The parson pulled into the parking lot at the Cul-de-Sac of Faith Church where Brad Edwards was pastor. Brad had been appointed there about two years ago. He was in his early forties and in his third appointment. The parson had taken a likening to Brad because of his dedication and servant attitude. He'd invited him to go hiking with him.
Brad was waiting. He bounded down the steps of the church and hopped into the car. Charlie Brown, the parson's faithful canine companion, stuck his nose between the seats and sniffed in an apparent effort to assure Brad was United Methodist. Satisfied, Charlie Brown plopped himself back down upon the seat with an audible grunt.
It was a forty-five minute ride to the parson's destination Cloudland Canyon State Park, situated in the very Northwest corner of Georgia. During the drive they talked of clergy gossip. Brad, who sought positions on area denominational boards, was in the know about much the parson did not know, nor at his age and retired status desired to know. Following that discussion the conversation turned to the bishop and his strengths and shortcomings. Brad was of the opinion the bishop spent too much time out of his area. The parson smiled a bit but said nothing.
As they turned into the entrance of the park, that was located on part of Cloudland Canyon. The parson reached over and withdrew his pass from the glove department. He hooked it on the rearview mirror support. They drove past the gate as the parson waved at the one who collected the fees. A couple of miles further the parson parked his car in the sun. He knew by the time they returned from the bottom of the canyon the car would be in the shade. He retrieved a garbage bag from the trunk. Then he opened the rear door, slipped the walking harness over Charlie Brown's head, wrapped the restraint around his chest, fastened it and said, “Okay.” Charlie Brown leaped from the car and immediately headed toward the trail that led to the bottom of the canyon.
Brad walked along beside the parson still talking of the happenings among the clergy of the area. Charlie Brown lead the way, pausing only to mark the trail as his own. Down they went, down. The path continued down. Finally they arrived at the steps. The park long ago had constructed metal steps that protected the erosion the many hikers caused and made the trek a bit more compatible. Down, down the steps they went. Finally, at the bottom, with Brad huffing and Charlie Brown pulling on his leash, the arrived at the lower falls. They sat on the benches built into the platform that looked out onto the falls. The parson sat the trash bag to the side, now partially filled with the litter he'd picked up along the way.
“Whew,” said Brad, “that was quite a trek. When you said I could tag along, Parson, I didn't know it was this long a hike.”
“Well, look at it his way, Brad,” said the parson, “we've finished half of it already.”
Brad smiled and said, “Well, that's true. You know, I didn't know I was this much out of shape.”
They talked a little more, drank some water and headed back to the canyon's rim. About a third of the way up, Brad asked is they could stop for a minute. Charlie Brown, feeling the tension on his leash, turned and stared at Brad. The parson and Brad rested on a bench the park rangers had placed at intervals along the way. Charlie Brown plopped down on the ground with an audible grunt.
“You know, Parson,” said Brad, “you're evil.”
“Yeah. When you made that remark about we'd done half the hike you knew the last half was a thousand feet straight up.”
The parson chuckled, “I did, Brad, I did. But if you remember I warned you when we talked about this.”
“I remember, but I didn't have a point of reference. Now I know better.”
“It's just one foot in front of the other until you get to the top.”
Brad stood. “I guess we'd better keep going. I'm going to get cramped up if we don't.”
They continued their hike up and up using the steps for the steepest part. But, as Brad would count, there was over nine hundred steps.
At the canyon's rim, they paused and looked out over the fall foliage. Brad turned to the parson, “You're almost twice my age. You do this every other week? Why?”
Let me qualify this epistle by quoting the late and great
philosopher, Dizzy Dean. (For you who have no idea who Dizzy Dean was, I regret
that you were born in a time so less vibrant than mine. You should ask your
grandfather to tell you about this purveyor of the ins and outs of baseball and
life.) Dizzy Dean said, “If it is true, it ain’t bragging.”
So, it ain’t bragging when I tell you I may very well be in
the top ten pastors who have ever served the Farmville United Methodist Church.
And I must say, with apologies to my seminary professors, that this elevated status
I hold has nothing to do with the ability they gave me to read the Old
Testament in Hebrew and New Testament in Greek. It has nothing to do with the
fact that I not only can spell “hermeneutic”, but I actually know what it
means. It has nothing, either, to do with the fact I have an uncanny ability to
tailor my sermons in such a way as to allow my people to receive my benediction
long before the Baptist get even a whiff of the aroma of the food at the local
Actually, the unique abilities I possess that endear me to
the congregation are more pedestrian.
This past Friday the gates to the Northwest Georgia Regional
Fair opened. More than a few people streamed onto the grounds of the fair. And
there, you see, is the root of the esteem in which I am held by the members of
that congregation. The gates opened at
five. So did the food booth, known to all as the Dinner Bell, operated by that
group of assembled saints. The fair and booth, as I said, opened at five. I arrived at two.
Prior to the opening of the fair, it was I, dear reader, who
sliced with uncanny precision four dozen tomatoes, each slice of which was
precisely the same thickness as the one before and each assembled with the
others in an ordered precision in the serving bowl.
It was I, who in celebration of being allowed to pastor
these wonderful people, in an act of self denial, peeled, sliced and chopped
approximately four pounds of onions. And let me give a witness here to the fact
the tears that ran down my cheeks were not from breathing the fumes from the
onions but from the joy that comes from the wonderful privilege of serving this
There were other sacrifices I make for the opening of the
fair. I could go into considerable detail about the hauling of ice, the shredding
of cabbage, the cooking of barbecue and hamburgers and hot dogs, the scooping
of ice cream, and …well, as I previously alluded to,
I have talents that go far beyond a seminary education.
One would think, would one no?t, that the people of a parish
who are the recipients of such devoted service would be falling all over
themselves to dramatically increase the annual financial acclamation of such
talents. One would think. But one would be wrong. Why do it then?
Have you ever seen a Ferris wheel reflected in the eye of a
fascinated child? Have you ever seen two jaded married couples riding the
swings together? Have you ever watched a teen’s pride when her goat comes in
first place or smelled the mingled aromas of cotton candy and animals and various foods and people? Have you ever experienced the joy of the fair? I have. You should.
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