The woman gathered in clusters around the well-lit fellowship hall. Each one had entered the room with their husbands and a casserole, but had quickly released themselves of both burdens. They sought out their fellow sisters to share the latest bits of coveted information.
Mrs. Humes spoke up first. ”Did you hear about Mary? I saw her yesterday at the grocery store. Do you know what she was wearing? A maternity shirt!
”I know!” Mrs. Lowe piped in. I heard that she's already 4 months pregnant and she doesn't want to get married until after the baby is born.”
”Well, that's nothing,” Alice began. ”My friend Shay told me that her daughter Reese told her that Mary considered having an abortion! I don't think she should be allowed in this church anymore!
The room quieted in tempo as Pastor Brown came in and made preparations for the short service to be held before the meal. Everyone was quite surpised to see him enter with a large piece of wood and place it on the stage.
Suddenly, all eyes were drawn to the brown double doors as a young lady with light brown hair and troubled brown eyes entered. Mary peered cautiously around the room with a look of a deer caught in blinding headlights. As the door shut behind her, she heard the gasps and could only imagaine what the women whispered to each other. If it wasn't for the fact that the Pastor had begged her to come, then she would be at home right now. As it was, she kept glancing towards the exit wondering when she could make her escape. The glares and stares of the women and men around her made her wish she could blend into the wallpaper surrounding her.
She knew that she was not accepted among this crowd. Once, not too long ago, she had been favored and treated with respect by these women. Why she had even taught Sunday School to most of their children! But now that her and her fiance, the Pastor's son, had committed a sin that was so obvious and visible, she was shunned from the fellowship. She knew they had made a mistake, but she still longed for forgiveness and acceptance again.
Her thoughts were stilled by the quiet voice of Pastor Jones ringing out over the unadjusted microphone. ”If I could have everyone to take a seat around the tables, then we will start the service.
After all were seated, he cleared his throat and spoke a simple prayer. ”Heavenly Father, we thank you that you made a way out of sin when you died upon the cross. Amen. ”
He said not a word as he picked up the long piece of wood and then took something out of his pocket. It was hard to see, but the congregation could just make out the speck of sawdust that fell from his hand.
”I don't have much to say tonight,” he began.” I just want you to see how difficult it would be to remove something as small as this piece of sawdust if you have a two by four clouding your view.”
He then instructed the pianist to play a quiet melody.
Around the room, looks of condemnation changed to anger and then to contemplation. Mrs. Humes at first fumed over the implication that she was like this harlot girl sitting next to her. Then suddenly her mind flashed to a night when she and her boyfriend, at age 16, had been given a way out of their passion's fire by her parents' unexpected return. She quietely breathed a prayer of forgiveness and gently took Mary's hand in hers.
Alice recalled the night she was filled with rage over some trivial matter. Her husband had come to her of his own accord and she found release from the pent up frustration. Maybe she and Mary weren't so different after all, she thought.
One by one the ladies and men in the room dropped their stony stares and searched their hearts. Eyes closed and whispered prayers of forgiveness were heard.
As Mary looked around the room, her heart was filled with peace and she thought that maybe now she could be free.
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