I was preaching at really big church on the other side of the valley last week. I met some folks from my past. They used to be members of my home church. They brought back some memories. That old home church isn't the country church it was when I was a member. It's now a mega church with umpteen services per Sunday, a staff of goodness knows how many.
The surprise is that church got as big as it did. I mean, I was the first preacher they produced, and folks had been worshiping there for 147 years before I was ordained. You'd think in almost a century and a half they'd have come up with better material.
As I remembered those days, my mind went back to the last day I was at the church before becoming the pastor of one myself. Back then we Methodists moved to new churches on the third Thursday of June. On the Tuesday before I left on Thursday, my pastor called me and requested I come by his office on Wednesday.
My pastor's name was Clyde Calloway. How should I describe Clyde? Clyde, in many ways, was a no nonsense fellow. And what one would call a “power in the church.” Clyde didn't get moved by the bishop unless Clyde wanted to be moved. Everyone who was an ordained United Methodist in Georgia knew who Clyde was. But he had a jovial side. He liked to laugh. He liked to tell jokes. He also knew the names of everyone in the church when he met them, knew where their grown children lived and how many grandchildren they had. He was a pastor the congregation liked, wanted to be around.
Since Clyde was my pastor and Clyde was a power in the church and since I was about to become a pastor, I answered Clyde's summon at the appointed time on the appointed day.
He directed me to a seat across the desk from him. We engaged in some chitchat for a few moments. He asked about my mother, my dad, and my little brother. He asked me if I was nervous. I told him I was. He then told me the people where I would be pastor would accept me. He told me to go there ready to accept them. He talked about “being out among the people,” visiting them, knowing the folks in the community. He talked of daily prayer, of living a disciplined life.
Then he said, “I really wanted you to come by because I've got two gifts I want to give you.” He stood, went back behind his desk, opened a drawer and pulled out a box that was gift wrapped.
I opened it and extracted a leather cover Bible. On the front cover was stamped in gold letters, “Reverend Guy Kent.” it was the first time I'd seen that adjective in front of my name. I thanked him profusely. He then said, “Wait, I said I had two gifts. He went back behind the desk and retrieved another gift wrapped box. This one was about six inches square and three feet long. I pulled off the paper, opened the box and pulled out a plumber's helper. On the handle someone had burned the name, “Reverend Guy Kent.”
I looked over at Clyde with a puzzled look. He said, “You know, you're a smart young man with a top notch education. You might be able to survive without that Bible.”