TITLE: Pastor Elle in Wedding Shoes
By Doris Smith
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The sunset glimmered in the windows of the Brookside United Methodist Church as the pastor prepared to walk down the aisle to marry her beloved. It had taken John a long time finally to propose, but Ellen rejoiced that she had been patient. She thought on many occasions that he would pop the question, but he backed off. At last, this is my wedding day. What should have been a warm June evening in Indiana, had become an unusually hot night. Of all days for the old air conditioner in her church to kick the bucket again…why on her wedding day.
Pastor Elle looked in the mirror one last time and noticed that her brown curls were ready to frizz with the humidity. Curly is okay, but too curly becomes a curse. She dabbed the sweat running down her hairline and noticed that she had more make-up on the tissue than on her face. Her hairdresser had talked her into putting her hair in an upswept style instead of her usual casual look and Elle liked it. At least the curls around her hairline were only involved in the frizziness.
She assessed her reflection in the mirror and assured herself yet again that she had the perfect gown. The dress had a square neckline, no sleeves and a sheath skirt with a bustle in the back, which draped into a lovely train. I am sure glad I didn’t choose a long-sleeved gown. The belt with pearls and beading added enough bling to match her mother’s pearl , her borrowed item. Oh, yes, John would be speechless when he saw her walk down the aisle.
In her eight years as pastor of this church, she had pushed the trustees to purchase a new air conditioner, but they tabled the idea year after year. She promised herself that when she returned from their honeymoon, she would lead the campaign to see that this situation did not happen to any other bride and groom. The church would get a new air conditioner.
She peeked into the sanctuary and noticed the women fanning with their wedding bulletins . It brought to memory her childhood days in her home church. The summer breeze would waft through the open church windows. The women had cardboard fans with extra-large wooden tongue depressors for handles. Years ago, the local funeral home had provided those fans with pictures of Bible stories on one side and the business’s name on the other. She smiled at that wonderful memory of sitting in the pew with her family.
Her secretary had encouraged her to provide wedding bulletins and she grinned that it had been a good decision, as they were serving two purposes. Some of the men had loosened their ties and unbuttoned the top button of their shirts, and others removed jackets. The ushers lit the candelabra, which seemed to add to the heat in the room. She heard a rustle behind her and turned to see her attendants walking toward her, each one stopping to smile, wink or hug her. Her soon-to-be sister-in-law, Ruby, stood facing the door which would open soon to let the bride and her attendants walk down the center aisle. Next in line stood Bette, Elle’s older sister, patting the perspiration from her forehead. In front of Elle was her best friend, Lynette. Just a few years ago, Lynnie was the bride and Elle her maid of honor.
Her dad stepped forward, looking great in his tuxedo in spite of the perspiration on his upper lip. He extended his arm and she put her arm into his and smiled. He smiled back, but he had tears in his eyes. He had recently survived a heart attack and knew he could blame the tears on the heart attack. His doctor had told him to expect tears to come easily for some time, but he knew these were happy tears for his youngest daughter on her wedding day. They had waited so long for this wonderful day. He remembered times when he wanted to smack John on the back of the head to awaken him to the fact that procrastination might lose him this perfect woman. He really had wondered if the young man was normal. Elle was an outstanding woman, just like her mother. He wiped a tear that was beginning to trickle down his cheek.
The little flower girls and ring bearer sauntered down the aisle dropping rose petals. When they reached the front pew, four-year-old Beth’s eyes started to leak crocodile tears. Her flower basket hit the floor; she grabbed her blonde curls and pulled them over her face. Her dad saw her distress and quietly leaned out of his pew to take Beth’s hand and pull her over to his lap. John’s dad leaned over and scooped up the flower basket. Beth buried her face into her dad’s lapels and the sobs subsided.
The bridesmaids sauntered down the aisle smiling with joy for Elle and John. The matron of honor, the pregnant Lynnie, looked very pale. She did her best to smile. When she saw her husband Norm looking at her, she relaxed and nodded her head. She would survive the wedding in this steam room of a sanctuary. She would not want to miss her best friend’s wedding for all the tea in China. Then she smiled as a fleeting thought went through her mind that Ellen, her best friend who absolutely loved Earl Grey tea, might give up a friend’s wedding for all the Earl Grey tea in China. No, she would not. Her smile turned into a grin, which helped her husband worry less.
When the bride stepped inside the door holding onto her dad’s arm, the warm air hit her and she smiled in spite of the heat. Oh, well, this is my wedding day and I am happy. They began to walk down the aisle and the guests stood and watched the beautiful bride glide down the aisle. Elle looked in John’s big brown eyes and saw such love that tears started to well up in her own eyes. Ellen, do not cry or you will ruin your make-up.
