pastor's conference 1972

New to our story? That’s okay. You can click here to start from the beginning!

Chapter 5

chapter 5

Glynn sat at the desk in his church office shivering, wishing the parka sitting in the chair across the desk from him wasn’t so bulky. The small electric heater was doing its best but it was no match for the harsh winter wind managing to make its way under the office door. He felt the wind was an apt metaphor for all the distractions that kept creeping into his mind as he tried to work on Sunday’s sermons. 

Already, the pastor had decided that he would use Phillipians 2:14-18 as his text. He stared at his open Bible. He had an opening comment about the cold and that no one seemed to enjoy what was a normal and natural part of the creation God had called good. Beyond that, though, he was stuck. He re-read the passage again.

Do all things without grumbling or questioning,  15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,  16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved.

Nothing. Nothing at all was coming. At least, nothing he could actually use. He considered all the depressive grumbling he had heard from the other pastors, but that was all “insider” conversation, things said with presumed confidence. The same held true for many of the other detailed complaints he had heard during the week. Carmella Thomas, the local leader of the Women’s Missionary Union, had rebuffed Glynn’s suggestion that the group meet monthly rather than quarterly with the complaint that organizing the meeting once a quarter was too stressful. “Just finding a type of sandwich that won’t kill half the women there is difficult enough,” she said. Pearl Morgan, who was church organist on the Sundays she wasn’t too tired to attend, threatened to quit completely if the piano wasn’t tuned. She complained it made the organ sound bad. And Rosetta Commerce, who held the lofty title of Nursery director despite the fact there were only two children of nursery age in the entire church, complained that the animal crackers kept disappearing from one Sunday to the next. None of those were examples Glynn could dare use in his sermon.

After sitting at the desk for the better part of an hour writing a sentence or two then scratching it out, Glynn decided that perhaps a trip down to the diner for a cup of coffee might help. Some of the “retired” men in town met there regularly around 10:00 each morning, telling tales and recounting local history. Perhaps there would be something in their conversation that might prove useful. He pulled on the parka and headed out the door, choosing to drive the two blocks rather than walk. Just because it wasn’t as cold in Oklahoma as it was in Michigan didn’t mean he didn’t feel like he was freezing in the wind.

The men at the diner greeted Glynn with a hearty, “Hey, Preacher!” and pulled another chair up to their already overcrowded table. Alta Groves, a widowed church member with a serious heart condition that her insurance failed to cover adequately, smiled as she brought Glynn a cup of coffee. The white porcelain mug was identical to the mugs everyone else was using, making it difficult to tell who was drinking from which cup. Glynn spotted a chip in the handle of his and decided that would be his marker if it ever became confusing.

As Glynn thanked Alta and began removing his coat, Cecil Eddie, a retired railroad worker trying to live off his pension, called across the table, “Hey, Preacher, whadda ya’ think about that young lady over in Arvel gettin’ killed? There’s a neighbor out there says her old man’s truck never left the house to go after her. Do you think maybe that deacon had anything to do with it?”

“Well, I don’t …” Glynn started.

“Could have been some other fella she was a-cheatin’ with,” interrupted  Calvin Wallace, a thin rail of a man who constantly reminded people that he had been farming the same land since the dust bowl.

Junior Patrick, a stout man whose wardrobe never changed from the denim overalls, red and white checkered shirt, and feed company ball cap, dumped in with, “I still think it was the deacon’s wife or someone’s wife. Those women, you know, they get a might fussy when someone starts going after their men.”

“Yeah, they’d rather kill us all by themselves,” Calvin responded. The men at the table all laughed while across the room Alta rolled her eyes and shook her head. 

Cecil sat up suddenly and put his mug on the table. “That sounds like Hub Everett’s siren, doesn’t it?”

The others set down their mugs and strained to listen. Sure enough, the sound of the town’s ambulance was growing louder as it approached the diner. Much to everyone’s surprise, the white converted funeral herse with a magnetic red light on top pulled into the diner’s parking lot and Hub Everett hopped out and ran toward the diner’s door. He opened it just enough to stick his head in and yell, “Jimmie Hulbert’s tractor done turned over on him. I’m gonna need some help!”

