parson was indulging in a sin. He'd given in to the temptation on his
way to pick up his monthly allotment of pills to keep his blood
pressure down, his gout in check, his cholesterol within acceptable
limits, and all the other stuff the various assortment of pills did.
As he passed his favorite local eating place, Satan, perched on the
parson's shoulder, whispered in his ear, “Old and senile preachers
do not live by prescriptions alone; they must, occasionally, consume
time at all, the parson sat in a booth to the rear of the
establishment, with a 'T-Bone Steak serving as a platter for three
Sunnyside-up eggs, bordered by a generous helping of grits embracing
a puddle of butter on the right, and a heaping pile of hash browns on
the left. He relished his departure from his healthy pattern,
enjoying every bite.
parson looked around to see if anyone was looking, once the plate was
empty except for the steak bone. He took the two half pieces of
buttered toast and sopped the remaining yoke and juices from the
plate. He'd just finished when Shirley, his server, approached.
“Parson,” she said, “that fellow over there ordered a T-bone,
too. I could wrap his and your bones up and you'd have one each for
Charlie Brown and Princess Penny.” The parson thanked her for her
kindness and waited for her to return.
Hodges Pilgrim, III approached before Shirley could return. Kenneth
Hodges Pilgrim, III, know officially as Bishop Pilgrim by the
community, because of the self-bestowed title when he organized his
independent Church of the Gathered Saints of Redemption. Bishop
Pilgrim sat down without invitation.
began to tell the parson of all the troubles besetting the community,
most of which were resultant of people being separated from the
intended communion with the Lord. The parson listened closely, trying
hard to learn from the discussion.
booth to their left, a group was about to leave. They rose and, as
they did, two men reached into their pockets. They spoke in Spanish.
One said to the other, “I'll get the tip.” The other replied,
“No, no, you are our guest; we'll get the tip also.” This was
followed by a quick exchange which included, “It was good to see
you again;” “Give my regards to your wife;” “I hope it won't
be so long before we see each other again,” and such.
walked away. Kenneth Hodges Pilgrim, III leaned toward the parson and
said, “You know, you'd think if they were going to invade the
country they'd learn the language.”
parson rose and placed a tip on the table. They walked toward the
register where the parson paid for his meal. Then they headed
outside. As the sun struck their faces, the parson spoke. “Tell me,
Kenneth, how do you say I'm an bigot in Cherokee?”
“Listen, Parson,” he said, with a bit of hostility in his voice, “I've heard people saying you're going around pushing the establishment of a Hispanic church in the area.”
“Well, I wouldn't call it pushing,” said the parson. “I think it's something we should consider since there are so many Hispanics here.”
“Well, there's plenty here, Parson. The reason there's so many here is the government refuses to protect our borders.”
“Oh, I was confused,” the parson responded. “I thought they were here to pursue the American dream.”
“I bet you did, Parson. I bet you did considering your damn liberal attitude about everything. It's beyond me how someone with your education and breeding could be so damn welcoming to a bunch of illegals.”
The parson smiled, “I'm a citizen of the Kingdom of God, my friend. And in that kingdom there's no such thing as an illegal.”
It seemed appropriate that, being the professional person he
is, it would not be an indulgence but a necessity for the parson to stock up on
some new fashionable attire. And so the day found him making the rounds of the
clothing stores at the Prime Outlet Mall. A nice day it was to shop, the
weather not blistering but teetering on the cusp between hot and warm. he made
his way steadily from store to store collecting some shirts, slacks and a
couple pair of shoes. The collection of new duds was sure to make him feel like
Shopping completed he stored the packages in the trunk. He looked around. The Java Junction was open
and they have some of the best sandwiches in town. Heading that way he
calculated with each step a reason why, after the sandwich, he should treat himself
to a double dip ice cream cone. The sandwich was ordered. Feast devoured, ice
cream ordered, licked and consumed, it had been a good day.
Stepping outside the walk to the car had just begun when she
called to him. His head turned; his eyes rested on her; the parson’s mind
fought just a moment for recognition. And then he knew. She was the sister of a
former student at an academy where the parson once served as chaplain.
They sat down on a bench and exchanged news. She was a
striking woman, the granddaughter of immigrants who’d come here in search of a
better life. Unlike many who migrated to this country, her family came not from
poverty but a relatively middle class existence in their home country. They
came because they believed in what this land stood for.
After the news had been shared and they’d laughed at shared
remembrances, the parson asked, “How are things for you these days?”
