John Everett stood behind his pulpit, looking down on the expectant faces of his congregation, and he couldn’t help but smile. It was impossible for him to forget what this Sunday was. Even if he tried, one look at the sea of upturned eyes would have reminded him.
John cleared his throat, drew in a deep breath, and said, “Are there any other announcements?” Even before he finished, Mike Jennings stood and started for the front of the church.
As he reached the pulpit, Mike shook John’s hand and then he turned to the congregation, “As you all know, today is Pastor Appreciation Sunday. Now Pastor Everett here is too humble to ask for anything, so we wind up just getting him a gift card, but this year we had some help. Irma, would you stand up?”
Mike looked down at a fragile woman with frost-white hair sitting in the first row of pews, a gentle smile deepening the wrinkled creases of her face, but when she didn’t respond, he continued to the congregation, “We asked Irma Stewart, the Pastor’s secretary, to do a little spy work for us, and I think for the first time ever, we finally got Pastor Everett something he wants. So Jim, you want to start things off?”
From the back of the church, Jim Coleman stood up and started down the center aisle, a bundle of wood under his arm.
Then, as he reached the pulpit, Jim set the wood down and turned to the Pastor, “We all know how Pastor John and Nancy like to go camping, so we got him a cord of firewood.” Jim shook Pastor Everett’s hand and continued, “And you can expect another cord of wood every month, Pastor.”
John’s face flushed, but before he could say thank you, another woman was on her feet, walking forward. It was Sue Sykes, carrying a small red cooler.
“Now Pastor Everett,” Sue began as she reached the front of the church, “you had all of us stumped, because not one of us has ever heard of bean ice before. So what we did was we took a whole bunch of limas and kidneys and put them in ice cube trays. Then we froze’em, and voila, bean ice.”
John’s brow creased as he took the cooler, but once again, when he looked up to say thank you, two more members of his church were walking forward. They were the Harris twins, Caitlyn and Emily, only nine years old, and they carried a wire cage between them.
As they reached Pastor Everett, the twins set down the cage and spoke in unison, “Happy Pastor’s Day, Pastor Everett.” John looked down into the cage and saw at once a pair of snow-white mice scurrying around a bed of woodchips. Emily continued, “They came special from Finland. We named them Hans and Franz, but you can call them whatever you like.”
John forced a smile, “No, that’s all right. Hans and Franz sound just right to me. Thank you girls, and thank you . . .,” but before he could finish, Pastor Everett was stopped again. A tall woman, Martha Walker, was standing up and starting to the front of the church. She held a narrow white fur with a black spot on its tail in both her hands.
John fought back a laugh, “And what’s that, Martha?”
The tall woman smiled, “It’s ermine, Pastor, of course. At first, none of us were sure if you meant the fur or the actual animal, but since you already had the mice, we guessed you meant the fur.”
“Thank you Martha,” John nodded as he took the fur from her.
Martha continued, “And any of the women in this church would be happy to sew that on to any of your robes.”
John nodded again, “Thank you. Thank all of you. I don’t know when I’ve ever been so humbled.” John laughed, “You know, when Irma asked me a couple weeks ago what I wanted for Pastor Appreciation Day, I had a feeling that something was in the works. And you all know Irma doesn’t hear so good, so she had to ask me three or four times. Of course I knew she still didn’t hear a word I said, but I was busy and I didn’t have the time to write it down. So, when she asked me a fifth time what I wanted I said, ‘It would be nice to finish my sermon’.”
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