Immediately, every man at the table jumped up, placed a quarter on the table (ten cents for the coffee, 15 as a tip for Alta) and rushed toward the door.

“Preacher, why don’t you ride with me,” Hub suggested. “Your services may be needed more than mine.”

Glynn nodded and followed Hub back to the ambulance, getting into the passenger seat. He considered Hub one of the town’s most interesting residents. Like many, he had lived in Adelbert since he had returned from WWII. A decorated Army veteran, Hub had found he had some skill in dealing calmly with death and had opened the town’s only funeral home, settling down there with his wife, Rose, who handled the business side of things. As cars became more popular, resulting in an increase in non-lethal accidents, it had made sense to put a gurney in the back of his second hearse and start an ambulance service. CB radios would allow the county sheriff and the town police officer to quickly communicate with them when they needed transportation for a wreck victim. Hub would then radio back to Rose when he saw how challenging the patient’s condition was and she would, in turn, call the appropriate hospital to let them know Hub was coming. While Hub wasn’t able to provide any direct medical care, the service was one that local farmers considered invaluable and there was little question that Hub had helped save more than a few lives.

Hub himself wasn’t an especially big man, a little over 5’4”, a little bit of a paunch around his belly, his thin grey hair causing him to look older than his 64 years. His black suit with a white shirt was the mandatory uniform of his trade and he never strayed from it. He was also rarely without a cigar in his mouth. He said he had started smoking them during the war in remembrance of buddies he lost on the field and it just seemed like a good idea to continue. His personal rule was that he wouldn’t smoke during a funeral service, but he was quick to light one up immediately afterward. The funeral business had been good to Hub, enough so that his two sons had each opened additional funeral homes over in Arvel. As Hub was getting older, though, he was finding that he needed help more frequently, and this was one situation where all the old men following him likely wouldn’t be enough to save poor Jimmy Hulbert.

As the ambulance screamed down the dirt county road, Rose radioed to Hub, “Gloria says the gate along Miner’s Road is as close as you can get. Everything else is too soft to hold a vehicle.”

“10-4,” Hub replied. “I don’t suppose there are any cattle in that field, is there? Come back.”

“No cattle, but you’ll have about 200 yards of muddy pasture to cross,” Rose answered.

Hub looked over at Glynn. “Looks like we’re going to get our suits muddy today, Preacher.”

Glynn nodded. “That seems small compared to saving a man’s life.”

“Yes sir,” Hub returned. “Although, to be quite honest with ya’, I’m not sure there’s going to be a lot we can do. Lifting that tractor enough to get him out from under it is going to be quite a chore, especially in the mud, and it’s been darn-near 30 minutes since we got the call already. All you may have time for is last rights, or whatever you Baptists do.”

“We can pray,” Glynn said. “Try to provide some comfort.”

Hub nodded as the ambulance pulled up to the pasture gate. “This here’s the gate to his pasture. It’s just fastened up there with a piece of barbed wire across that post. If you can get the gate open I’ll grab the gurney and we’ll head on up.”

Glynn jumped over the small ditch and walked up to the wrought-iron gate. Sure enough, a simple strand of barbed wire was all that was keeping the gate shut. He lifted the wire and opened the gate as Hub pulled the gurney out of the back of the ambulance. The steel gurney was heaving and it took both men to carry it across the damp, plowed field. They both stumbled frequently as the clumps of earth gave way beneath their weight. 200 yards quickly began to feel like 200 miles as mud stuck to their shoes, making it all the more difficult to walk. Glynn couldn’t help hoping that the dry cleaner in Arvel knew what they were doing. His navy blue suit was already splattered with mud. 

By the time the two men reached the tractor with the gurney, most of the other men from the diner were already gathered around trying to figure out how to safely move the tractor. Everyone had an idea.

“If we tie a rope around it and pull with my truck I bet we can get it off him,” said one.

“Your truck would get stuck in the mud before it could get close enough,” countered another.

“We don’t need to completely upright the tractor,” Hub said as they approached. “We just need enough space to pull Jimmie out from under it. A few inches is all that’s necessary.”

