She was eleven, maybe twelve. The parson was taking part in a seminar of preachers. She was reluctantly a part of the occasion also, as her aunt was a participant in the event. Being young, energetic and captive in a room full of young adults and middle-aged pastors was similar to being old, non-energetic, retired and coerced to attend. And so she and the parson, unknown to each other until this day, became cousins of circumstance and siblings of boredom.
There was a slight chill on the porch of the host church where they sat, but the sun was shining bright. Here aunt, after checking that she was okay and that the parson did not mind her niece's presence, promised to be back in a short while. She disappeared into the church to complete some duty.
The parson took a small Peppermint Pattie from the bag he was holding and offered one to her. She hesitated for a moment and then proclaimed, “Yes, thanks.” Carefully she unwrapped it. She bit down and obviously enjoyed the treat. Finished she looked about for a moment. “Here, you can put it in here,” the parson suggested. She deposited the wrapper in the bag he held out.
“So are you one of the pastors in there?” she asked.
“I am,” the parson acknowledged. “And how long have you been a pastor?”
She jerked her head around to look him directly in the eye. She smiled. “You're teasing me,” she said in a tone that reflected an appreciation for humor. “I'm not a pastor. My aunt is though.”
“Is she Methodist? Baptist?”
“She's a Presbyterian pastor. My older sister is going to be a priest,” she informed me.
“Yes, an Episcopal priest.”
“Sounds like pastors run in your family.” She smiled but didn't respond. “You're the big holdout, I guess.”
“I guess I am. I'm going to be a scientist. I'm not sure what kind, but I know if I am a scientist I'll be able to learn about all the mysteries of the universe. Have you ever seen pictures of the universe?”
“I have, actually,” he said. “It's pretty impressive.”
“I know. And if I'm a scientist I can learn all about where the universe came from and where it's going. You know the universe is expanding, don't you?”
“I'v heard that,” the parson replied. “Discovering the secrets of the universe will take a lot of study and research.”
“I know.” She paused a few seconds and in a quiet voice that reflected wonder. “But I know it's going to be worth it. Just think. Here we are talking on the porch of this church. We are just little specks on another little speck in a creation that's so, so, so big. It's wonderful.”
“How about God? Do you think in your studies you'll discover God?”
“I don't think so,” she said. “You can't discover God. But there are all kinds of secrets that God has we can discover. I mean, like, the universe is expanding. Scientists discovered that. Who knows what we'll find next.”
Music began playing inside. The parson said. “I guess the program's starting again. I need to go inside.”
Her aunt turned the corner, “Come on, Honey; it's time to go in.”
“Bye,” said the parson, “I hope you discover lots of secrets.”