She looked at him silently for a moment, as though searching
for the meaning behind the words. Her eyes turned toward the ground. “It is
strange, is it not, that people can be so different from what you thought. My family
has been here all these years. My grandparents worked hard to provide for what
their grandchildren enjoy today. My brother serves in the Army. We pay taxes.
We vote. But lately things have changed.”
The parson felt the pain in her voice. He remembered back
when she, along with her parents, visited her brother at the academy, the pride
in his accomplishments. He recalled the day her brother decided to make a
career of service in the United States Army. She looked at the parson and continued.
“Why is it people want to paint things with such broad
strokes. Why is it that the actions of a few can paint the larger group with
such negative thoughts? How can the accomplishments of three generations be
swept aside and people be condemned as less than deserving, looked on with
suspicion, despised because they immigrated here to be part of this glorious
They were quiet for a moment. The parson didn’t have an
answer for her. She knew he didn’t have an answer. She changed the subject and
they talked for a while about her being the staff doctor at a medical clinic
for the poor.
After a while she had to leave. They stood. She took the
parson’s hand, looked around to see if anyone was listening, and said quietly
in the language of her ancestors, “Rabbina ma’aak.”
The parson smiled and replied, “Allaah ma’aaaki.” God go
with you, too.
The parson sat at his favorite restaurant in the whole wide
world, The Radial Cafe, located in the Candler Park area, an inner city
neighborhood of Atlanta. Years ago he’d been pastor of the parish in which the
café rested. And, while he had scrupulously observed the United Methodist
maxim to not return to the church he’d once served, being retired, he’d made an
exception as regarded The Radial Café.
It was his affinity for the Red Flannel Hash that had
prompted his suggestion that some of the participants in a meeting later in the
day at Emory University meet for breakfast as the famous eatery. The parson and
his fellow clergy gathered in one of the spacious booths, and soon the foods
were spread before them. The parson carefully sliced the egg, over easy, atop
the other ingredients of the hash so as to maximize the intermingling of the
flavors. He dove in and enjoyed the feast while studying the work of a local
artist displayed about the room as was the custom of The Radial. While doing so
the words of the conversation among the booth’s other occupants assaulted his
“I know what you are saying,” said Mark Watson. “But it is a
problem in the community I live in. Illegal immigrants are taking jobs away
from Americans who want to work.”
“Well, I tell you, it’s a problem for the people of my
parish,” said Henry Rawlings. “You know, last Sunday the scripture was about
the Good Samaritan. I was really shocked as I listened to various conversations
as to how intense are the feelings against these folks.”
As the conversation continued the parson became intrigued by
the art work on the wall just above their booth. “Man Lost In the World”
proclaimed the title neatly inscribed on the card below the piece and above the
artist’s name. As hard as he tried, he could not locate the “man” in the piece
and had determined the “man” was genuinely “lost.” He then concentrated on the
painting above the adjacent booth, titled “Confrontation of Colors.” This piece
he immediately determined was appropriately named.
“The problem is,” said Alfred Mantine, “the immigration
problem is causing a problem around our parish. I mean, I don’t know whether or
not the immigrants, legal or illegal, are taking jobs away from the people in our
area. But everybody seems to think they are.”
As the conversation continued, the parson remained silent
while he concentrated on the two delights before him, the work of the local
artist and the flavors of the Red Flannel Hash. Eventually, the booth occupiers
noted his absence of comment.
“Parson,” said Mark, “what’s your take on this immigration
The parson drew his eyes away from the predominately blue
piece that hung above the cash register which seemed to be an interweaving of
navy blue upon Robin’s egg blue all of which were interspersed with an aqua
“I’m sorry,” said the parson. “I confess I’m not sure what
“I asked what you thought about the immigration problem.”
The parson pushed his now empty plate toward the center of
the table, then downed the remaining decaf in the porcelain mug. Then he said, “Well,
if you’re talking about the immigration problem, my take on it is that there
will always be an immigration problem as long as there are third world
countries south of our borders. And if you’re talking about the people who risk
their lives to come across that river and desert to obtain a better life in
this nation, I think we need to ask ourselves if we are first talking about
illegal immigrants or poverty-stricken children of God.”
Radial Logo from website of The Radial Cafe; Red Flannel Hash graphic by subscription to Clip Art [dot] Com.
Copyright The material on this site, unless otherwise noted, is the property of the author. Church-related use is permissible, but a small nod of the head in the direction of the author will be appreciated.