Glynn looked into the face of the young man grimacing from the pain. The old, red Alis Chalmers tractor, with two small tires in the front and two massive wheels in the rear, was lying across Jimmie’s legs at an angle, giving him room to kneel down in the mud and try to talk to the boy. “Hi, Jimmie, I’m Glynn Waterbury. I’m the pastor at First Baptist Church. We’re doing to do everything we can to get this tractor off you, okay?”

Jimmie nodded. Tears rolled down the side of his face. Despite the cold, he was drenched in perspiration. Glynn instinctively took off his suit coat and wrapped it around the boy. “Here, let’s tuck this around you, keep you from going into shock.”

Jimmie Hulbert was 32 years old. Like many of the young men in the area, he was lean, lanky, with sandy hair, and was sporting a heavy “farmer’s tan” that marked where his shirt collar and sleeves stopped. He was married to Gloria, a local girl he had started dating in high school. She stood just off to the side, a neighbor trying to comfort her as she watched her young husband writhing. Jimmie’s legs were obviously crushed. The family had just let their insurance lap so they wouldn’t miss the mortgage payment on the farm. Back up at the farmhouse, another neighbor was trying to keep their two- and four-year-old boys occupied. Only a week ago, Gloria had told Jimmie she was pregnant with their third. They were excited. He was hoping for a girl. 

As the men stood arguing over the best way to get Jimmie’s legs free, Glynn stayed by his side, letting Jimmie squeeze his hand. “How much land are you farming out here?” Glynn asked, pretending to know what he was talking about.

“Just a couple hundred acres,” Jimmie replied. “My daddy gave us the homestead and fifty acres when we married, then we bought 150 off old man Phillips so we would have enough to actually make a decent crop. We did okay with corn last year, but with the way the market’s shaping up, I was thinking about soybeans this year.”

“Sounds like quite an undertaking,” Glynn said. “You have anyone out here helping you?”

The young man shook his head while biting his lower lip. 

To this day, no one who was there can explain exactly what happened next. Some said Gloria simply grew tired of the men fussing and not doing anything. Others insist they saw angels by her side. A doctor would later try to explain it as an extraordinary rush of adrenaline. Whatever the reason, Gloria suddenly pushed passed all the old men, straddled her husband’s legs, put her right shoulder against the tractor and began to push until she had it moving upward. In that instant, Glynn grabbed Jimmie under the arms and pulled him free. By the time Glynn had Jimmie clear of the tractor, Gloria had the tractor upright.

The men stood there with their mouths agape, then collectively rushed over to “make sure the tractor was stable and wouldn’t fall again.” 

Everything after that was a blur. Glynn rode in the ambulance with Hub to the hospital in Washataug. The small hospital there would later transfer Jimmie to a hospital in Tulsa. While standing in the waiting room, Gloria approached the pastor sheepishly and said, “I appreciate what you done, pastor. I should pro’ly tell you that we’re Assembly of God, though. I’m sorry.”

Glynn smiled. “We’re all children of God,” he replied, “and that’s what matters right now.”

Gloria nodded and slipped back to the hard plastic chairs to wait with Jimmie’s parents. Glynn understood the inference, though. His services as a pastor were no longer needed here. 

As soon as Hub retrieved the gurney they returned to Adelbert. By that time, word had gotten around town what had happened. Glynn was still covered in mud when he walked through the door at home. 

“So, this is what an angel of mercy looks like?” Marve teased, smiling from across the kitchen. She then rushed over and gave her husband a big kiss.

“Ewww, Dad, that suit’s trash!” Lita exclaimed. “Where’d you get all that mud?”

“The telephone has been ringing non-stop,” Marve told him. “Rose called first to let me know you were riding in the ambulance. Then, every other woman in town has called with their version of what happened. So, what happened? Did you really see an angel out in that field?”

Glynn thought for a second. Angels would definitely make for a good story, but he had been looking at Jimmie, not the tractor. “I don’t know,” he finally replied. “What I saw was a miracle any way you look at it.”

By Sunday, the entire county was convinced there are been angles helping Gloria lift the tractor. She had even said so herself. The Arvel Herald-Times ran the story on the front page of Friday’s edition. They quoted Junior Patrick as saying, “That preacher was a hero, right down there in that mud, pulling that boy out from under that tractor.” That was enough fame to fill the sanctuary as everyone came to hear the new pastor.

