There was a pretty good crowd gathered.
Apparently in the midst of a whole lot of shuffling going on in Garsonville, some aces were being dealt in the direction of the church–new people, searching folk and “institutions” who had been around so long that they had streets named after them.
Meningsbee quickly introduced Kitty and Hapsy to one of the dear ladies of the church, who opened up her wing and pulled them close, sitting them on the fourth row next to her. Kitty looked frightened, but sufficiently worn out that she didn’t put up much of a fuss.
Meningsbee stopped worrying about his surprise visitors because he was so excited about today’s service.
He didn’t sing a hymn, figuring there was enough melody in his heart for the whole room, and he skipped the prayer, assuming the Heavenly Father fully knew his intentions.
“Okay, let’s get this rolling!” he said with the vigor of a football coach. “I’d like to invite up Number 1 and Number 2 of the pieces of paper I passed out last week.”
After a brief pause, Carl, one of the long-standing members, and Kimberly, a new mother, eased their way to the front and stood side-by-side.
“Well, since I have two, that must make you one,” said Carl with a wry smile.
Kimberly nodded, and shared, reading from her paper, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Carl waited momentarily and then looked at the audience with a twinkle in his eye. “Well, I guess that’s all she’s got to say.”
He opened up his paper and read aloud, “My dear friends, we are not spiritual. We are just people, so stop trying to act like you’re angels.”
His delivery was perfect, because everybody burst out laughing. Carl looked over at Meningsbee, who had posted himself nearby at a grease board, magic marker in hand.
The good reverend wrote down, “Number 1.”
He turned to the congregation and said, “True words. So based upon what I’ve heard here, I would sum it up with this.”
He turned back to the grease board and wrote in big letters:
1. WE’RE HUMAN.
From over his shoulder he said, “I’ll take the next two.”
Up walked Dexter, about nineteen years of age, and Brian, maybe fifteen.
Dexter read, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Brian, confident that Dexter was finished, leaped in and added, “It won’t kill us to feel for other people.”
A few more giggles.
Meningsbee wrote down on his board:
2. WE CARE.
Monique, the church secretary and Mr. Jackson, Vice-President of the bank, offered:
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” and, “Don’t be in such a hurry to worry.”
To which Meningsbee responded, compiling his list:
3. WE CAN WAIT HERE TOGETHER.
Things took off.
Martha and Mary, who amazingly actually reversed the roles from the Bible, with Martha being the more studious one, shared, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled,” alongside, “We ain’t smart enough to not listen.”
Meningsbee jotted down:
4. WE’RE STILL LEARNING.
Meanwhile, keeping up with the names was a real trick for Meningsbee, who had only been there a little over a month. So the next pair slipped up and said their piece, Meningsbee unable to retrieve their names.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” and, “Don’t look down on other people because down is readily available.”
5. WE NEED MERCY
Next up was Mrs. Mason, in her eighties, and Toby, who was, well, just Toby–one of those young men who can lift half a file cabinet but doesn’t say much about anything else.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” and, “If you’re not going to be clean with people, you come across dirty.”
6. WE ARE GROWING TO SHARE.
Then someone named Steve, and Billy, who liked fishing:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God,” and, “Eventually you’ll start a fight that will finish you.”
7. WE WANT TO GET ALONG.
(Meningsbee’s writing on the grease board)
Next was Hector, from the grocery store, and Sharon, leader of the women’s Bible study, who popped right up and pointed out, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven,” along with, “You can’t do enough good to be considered good by everybody.”
Up on the board:
8. WE BETTER NEED CRITICS BECAUSE THEY’RE HERE.
Then came Mr. Tomlinson, whom the Reverend didn’t know much about, and Thomas, who was anything but a doubter. “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil things against you for my sake.”
Thomas looked down at his note and smiled. He proffered, “Some folks ain’t happy unless they make you unhappy.”
Meningsbee scrawled on his board:
9. BUT CRITICS CAN BE NASTY.
For some reason, everybody really enjoyed that one, and just giggled on for a few seconds.
The next two up were Sandra and Cory, who were engaged to be married in a couple of weeks at the church. After some “oohs and aahs” of admiration for the cleverness of luck putting them together, Cory said, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
Sandra tagged on, “People like good if they don’t have to change.”
10. WE’RE IN GOOD COMPANY.
And finally, up popped Tracy, the photographer, and Russ, who aspired to be a movie-maker. Tracy went first. “These are the ideas that we will use to run this church. We’re going to call them The Ten Dears of the Garsonville Church.“
Russ jumped in. “We know it sounds kind of corny, but after all, we do live in Nebraska.”
Russ held up a finger, letting everyone know that his little speech wasn’t over. “Hold on!” he said. “There’s more. To use movie lingo, I have a sequel. Now, if you’ll look on the board and join me:”
Meningsbee pointed to #1 and everybody read aloud: WE’RE HUMAN.
Then #2: WE CARE.
#3: WE CAN WAIT HERE TOGETHER
#4: WE’RE STILL LEARNING.
#5. WE NEED MERCY
#6. WE ARE GROWING TO SHARE
#7. WE WANT TO GET ALONG
#8. WE BETTER NEED CRITICS BECAUSE THEY’RE HERE
#9. BUT CRITICS CAN BE NASTY
#10. WE’RE IN GOOD COMPANY
The congregation burst into applause. Meningsbee took that moment to look over and see what Kitty and Hapsy were doing. Hapsy was sitting upright, clapping her hands, only pausing to chew on a cracker that had been graciously provided for her.
And there was Kitty–sound asleep.
Meningsbee felt a twinge of disappointment that Kitty had missed the impact of the service. But there would be other days.
Yes…many glorious other days.