Miss Dulcie Hepplewhite sat ramrod straight in the middle of the pew, ten rows back from the front of the church. This was no surprise, for Dulcie had sat in the middle of the tenth row for the past twenty-five years. It gave her the best possible view of those seated in front of her on either side of the church.
Miss Dulcie Hepplewhite sniffed loudly, but made no move to take a tissue from the box of Kleenex sitting on the bookshelf in front of her, for Dulcie had no need of a tissue, since her sniff was not due to a cold, but rather to advise those around her that something had displeased her—again.
The object of her displeasure this time was a group of young people who hugged one another right in the middle of the church.
As the sanctuary continued to fill, there was a slight but audible gasp from the row behind her as the unthinkable happened and someone sat in Miss Dulcie Hepplewhite’s pew—in fact, several someones. But in true and fitting behavior for a devout Christian lady, Dulcie did not turn her head or so much as twitch an eyebrow to see who had dared to encroach on her domain. She was here to worship God with proper reverence. She was not here to chitchat.
A small boy, one of the intruders in her pew, stood on the seat and yelled towards the back of the church, “Daddy, we here.”
“Hmph! Disgraceful!” muttered Miss Dulcie Hepplewhite. “Children have no respect these days.”
A man—the one called Daddy—all but ran down the aisle and bounded up the stairs two-at-a-time to stand behind the pulpit and Miss Dulcie Hepplewhite’s eyes most popped out of her head and she sniffed—no, make that snorted, and uttered one word, “Disgraceful!” The new pastor was wearing jeans.
The pianist played a chord, the guitarist strummed, the drummer drummed, and the young people in the first three rows stood to their feet and began clapping and swaying in time to the music. Some of them even raised their hands in the air. Miss Dulcie Hepplewhite sat even straighter—if such a thing was possible. “Hmph! Disgraceful!” she was heard to mutter.
The new pastor raised his hands in the air, “Let’s worship the Lord, this morning with our whole heart and mind and soul as we sing praises to His Holy name.”
Everyone stood to join in the worship; everyone except Dulcie, who remained ramrod straight in the pew she now shared—however unwillingly—with a young mother, three small children and… a baby being breastfed.
Miss Dulcie Hepplewhite decided that enough was enough; she would speak to the church board first thing tomorrow morning and tell them exactly what she thought of the disgraceful things happening in her church. She would not stand for it any longer.
The sermon was about to commence when the small boy sitting uninvited in Miss Dulcie Hepplewhite’s pew began wriggling, “Mommy,” he said in a stage whisper, “I have to go to the bathroom right now.”
“Oh dear, all right, come on,” his mother said resignedly as she turned to the other two children. “I want you to sit here and not move. Jack and I will be back in a minute.”
Jack, as is the nature of little boys, bolted for the door. His mother leant towards Dulcie, “Could you please hold Charles for me until I get back,” she asked and placed the baby in Miss Dulcie Hepplewhite’s arms before she had a chance to object, and hurried after her son.
Dulcie looked at the baby, and the baby looked back at Dulcie and in that instant, something amazing happened. The baby smiled and reached up with his hand and touched Dulcie’s face.
From the pew behind them, Dulcie heard a whisper, “This should be good, old Dulcie hasn’t got a clue as to what to do with a baby.”
Miss Dulcie Hepplewhite bent closer to the baby and kissed his forehead, “Hmph! That’s how much they know,” and the baby smiled and cooed in agreement.
When the young mother returned, she found her two older children sitting either side of Miss Dulcie Hepplewhite, and baby Charles, contentedly asleep. Dulcie smiled at the mother, but made no move to relinquish her sleeping charge.
To this day, the people of Peace Community Fellowship talk about the Sunday Miss Dulcie Hepplewhite uttered her last “Hmph!”
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