Marve stood next to Glynn at the back of the Sanctuary before the service started. “What to do you think? Do you change your sermon, all things considered?”

Glynn shook his head. “No, I’ll just tweak it a bit. I definitely have a good illustration.”

Marve smiled and whispered, “You know the mud’s not coming out of that suit.”

Glynn chucked. “Who knows, maybe there will be another miracle at the dry cleaners.”

Glynn’s celebrity status carried over to the Pastors’ Conference the next morning. For the second week, pastors crowded around him the instant he walked through the door. 

“We gotta know, the angels, what did they look like?”

“Did an angel help you pull that boy from under the tractor?”

“Was your sanctuary really standing-room-only yesterday?”

“Bet you’ll have a lot of people joining your church after that!”

All the attention made Glynn uncomfortable. “I really don’t think it’s right to focus on what I did or what anyone else did,” he told them. “What happened is an example of the miracle of God’s grace. He provided strength from unlikely sources. Like I told the church yesterday, if there’s any praise it has to go to God. He saved that boy. He may have used Jimmie’s wife, he may have used angels, but at the end of the day it’s all God’s doing.”

Emmit stood back and smiled. The Association needed this. “Even preachers need a hero they can see,” he thought to himself. 

Chapter 6

chapter 6

Rain moved across Oklahoma the next week and the Waterbury family got their first taste of the legendary Oklahoma weather as the small house shook with every clap of thunder and strong winds rattled the windows so hard Marve worried they might break. A very frightened Hayden had huddled in bed with his parents the first night. Lita joined him the next night. The result was that neither Glynn nor Marve were getting a lot of sleep.

Glynn sat at the kitchen table Wednesday morning reading the newspaper while Marve prepared the kids’ breakfast. The President was in China, something Glynn had never thought he’d see in his lifetime. The North Vietnamese had walked out on peace talks in Paris, though, and that felt like a more pressing concern.

“I’m not so sure about this world we live in,” Glynn said to no one in particular.

“I’m not so sure about this mudhole we live in,” Marve countered. “Have you seen the front yard this morning? I’m not sure I can even get the kids to the car without everyone getting wet.”

Glynn put the paper down and walked to the front window. Sure enough, the night’s rain had left a small lake surrounding the house. “We’ll have to form a chain,” he said. “I’ll put on my galoshes and wade out to the car. You can hand me the kids from the porch, I’ll set them in the back seat.”

“That works for the kids,” Marve said, “But I’m not about to let you carry me that way. And how did your galoshes get unpacked but no one else’s?”

“I’m not sure about that,” her husband answered. “I can take Lita to school this morning, though. No need for you to get out.”
Marve set plates of scrambled eggs and bacon in front of the children. “In that case, Hayden can just stay here with me. No need to get him out in this mess.”

“Does that mean I can ride in the front seat?” Lita piped up.

“I suppose so,” Glynn replied.

“You want to drop by the store and get some milk and ground beef for me while you’re out?” Marve asked. “We’re obviously not walking in this mess.”

“Sure,” Glynn said as he pulled the giant rubber boots over his dress shoes. “I hadn’t expected to need these here,” he admitted. “We’ll see how waterproof they are.” 

The morning looked to be a fairly quiet one. The preacher dropped off his daughter at the elementary school then went to Walker’s Grocery, stopping by the post office to retrieve the mail before returning home. He didn’t pay much attention to the copy of the Baptist Journal that was buried between the stacks of envelopes. It was Wednesday, after all, and the Journal always came on Wednesday.

Dropping the groceries and relevant mail off at home, Glynn drove the three blocks back to the church building. He was mildly concerned about the water standing in the courtyard between the sanctuary and the education wing, but the rain was supposed to stop late in the day. There didn’t seem to be any immediate threat to anything inside. Dropping the church’s mail on his desk, he had just removed his galoshes when the phone rang. 

“Mornin’, Glynn,” the cheerful voice said on the other end of the line. “How are things over there in Adelbert this mornin’?”

