"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

"Church Services" -- Closing Prayer

Brother Daniel Bingham dozed in his usual spot, at the end of the pew seven rows back from the pulpit, next to the window.
Brother Bob Bowen, the pastor of First Church, was droning on  about some little known scripture, in a sermon he'd rehashed late last night from one of his Seminary research papers in Homiletics a year ago.
Most of the audience was fighting to stay awake, nervously looking at their watches, and the kids were fidgeting as mothers tried to keep them quiet with coloring books. Almost everybody was sweating and the ladies were all waving themselves with the cheap hand fans with a photo of the local funeral home on them, Wilmer W. Williams. Brother Daniel, the oldest deacon in the church at 79, was not alone with his head nodding now and then to his chest, where it'd touch and he'd jerk it up.
The air-conditioning had quit yesterday, so the windows were cracked while three ceiling fans silently wobbling high overhead in the auditorium, barely stirring the hot August air.
Brother Bob had been going about 30 minutes now, and the congregation was getting irritated. When he'd been hired five months ago, it was because his lessons were always 20 minutes or less, he was full of energy and young, and he'd take less salary and was willing to relocated to the small town, a long drive from the city. They were excited because they'd be the first of the Sunday church-going crowd to get to the only restaurant open, Grace's Kitchen.
Now, besides being hot and miserable,  they were going to be late again... they could hear the cars starting at the Nazarene church across the street.
At the last deacon's meeting, Brother Daniel and the other deacons had expressed their discontent with how Brother Bob had changed since he'd arrived. He usually played golf all day Saturdays and sat up late at night watching those talk shows, sleeping late in the mornings. And his sermons had gone from 15 to 20 minutes to well over 30 minutes--sometimes as much as 45 minutes. Their complaints had had no effect.
Yesterday when the air conditioner broke down, he didn't discover it until late in the day after coming in from the golf course to hastily rewrite his research paper into something of a sermon. It was too late to call a repairman.
 When they arrived at the stifling hot church this morning, the deacons needed all their Christian religion to keep from losing their tempers. They agreed to meet that evening, when it was cooler, to do something. Then the deacons asked Brother Daniel to lead the closing prayer for that day--in spite of being the oldest, he knew how to lead a short prayer.
But he'd dozed off, and beside him, his wife Sister Lucinda was patiently fanning herself with one of the funeral home fans, patting the sweat off her forehead with a lace hanky.
Just then, Brother Daniel started snoring, loud enough to be heard for several pews. Some of the nearby kids snickered, and the men smirked. It was all Sister Lucinda could take, and she jabbed him in the ribs with her free elbow.
Brother  Daniel jerked and jumped to his feet, eyes shut,  and began praying loudly in his strong baritone voice, interrupting Brother Bob in mid-sentence, to the horror of sister Lucinda and the amusement of the congregation.
"Heavenly Father, thank you for this beautiful day and the lesson from your word. Watch over  us this week. Forgive us of our sins and at last in heaven save us. In Christ name, Amen."
Then he opened his eyes. Brother Bob had stopped talking. The kids giggled. The other deacons  grabbed the opportunity and said "Amen," in unison and the congregation headed for the doors, with Brother Bob just standing in the pulpit.
Brother Daniel looked sheepish and Sister Lucinda scowled in embarrassment. Another deacon walked by, on his way out the door. Smiling, he reached to shake hands and said, "Great closing prayer."

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