutely wonderful to hear,” Emmit said, nearly shouting into the phone. “You know, I’ve been a bit concerned about that church, what with them having gone so long without a pastor. Those are salt-of-the-earth people over there.” Emmit pause for less than a second before asking, “I was wondering if you’d be bothered any at all if I were to attend the worship service this Sunday and join in their celebration of your arrival. I’m looking forward to meeting you and your lovely family, and I want the church to know that we’re supportive of their decision.”

“Certainly!” Glynn said. “I would consider it an honor to have you in attendance. Up here, our Director of Missions has to cover seven counties. We don’t get to see him too often. It will be nice having someone a little closer.”

“I tell you what, we’re here to help in any way we can,” Emmit replied. “And you know, we have a pastors’ conference over here every Monday at 10:00. I wouldn’t expect you’d have time this first Monday, but I’d dearly love to have you join us the following week. We’re meeting over here at Grace Church in Arvel and then we’ll probably all go have lunch together at the Luby’s cafeteria afterward. I’m sure money’s tight with the move and all, so I’d appreciate it if you’d allow me to buy your lunch as well.”

Glynn couldn’t help smiling into the phone. This was exactly the sort of fellowship he was hoping to have with other pastors. “I would be honored,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the fellowship.”

“That’s just wonderful to hear!” Emmit yelled into the phone. “Look, I know you’re busy with the move and all so I’ll let you go, but take down my number here, it’s area code 918, 555-7611. Now, once you’re down here, all you have to do is dial the 5 and 7611, but you know, long-distance being what it is and all. You run into any problems between here and there and can’t get a hold of Buck, you just give me a yell and we’ll take care of you. Ya’ hear?”

“I appreciate that,” Glynn said. “Thank you for the call. I’ll look forward to seeing you on Sunday!”

“Ya’ll drive safe now,” Emmit said. “See ya’ll Sunday!”

Glynn hung up the phone and nearly ran into Marve as he turned toward the door. “That sounded like a rather enthusiastic call,” she said. “Director of Missions, huh?”

Glynn nodded. “Sounds like a rather excitable person. He’ll be coming over for the service Sunday morning.”

“That’s a first,” Marve noted. “The last time Harold was through here was what, four years ago, right after Hayden was born?”

Glynn had to think a moment. Harold Parsons was Director of Missions for the South Lakes Baptist Association. There were only 24 churches but they covered seven counties South of Detroit. On any given Sunday, one of them was in crisis. Glynn’s small church in Dooley was one of the few that was reasonably stable so Harold hadn’t bothered to visit too often. “Yeah, something like that. I saw him briefly at the state convention last November. Those churches over in Harm and Tuskert counties have kept him busy. They can’t seem to keep a pastor down there.”

“I’m not surprised,” Marve said. “When we were at First Church, Wamsley for the annual meeting the reception was so frigid you almost had to chip ice off the pews.” She turned and picked up her purse. “The kids are getting restless. We should go eat before Hayden starts gnawing on the back of the seat.”

“Yeah, I could use a pancake or five myself,” Glynn said, patting his stomach.

The family drove to the only diner open on a Monday morning, ate without incident, then went back for one last goodbye to the house that had been their home the past six and a half years. The moving van was almost packed by the time they returned. To no one’s surprise, Lavon Brady’s car was parked along the curb.

Marve sighed. “He just can’t wait for us to leave, can he?”

“I have to give the keys to someone and he’s the person responsible,” Glynn said. The resignation in his voice was enough to let Marve know he wanted to get the whole matter done and out of the way as quickly as possible. He parked the car at the end of the driveway and the kids hopped out and ran into the nearly-vacant house.

“Glad I caught you before you took off,” Lavon said. The smile on his face tried to be friendly but the disdain present in his eyes made him look more sinister. “Of course, I assume you would have just left the keys on the kitchen counter if you had needed to go.”

“That was my plan,” Glynn said. “The kids wanted to say goodbye to the house before we left. I figured you’d be at the plant this morning.”

“Oh, I probably should be,” Lavon said as he pushed back the graying grease-slickened hair on his head. “You know, Glynn, you’re probably getting out at a pretty good time if you ask me. The company’s looking to automate the lines for the ‘73 Falcon and Thunderbird piston assemblies. Probably lay off about 300 people or so. No one’s job is safe anymore.”

Glynn slipped the house keys off of his key ring as the Chairman of Deacons, and the plant’s accounting manager talked. “I assume your job is safe, being management and all,” Glynn said.

Lavon shook his head. “I don’t know anymore. Ford wants them to start using some big accounting firm out of New York. Says they only hire folks with Masters Degrees. Think they’ll help the company save money.”

“I’m sure it will all work out according to God’s plan,” Glynn said, smiling as he handed Lavon the house keys. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to round up the kids and get on the road.”

Lavon nodded and started walking toward his car. “Good luck, Pastor. It’s been good having you.”

Glynn turned and waved, then continued toward the house.

Marve met him at the front door. “I hope I never have to see him again,” she said, her voice nearly growling. “What was he blathering on about?”

“Something about layoffs at the plant,” Glynn replied. “He thinks they’re going to replace him with some bean counter from New York.”

“That would be an odd justice,” Marve said. “Let him see how it feels to get by on nothing for a while.”

Glynn shook his head. “That’s not Christian and you know it. Besides, the scuttlebutt on the plant floor is a lot worse. Rumor is they’re going to shut down the plant and move everything to Mexico.”

“Mexico?” Marve asked, surprised by such a ridiculous idea. “Why would they do that?”