“Good morning, Emmit,” Glynn replied, amused at the constant level of excitement Emmit seemed to have. “Things here are a bit damp but otherwise pretty quiet. How are things in Arvel this morning?”

“Good to hear,” Emmit said. “We’re staying busy enough over here. Have you seen the Baptist Journal this morning?”

Glynn shuffled through the mail sitting on the desk and pulled out the 16-page magazine. “Just picked up the mail. Something in there I need to read?”

“You might want to pay attention to that article on page three about the church and politics,” Emmit suggested. “It’s going to be a big topic at Pastors’ Conference on Monday and you’re going to have a couple of church members who likely disagree with the stance they present.”

Glynn quickly opened the magazine to page three and looked at the headline, “Why Churches Should Stay Out Of The Election.” Glynn found the mere presence of the article rather confusing. The line between Church and State seemed rather clear. He had never let politics creep into his sermon. “Seems rather straight forward,” Glynn said. “Our job is to save souls and provide spiritual guidance, not talk politics.”

“I know that’s how most of us see it,” Emmit said, “But there’s a growing number of people in our churches, and among our pastors, who feel we need to take a stronger stance. Alan Mayes and Horace Lyles, a couple of your deacons, are among those who have already been vocal about the church being more involved.”

“That’s… good to know,” Glynn said hesitantly. This wasn’t a conversation he wanted to engage in. No matter which side one took, it inevitably muddied the message of the gospel.

“Just a heads up, since you’re still getting your feet wet over there,” Emmit said.

“Literally,” Glynn interjected, disappointed to discover that his galoshes were not as waterproof as he had hoped.

“What I really wanted to call you about was a couple of denominational matters,” Emmit continued. “First, Ollie Ramone over at Hillside Church in Wolf Creek resigned Sunday. He’s going to Calvary Church down in Mannefort. That leaves an opening in our associational missions committee and I was wondering if you’d be willing to take his place.”

Glynn paused. A place on an associational committee? He hadn’t even considered such a thing. “I guess,” he finally answered. “I mean, I’ve never really thought about anything like that. What all does it involve?”

“Not much,” Emmit answered. “We meet once a quarter over here at the associational office just to make sure we’re doing what’s best for the churches, whether we need to help start a new church, things like that. Nothing earth-shattering, usually.” 

Glynn felt uncomfortable. He had never been too terribly involved in associational activities before, it just wasn’t practical. Here, it seemed as though Emmit knew just about everything going on in all the churches and was somehow connected to each one. Distractions were not what he needed. At the same time, though, being a team player could be important for both him and the church. “I guess I can do that,” he finally said. “Doesn’t sound like it should take away too much time.”

“Shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours every three months,” Emmit said. “Like I mentioned, it’s not likely to be much. We go over what the association is doing to help churches and discuss whether we need to add or subtract from that list. Most of the time it takes longer to list everything than it does to discuss anything.”

“Okay, put me down,” Glynn said, hoping he was making the right decision.

“That’s wonderful!” Emmit exclaimed far too loudly for the phone. “Having you on the team will be a real boost, I think.”

“A real boost to what?” thought Glynn. Already he was wondering if he’d made the wrong decision.

Emmit continued. “While I have you on the phone, I’m going to the Baptist Building in Oklahoma City for a meeting next Tuesday and was wondering if you’d be interested in riding along. Since you’re new to the state, it would give you a chance to meet some of our denominational people over there, look around, there’s a giant Baptist Bookstore there, maybe see how they can help your church meet some of your goals.”

Glynn was caught completely off guard. Oklahoma City? Baptist Building? He had never been terribly involved in denominational activities in Michigan, primarily because it would have involved taking time off from work to attend anything, something he couldn’t afford to do. Here, though, his schedule was more flexible. The trip could be interesting, but he worried about how it might look to his congregation. Still, the offer was exciting to think about. “Mind if I hold off answering until I see how Sunday goes? I’m still new enough to this whole full-time thing. I’m sorry if I’m being overly cautious.

“That’s just fine,” Emmit said. “You can let me know Monday at the Pastors’ Conference. If it helps any, I know several of your church members have asked about the church being more involved in denominational activities. The past couple of pastors haven’t been too terribly engaged and I think there are some in your church who feel they’re missing out on some of the benefits of the Convention. But you’re right to be cautious. Winds change quickly it seems.”

