My maternal Grandmother recently died at age 92. While my mother and I emptied out chifforobe drawers and rummaged through a cedar chest in Nana’s small Victorian home in South Carolina, I ran across a few papers held together by a blue ribbon.
“Wonder what these are?” I asked flipping through the yellowed leafs.
Mama recognized the circulars right away.
“Oh, I recall these.” She drawled, taking one and reading aloud its contents.
Christ Church Homecoming. Everyone is welcome to attend our 25th birthday on Sunday, August 16, 1959. Bring a potluck lunch and celebrate with us outdoors in the picnic area following the services. Please come.
Mama smiled, waved the sheet of paper in the air, and said, “Aunt Emily and I spent three hours one hot, summer afternoon delivering a whole stack of these to the neighborhood on our new Schwinn bicycles. These handouts and the Lord were responsible for reconciling two of our dearest members. Want to hear a good story, Marianne?”
“Love good stories, Mama.” I said sliding beside her on the blue, chenille bedspread.
“John Belkins and George Hall were close friends and neighbors who helped build Christ Church. They and their families along with several other Christian families, including Mama and Papa, met in their homes for services. When there were fifty members, they rented the auditorium at the local high school. In one year, enough money was accumulated to build a place of worship.
“Five years later the Pastor retired. John and George’s relationship came apart when they disagreed on the selection of a replacement. John felt they should wait, interview more candidates, and see if the Lord had someone else in mind. Out of the two finalists, George said he liked the first preacher. He was sure the people would vote him in as the new Pastor.
“John stormed out of the meeting saying he would ‘never step inside the building again.’ When the assembly voted for the new Pastor, they did not choose George’s preference. He stood up in the meeting, shouted, ‘I am not coming back y’all can have it,’ and stomped out the door.
“When the 25th anniversary drew close, your grandmother devised a plan. In charge of distributing the flyers, she decided to create two special ones for John and George.
“To make a long story short, Emily and I presented each man with his personal invitation and returned home. Mama gave each of us a stack to deliver to the rest of the neighborhood.
“When Homecoming Sunday arrived, Mama said she was disappointed because she did not see either George or John in the congregation. Ten minutes into the Pastor’s sermon the back door squeaked open and George Hall tiptoed in and sat beside his family on the left side of the auditorium. Ten minutes later John Belkins arrived and sat with his family on the right side. Neither one noticed the other.
“Mama said she made the Pastor aware that these two may show up. His sermon was very appropriate—Anger, Jealousy, and Pride. She watched John and George squirm in their seats during the one-hour sermon. When the invitation to repent and get right with the Lord came, both men arrived at the altar at the same time.
“Mama said she thought they were going to leave when they saw each other but they embraced, told each one how sorry they were, and prayed together. They first asked the Lord to forgive them and then asked the members for forgiveness.
“Every one of the parishioners raised their hands and thanked the Lord. It was the best Homecoming ever.”
“What in the world did Nana write on their copies, Mama?”
“On George’s she wrote, ‘We will also be celebrating the contributions of one of our founding fathers, John Belkins.’ On John’s she wrote the same but inserted George’s name. Each one thought the church was celebrating the other’s achievements.
“They later told her when they saw this outrageous assertion, anger and jealousy overwhelmed them and they knew they just had to come and repudiate the claim. However, God’s healing Spirit prevailed. George and John remained good friends until the end of their days.”
“What an inspiring story.” I remarked.
“Yes but enough of story-telling. Let’s carry our treasures to the car.” Mama sniffed, placing the sheaf of papers inside Nana’s Bible.
“Yes Ma’am.” I said lifting a box.
A wayward tear rolled down Mama’s powdered cheek and splattered atop the cardboard container.
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