The parson was absconded in a corner booth at his favorite diner, reading the New York Times on his Kindle. The plate had been removed from the table by Margie, the server, who had also refilled his coffee cup with the required decaf.
He had just finished a Thomas Friedman column when Thomas Whitman, an old acquaintance came over. The parson greeted his with affection. Thomas was nearing eight if he had not already arrived. He was still active, farming a few acres to keep his hand in. The acreage was owned by his son. Thomas lived in a senior village after long ago liquidated his farm. He was a member of one of the smaller churches in the area and did everything he could to keep the church active.
“How is Ellen?” the parson asked of Thomas. Ellen had been a member of a church where the parson was pastor long ago at the beginning of his ministry. In fact, it was at a lay meeting at the parson’s church when she and Thomas had met. That qualified the parson to officiate at the wedding. The chapel was Thomas’ farm; the pews were hay bales, and the fading light was enhanced by lanterns hanging from poles around the perimeter of the area. The serving tables for the reception were in the barn. Thomas had brewed his own beer for the reception, and for Ellen’s more religiously conservative relatives he’d concocted a special brew, low in alcohol, with labels proclaiming it “Baptist Brew-Ha-Ha.”
After remembering shared times and getting caught up on recent events the parson asked about the church.
“We’re having it rough, Parson,” said Thomas. “You know how it is with churches today. The old folks are dying off and there’s not a sufficient supply of young folks to take their place. I thought for a while there, maybe twenty years ago, we’d finally get a full-time pastor, but we can barely support a seminary student now. I’m not sure what’s going to happen.”
The parson asked about ministries the church was involved with and was pleasantly surprised to hear all the things the church was doing.
“Problem is, Parson,” said Thomas, “all those things cost money. I have to admit sometimes the old Devil whispers in my ear that if we’d stop those ministries we’d have enough money to do what we want to do. And things cost more these days. We need a new roof on the parsonage; the power bill at the church is out of this world, and, as you know, most of us are on fixed incomes.
“Tell you the truth, Parson, I was reading the other night about the plagues in Egypt and when I came to those frogs I just had a vision of frogs all over the church yard.”
The parson smiled and said, “Thomas, isn’t there something about kissing a frog to find a prince?”
Thomas smiled and leaned across the table, “Look let’s stop talking about the church, but would you do me a favor and call Ellen. Tell her that part about kissing an old frog.”