“Thank you for that insight,” Glynn said. “I’ll definitely have an answer for you by Monday at the latest.”

“That’s just fine. I’ve taken up enough of your time this morning, though,” Emmit said, his quasi-business voice switching back to full-bore cheerfulness. “Ya’ll have a good weekend over there and if I can do anything don’t hesitate to call.”

“Thank you,” Glynn replied. “I hope you do as well.” He hung up the phone and sighed. The call hadn’t been all that long, but there was a lot to think about. He leaned back in his office chair and looked at the Bible lying open on his desk. He was ready enough for the evening’s Bible Study, and he was recycling an old message for Sunday night, but Sunday morning was still eluding him and time was getting short. He needed something.

Glynn prayed. He read through favorite passages of the Bible. He browsed through the various books of sermons he had on his shelf. Nothing was sticking. Nothing seemed to fit what his congregation needed to hear, but he couldn’t quite put a finger on exactly what it was that he needed to be saying.

Before he knew it, noon had arrived. Glynn looked out the small office window and noticed that the rain had paused for now. There would still be plenty of standing water, though. He looked at his galoshes slumped on the office floor. One small hole had been enough to make his left foot a bit uncomfortable for the morning. He considered that was better than his feet and legs being completely soaked and put the galoshes back on before leaving the office. He was about to put his coat on when the phone rang again.

“First Baptist Church,” Glynn said as he picked up the receiver.
“Hi, honey,” Marve said on the other end, her voice soft and low. 

“Hello, beautiful,” Glynn replied, his face breaking out involuntarily in his widest smile. “How are things at home? I was just about to leave here for lunch.”

“That’s why I was calling,” his wife said quietly. “I just got Hayden down for a nap. He’s running a low-grade fever. I don’t think it’s anything serious, but would you mind maybe eating lunch at the diner? Can we afford that?”

Glynn pulled the checkbook from the inside pocket of his suit coat and looked at the balance. They had $28 to last them until Monday. The bills were paid, groceries had been bought, and the car had a full tank of gas. “Yeah, I think I can afford the lunch special,” he said. “Want me to get you anything?”

“No, I have leftovers from the past three nights. I can find something. I just don’t want to risk waking Hayden,” she replied.

“The diner it is then,” Glynn said. “I’ll see you around 4:30?”

“That sounds good. Have a good afternoon, baby. I love you,” Marve purred. 

Glynn loved the soft sound of her voice. He would have much rather gone home and spent his lunchtime with his wife. “I love you,” he said softly.

The small diner was already crowded by the time Glynn found a parking spot and walked through the door. He was immediately greeted with multiple calls of, “Hey, Preacher!” He smiled and waved at the faces he recognized as church members. As he scanned the room for an open table, another voice called out, “Hey, Preacher! Why don’t you sit with us? Let me buy you lunch!”

Glynn looked over to see Alan Mayes and Horace Lyles sitting together in a booth along the wall, their food already in front of them. He also recognized a copy of the Baptist Journal sitting on the table as well. There was little secret about what the topic of conversation would be. Glynn walked over to the table, smiling, trying to be the good pastor he knew he had to be. “How are you gentlemen doing today? I would think all this rain is causing a few problems.”

“It’s always in weather like this that cows decide to have calves,” Horace said, scooting over in the booth to make room for the pastor. “I was hip-deep in mud this morning trying to save a breech.”

“Did the calf make it?” Glynn asked, not exactly sure what all was involved.

“Yeah, just messier than usual,” Horace said. “This is one of those days where you take a shower to wash off the mud from one thing then go right back out and get muddy doing something else. I’ve had three showers this morning. I think even my soul is a little damp at this point.”

The men laughed briefly. Glynn thought to remember that line about damp souls as it might come in handy in a sermon at some point. The server came over and took Glynn’s order, coffee and the lunch special. She was barely out of earshot when Alan got down to business. “What do you think of that nonsense in the Journal this morning, Preacher?” the rancher asked. “Can you believe the audacity of them liberal college-boys up in the Baptist Building trying to tell us what we can and cannot say?”

