Dora Mae Davenport picked up Elsie and I at five thirty Easter Morning. We were headed for the sunrise service at Union Point. The three of us formed the Twin Rivers Methodist Widows Union and Coffee Club. So far, we were the only members, not that there were not more Methodist widows in the vicinity.
When we got to Union Point we discovered that several other folks had arrived before us and taken all the nearby parking spaces. Dora Mae finally parked the Buick about a block away from the park and along the riverside walkway.
“Figures,” said Elsie.
Dora Mae and I looked at our old friend and simultaneously said, “What?”
Elsie picked up a lawn chair and started walking waving her hand toward the park. “They got a Baptist preacher this morning at the Point, those Baptists draw a crowd,” then without much of a pause, she said, “I wonder if there are refreshments, I could use a biscuit, I’ve got some crackers in my pocket in case I get hungry.”
Dora Mae nudged Elsie in the rear with her chair. “Refreshments, my word Elsie, it’s a church service not a social.”
“Ladies.” I scolded, “Behave.”
We finally made it to the park and found a flat, ant-less, spot on the lawn. Union Point is a park in our town. It is where the Trent and Neuse Rivers run together, called a confluence; anyway, there is a gazebo for concerts, park benches, boat docks, and lots of trees and grass. The Easter preacher always set up his podium with the Neuse River at his back, the choir sat in chairs set on risers at his side; which meant that the congregation faced the East. A good preacher timed his remarks to coincide with the sun coming up – the coordination only happened once in every four or five years; which tells me God isn’t particularly interested in the trivial showmanship of the clergy.
The service went on as usual, and the pastor turned at the appropriate minute to face the East, and of course there was a five-minute gap between the end of his sermon and the sun actually peeking over the Pine Trees on the other side of the river. The choir was supposed to automatically break into song when the sun broke the treetops and after an appropriate signal from the minister. The congregation on cue would say “amen” or “Praise God,” and if there was a Pentecostal or two around some of the congregation might even shout “hallelujah.”
About the time the spectacular event was about to happen, a thousand sea gulls suddenly descended upon the choir and first rows of the congregation. They seemed particularly interested in those folks seated higher up on the risers. The sopranos shrieked, the basses waved their arms, the altos tripped down the risers, the tenors waved their music, and a general chaos broke out down by the river. The pastor who was lost in a prayerful gaze lost his concentration and started chasing birds away from the podium.
Dora Mae looked at me. “We might as well head back to the car. Where’s Elsie?”
“I thought she was sitting by you?”
“Huh un, she moved her chair to get in the shade.”
Then, in the clearing behind where the choir once stood, we saw our old friend Elsie, joyfully throwing cracker bits into the air.
In the midst of the sea gull frenzy, the sun rose, the choir didn’t sing, the pastor forgot the benediction; and a strange little woman rejoiced on Easter morning with God’s creatures.
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