Elle looked at the wedding party gazing at her. Her sister, sister-in-law, and best friend were beautiful in their summery, long dresses. Her eyes locked with the groom’s eyes and she smiled until her jaw felt the strain. Lynnie’s husband, standing beside John, nudged John in the ribs. The groom gave him a silly grin, then turned his eyes back to the loveliest woman he had ever seen.
The Previous October.
Life had changed within the past year and a half for Pastor Elle. She had been kidnapped, rescued, almost dumped, engaged, and then adopted. Her Doberman, Lucy, adopted her. Her boyfriend almost broke up with her. Sammy and Frankie Bricker kidnapped her and then the town marshal and John rescued her. Indeed, life had been in turmoil for Elle, but her love for her church folks, her fiancé John, and her Lord Jesus Christ had not changed.
Most of Pastor Elle’s church members loved her and approved of her straightforward manner, good sermons and her high-heeled shoes. They appreciated that their stylish young pastor with dark curly hair had a bubbly personality, which livened up their church services and lives, yet stayed calm when she needed to be.
She and John had set a wedding date for June. Her family, church members and friends enjoyed watching their plans unfold.
One Sunday morning Reverend Ellen Thackery finished her sermon, “…the more you experience God, the more you will love Him. The more you love Him, the more you will yearn for others to know Him and love Him. How wonderful to know we have been forgiven. We have inherited eternal life. We have found the pearl of great price, and it is worth more than everything else we have seen or possessed.
“Because of this, we are excited because we serve a wonderful God. We want others to have the same excitement of knowing God. Think about it. What must you do to win the pearl of great price from God? Press on. Yes. Work for the change…the ‘makeover’ in your life.
“There are so many “makeover” shows on television these days--make over a house; make over a person’s style in dress, hair and make-up. The best makeover would be that of our Christian lives inside and out. In this parable, the pearl of great price refers to the Kingdom of God. Being in heaven for all eternity is worth far more than anything and everything that we own here on earth. If you have not yet made the decision to turn your life over to Jesus Christ, now is the time. It is the biggest decision you will ever make and the most rewarding one. If Jesus is calling you right now to make that decision, come forward. As we bow our heads in prayer, come forward and let me pray with you.”
As she bowed her head for silent prayer, one lone man from the back row stepped into the aisle and slowly came forward as the tears ran down his face. He surprised Pastor Elle because few in her congregation came forward when she made such a call. She would have to phrase her invitation in such a way that the folks felt comfortable to step forward more often. She always felt sad when no one made a commitment or re-commitment. Pastor Elle stepped away from the pulpit and met the man at the altar. He whispered something to her and she invited him to kneel at the rail. She knelt beside him and prayed with him.
Patrice began playing the keyboard very softly. Whispered prayers came from the altar rail and from a couple of prayer warriors in the congregation. As Pastor Elle finished praying, she shook his hand as he stood.
“Thank you, Pastor. Thank you, Jesus,” he whispered and walked back to his seat wiping tears off his cheeks. The pastor looked at the congregation and said, “And all God’s people said… Amen.” The congregation had joined in and said amen. She smiled at them. “God answers prayer.”
Rev. Elle invited the ushers to come forward for the offering. She sat down as the music began again. The service ended with the closing hymn and the benediction. As she walked to the back door to greet folks as they departed, she felt a certain satisfaction that it had been a good service. Pastor Elle shook hands with the parishioners as they left the Sunday service.
Little Gregory smiled up at the pastor as she grinned at him. Then he smiled at his momma. How quickly they grow. Only a few months ago, she had peered at a tiny infant in that carrier. So much has happened in that time. One of these days, I hope I will have a little one like Gregory.
Pastor Elle felt so comfortable in her church and the town. Townspeople recognized and appreciated her. However, it had not started that way. When she first came to Brookside, a few church members did not want a female pastor. Old Woodrow Johnson had a heart attack in the initial meeting of the Pastor-Staff Relations Committee when the chairperson introduced The Reverend Ellen Thackery as their new pastor…that woman. The meeting not surprisingly broke up early. Since their current pastor happened to be out of state at a conference, the committee chair asked Pastor Ellen to go to the hospital to pray with Woody in the emergency room.
Old Woodrow softened when he saw the gifts God had given her to be a good pastor. She impressed him because she did not seem intimidated by his demeanor. She had not run out screaming when he told her to take her holy high heels out of the church and not come back. In time, she gained his confidence and he became one of her biggest supporters.