Glynn glanced over at the magazine on the table, thankful that Emmit had warned him about Alan’s stance on the topic. “Honestly, I’ve not had time to read it,” Glynn said. “I’ve been busy trying to get ready for Sunday. The Convention can’t actually dictate what we say, though. Southern Baptists are all independently autonomous churches. There’s no set liturgy or set of scriptures that I have to preach from. What I say from the pulpit is between me and God.”

“I always wondered about that,” Horace said. “You have to come up with everything on your own, huh?”

Glynn nodded as he sipped from the coffee mug the server had just sat on the table. “They might suggest themes every once in a while to go with things like the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, or Annie Armstrong at Easter, but it’s up to me whether to actually use any of those materials.”

“So, it’s up to you if you want to preach against that communist-sympathizing Republican in the White House,” Alan ask forcefully enough to make Glynn thankful that his food had arrived.

“Yes, it’s up to me, what I feel God’s message is for our church,” Glynn said as he unwrapped the utensils from the thin paper napkin. “If national politics are posing a significant issue for members of our church, then I might consider that. But for the most part, I think we need to stay true to the core purpose of the Church, and that’s preaching the gospel. Don’t you?” Glynn posed the question knowing that the men couldn’t disagree without looking foolish and petty. He quickly shoved a bit of meatloaf smothered in brown gravy into his mouth.

Both men nodded in agreement. “I just wish those boys up in the Baptist Building had a better understanding of how we see things,” Alan said. “They keep shoving these books and ideas at us and none of it does us any good. A lot of the time, it’s just flat wrong.”

Horace leaned in. “I don’t even understand why we have a Convention in the first place. We ain’t like them Catholics takin’ orders from some Pope. I’m not about to set still for them saying we shouldn’t talk about the election.”

Glynn smiled as he shoved another bite of food in his mouth. The mashed potatoes were salty to the point he was having difficulty swallowing them. 

Alan leaned on the table. “Honestly, Preacher, I’m worried Nixon’s getting a little too comfy with them Commies over there. They’re godless heathens, you know, and he’s over there eatin’ and drinkin’ with ‘em like they’re his best pals. The Bible tells us to stand up against godless unbelievers like that.”

“And that’s what the gospel does,” Glynn said. “We stay focused on the gospel and communism and its allies don’t stand a chance.”

That answer seemed to sufficiently satisfy the two deacons and the conversation soon turned back to cattle and flooded pastures. The banter was largely out of the pastor’s realm of knowledge and more than once had had to ask for clarification, which the men seemed quite happy to provide. 

By the time Glynn returned to his study, he had the sermon half-written in his mind. Sunday morning came quickly and Glynn was happy to see that, while there was some attrition from the previous week, the sanctuary was still mostly full. He stood in the pulpit feeling somewhat anxious, wondering exactly what it was they expected of him.

“This has been a challenging week for many of you,” Glynn started. “All the rain has produced a number of problems and we’ve all had to make adjustments to our lives and our patterns in order to work around those obstacles and distractions. The writer of the book of Hebrews had a message for us at times like this. There are going to be distractions, but our focus is to never change. In Chapter 12, he writes:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved.

“There are two points there deserving our attention, ‘lay aside every weight,’ and ‘run with perseverance the race … looking to Jesus.’ We may be distracted by rising water and flooded pastures and trucks getting stuck in the mud and the President said one thing while a magazine said something else. What we have to keep in mind, though, is that those problems are to never distract us from what matters most: the gospel of Jesus Christ. From that, we can never swerve or sway, no matter what or who might try to push us off course.”

The sermon was well-received, though Glynn was not sure he was forceful enough for everyone in his congregation. Another family joined the church. Alan Mayes was smiling as he shook Glynn’s hand.

When Glynn arrived at the Pastors’ Conference the next morning, he headed straight for Emmit. “I’d like to take you up on that offer for tomorrow if it’s still open,” Glynn said.

Emmit smiled. “Of course it is! It’s a good three-hour drive from here, so can I pick you up around 6:30?”

“I’ll be ready,” Glynn replied. He wasn’t sure what he was getting himself into, but pastoring this church was going to take a lot more effort than he had anticipated.

Leave a Reply