“Avoid the union wage increase scheduled for next year,” Glynn explained. “They’re trying to renege on the deal Hoffa’s guys brokered last year.”

Marve shook her head. “I’m glad you’re out of that mess.”

Glynn nodded. “Let’s grab the kids and get moving.”

Marve shuffled Lita and Hayden off to the car while Glynn made one last check with the van driver. Everything was in order. As he got into the car, he reached over, grabbed Marve’s hand, and prayed, “Dear God, thank you for the six-and-a-half years you gave us here, keeping food on our table, a roof over our heads, and adding to our family. Be with us now as we continue on the journey you’ve set before us. Keep us safe and in your care. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

“Amen,” echoed Marve.

“All men!” shouted Hayden.

“Amen, you goofball,” Lita said, eagerly correcting her brother. 

Driving from Michigan to Oklahoma with two children in the car was its own adventure to be chronicled at another time. Lita did not want to sleep in the same bed as Hayden. Hayden didn’t want to sleep. Road construction slowed their path across Indiana. Too many hot dogs had Lita throwing up outside St. Louis. 

When they finally got to Arvel, just on the South side of the Oklahoma/Missouri line, they stopped and Glynn called Buck Edmonds from a payphone at a truck stop to get directions to their new house.

“Welllll,” Buck said with a slow drawl that hinted at bad news to come. “We seem to have run into a bit of a hiccup there, Pastor. You see, the banker who built that house is still livin’ in it while he’s building himself a new one next door and it seems that new one isn’t going to be ready for another couple of months or so, depending on the weather.”

“Excuse me?” Glynn said in disbelief. “I thought the church had already settled this.”

“We thought we had, too, Pastor,” Buck said. “We didn’t know there was a problem until I went by the bank this morning to pick up the keys. Apparently, he misunderstood when we told him we’d hired ya’ll. He didn’t think you’d be moving until the end of the school year.”

Glynn leaned his head against the phone booth, a wave of desperation and doubt sweeping over him. Where were they going to go? Had he made a mistake in accepting this position? “What about the former parsonage? Could we move in there for a couple of months?”

Glynn could almost hear Buck grimace on the other side of the phone line. “Welllll, you see, Pastor, we sold that house to pay for this new house and there’s already someone living in that one.”

Glynn sighed as the knot in his stomach grew larger.

“Now, I did some checking around town, and there is a house available for rent down by the ballfield if you all wouldn’t mind staying there for a couple of months until Mr. Baker gets his house finished,” Buck offered. “It’s a touch smaller, only two bedrooms, but maybe it could get you by for the time being.”

“Doesn’t sound as though we have much choice,” Glynn said, trying to not let the despair creep into his voice. 

“The other option was to have ya’ll move in with Widow Augustine there right across the street from the church. It’d be convenient and she has enough rooms but Ms. Augustine’s been a’livin’ by herself in that big ol’ house for some 30-plus years now. Not sure how well she’d get along with small children running around, especially with all those antiques she has,” Buck said. “We just thought ya’ll would be more comfortable with your own place, and we’re puttin’ plenty of pressure on Mr. Baker to get his family moved out just as soon as possible.”

“Yes, definitely,” Glynn said. “We’ll meet you at the church in a few minutes.”

“Sounds good, Pastor,” Buck said. “See ya’ in a bit.”

Glynn pulled his hand through his hair slowly before walking back to the car. Marve had been watching from the car and could tell from his body language that something was wrong. She steeled herself for the worst-possible news—the church had rescinded the offer, leaving them with nowhere to go. By comparison with what she had imagined, the mixup with the housing seemed minor. 

It wasn’t. The house was four rooms and a tiny bathroom squeezed between the two small bedrooms. Lita was livid that she wasn’t getting her own room. What little furniture they had wouldn’t all fit in the 700-square-foot house and had to be stored, along with most of their other belongings in a church member’s barn. With Glynn’s urging and a constant stream of church members offering to help, they made do.

By the time Sunday came around, everyone was reasonably comfortable with their arrangements except for Lita, who refused to accept having to live another day in the same room as her brother. She slept defiantly on the sofa and her parents didn’t object, figuring that was better than listening to her fuss all night.

Glynn chose as his scripture for the morning, Isaiah 43: 18-19. As he stood in the pulpit made of blonde wood, looking out over a congregation of some 70 people, he knew he was going to have to lean heavily into his faith, hoping God knew what he was doing. He began tentatively.

“We are, together, embarking on a new beginning, all of us. I am new to you, you are new to me, and my family is new to this place called Oklahoma. Our journey here was not quite what we expected as many of you know, but perhaps God is saying to us as he did to the prophet Isaiah,

18 
“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®

Oklahoma is not the wilderness and Adelbert is definitely not a wasteland, but God is doing a new thing here, with you, with me, with all of us working together.”

At the end of the service, Buck Edmonds asked Marve and the kids to join Glynn at the front of the sanctuary so that everyone could file by and introduce themselves. Emmit Watkins proved to be just as excitable and enthusiastic in person as he had been over the phone. Each of the older ladies in the congregation insisted that the pastor and his family would have to drop by soon for dinner. Younger women were anxious to meet Marve and fill her in on all the social opportunities she would certainly want to participate in, if not chair. Lita politely shook everyone’s hand while Hayden swung off his father’s left arm, anxious to get to the pot luck dinner he knew was waiting in the fellowship hall. 

Glynn looked over at Marve and smiled. Maybe this wasn’t going to be too bad, after all.