Mary came through the doorway of the sanctuary in a wheelchair, pushed by her neighbor, who now drove her to church. Marilyn had lived next door to Mary for more than twenty years. She had a van that made it easier for Mary and her wheelchair, than Mary’s compact car. They lived on 4M Street. Actually they lived on Main Street, but the church folks had re-named it 4M Street.
Four ladies in the church lived in four houses in a row and all their names started with the letter M. Starting in the middle of the block going north one saw the homes of Mary, Marilyn, Millie and Marjorie. They had all lost their husbands, so they helped one another whenever needed.
“Mary. Marilyn. How good to see you both. I am so glad you two are neighbors. Marilyn, you are a guardian angel. Take care of yourselves this week.”
“Marilyn, look at her shoes. Those are the polka-dotted ones I told you were hot,” Mary said. She pointed at Pastor Elle’s shoes and smiled.
“Mary, you’ve been listening to the teenagers too much. Hot?” Marilyn said, as she and Pastor Elle both laughed. Mary joined in.
“Those are polka-dotted peep toes, my friend. Maybe I am not as old as I look,” Mary said. She waved as Marilyn pushed her wheelchair toward the main door.
Pastor Elle turned back to her left again and saw Pansy Gregory standing in a confrontational pose with one hand on her hip and the other holding her handbag. “Good morning, Pansy.”
“Don’t good morning me. I want to tell you that I have had enough of this…this…shoe fetish you have. Polka-dot peep toes, red high heels, white strapped sandals. You are an abomination to the Lord when you step behind the pulpit in those showy, high-heeled shoes you wear. Someone asked me yesterday in the grocery store why you wear those wicked shoes and I did not have an answer. You are supposed to be like a priest, not a street-walker.”
“Pansy, I had no idea that my shoes offended you so terribly. I don’t believe that my shoes are wicked and I certainly am not a street-walker.” She lowered her voice so others would not hear her response. “I truly believe Romans 10:15.”
Pansy interrupted her. “There is nothing in the Bible to convince me that God accepts your wicked shoes. When you broke your leg skiing, I thought God was sending you a message. What is Romans 10:15 anyway?”
“It says, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.’ As long as I can wear beautiful shoes, I will do so. Maybe that scripture is not really addressing my shoes, but no one else has ever told me that my shoes offended them. I am sorry you feel that way. God does not do damage to people to teach them a lesson either. Would you like to come into the office this week and we can discuss it?”
“No thanks. Just never mind. Try to be more conservative on Sunday mornings. I am tired of explaining your wild selections to others.”
“You don’t need to explain for me. If folks are really bothering you with that question, why not send them to me?” Elle smiled at Pansy, patted her shoulder, and turned to the next person standing in line. Pansy jerked her shoulder away and huffed as she toddled out the door. Jean, a good friend and stalwart supporter of her pastor, was gritting her teeth because she had overheard the conversation. When Elle looked into her eyes, Jean’s eyes bulged to match her pursed lips.
“Don’t you dare listen to Miss Busybody. Your shoes are your trademark and I have not heard anyone criticize them. Elle hugged Jean and told her she would not change her mind or her shoes. Both giggled together.
“Jean, I found a pair of purple peep-toes online this week. I couldn’t resist and they were seventy percent off. Maybe I do have a shoe fetish, or whatever Pansy thinks I have. I should really stop shopping.”
“There are worse things you could be buying. Don’t make any rash decisions, Elle.” Jean strode off toward the kitchen to help clean up the coffee time remains from earlier in the morning.
The man who had come to the altar for prayer stepped away from a group of men welcoming him to church. He reached for the pastor’s hand and shook it. Then he continued to hold her hand as he told her that he had turned his back on Jesus a few years ago when his life turned upside down. “I lost my job, my wife and children. I had been drinking and really destroyed my life in the faith and my life altogether. I passed by the church this morning and my car took control over my hands. The car pulled into an empty parking spot and I felt compelled to walk in these doors. I needed to hear your message, Pastor. Thank you. In addition, I thank God for not forgetting me. I have been sober for nine months now. God lifted a weight off my shoulders and I can smile again. I have a job interview tomorrow and feel God is smiling on me. I feel His grace. I live thirty minutes from here, but I will be back next SunSunday. By the way, my name is George Redmond.”
Pastor Elle told him she rejoiced that the Holy Spirit had directed him to be in the service that day. She would add him to her prayer list for this week and looked forward to seeing him next Sunday. He went out the door whistling, “Amazing Grace”.
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