Hymns and Hysteria

March 4, 2011
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Church...home of starchy old folks in dress clothes, perfect families with 2.5 kids(Never did figure out how they managed that,but if the statistics say so...),and the occasional wealthy magnate,right? Think again,bub. You might find those things in one of those fancy mega-churches, but in a small church in a town so rinky-dink that the evening entertainment is gossip about so-and-so's second cousin's step-son? Think yet again. My dad pastors a small church in Missouri. We've got fifteen people on the average Sunday morning, ten on the normal Wednesday night. Strange things happen when your numbers are small. Maybe a variation on strength in numbers. Large numbers don't attract crazy stuff, perhaps? Anywho, we get nearly everything at one time or another. Drunks walking in on us, slightly nutty old folks, flies the size of 747s, things that go bump in the prayer service...you name it, we've probably seen it. And just to name a few...
Inebriated individuals. Oh,my. Where to start? Drunks are completely hilarious. You feel sorry for the poor people when they walk in doing things you know they're going to regret in the morning(if they remember), but at the same time...would you not laugh when a gentleman walks to the platform and asks the pastor for a hug in the middle of his sermon? Then there was the guy who insisted on putting on imaginary slippers before praying when he walked in on Bible Study night. Somehow,I got the impression he'd had something a tad stronger than the Coke he was carrying.
It's also fun when our less-than-sober visitors get romantic aspirations. As you know, a man who smells like cheap beer, currently has a smile like a drugged mental patient, and walks a ten-foot wide aisle like it's an obstacle course isn't exactly attractive. So when a drunk starts zeroing in on one of our female parishioners,the Youth Group breaks out the popcorn. The typical tale of drunken woe goes something like this. Romeo sits down in Churchgirl's pew, eyes slyly meandering in her direction, then coyly jerking away when she notes his attention. Churchgirl is no dummy, so she knows exactly what's going on in our buddy's befuddled head. She ever so very, very slowly slides down the pew a few inches.
Way to hurt a guy's pride.
Romeo is an intrepid fellow,so over he scoots. And away goes Churchgirl. And over he moves. On and on it goes, sometimes over the space of the entire pew, and occasionally onto the next one and down its length. Unless Churchgirl is Ms. Carson. Ms. Carson has a concordance-included, thesaurus-added, one-ton weight, everything-but-your-neighbor's-kitchen-sink study Bible. She regularly hit home-runs for her high school softball team. Ms. Carson rarely switches pews.

How about the mentally unstable?You know the type.Glazed eyes, a thing for straight jackets and crayons, a fashion sense running to floppy black fedoras with striped ties and flower-print dresses, and other abnormalities. We've had our share of them meander through the doors of our church. Most of them have something with them when they walk in. One carried a portable radio turned to an acid rock station(Try concentrating on a sermon with that blasting from the front row). Another held a plastic bag emitting a, shall we say, interesting odor, and yet another brought in a frozen catfish. Still wrapped in his original plastic, this fishy came complete with skin, tail, and eyes. Our church always welcomes visitors,but we did have a little trouble shaking this guy's hand...er...fin.
Some of the nuts,or more politically correct,special people, are the happy-go-lucky type. They'll happily attend every service,despite the gale-force yawns they let out if the service goes a tad too long for their taste. Then again,there are the creepy ones. Greasy, untamed hair, malevolent, brooding eyes, and a sense of downright creepy that follows them right along with their split personalities. Thankfully,our pastor has the fortitude to deal with such folk. If worse comes to worse, he'll take a seat beside them and preach his sermon from the back pew,stopping occasionally to politely suggest Mental Patient and his invisible friend to please cork their argument until after church.
Geriatric individuals. We wouldn't be here without them.” Since churches are as traditionally a hangout for the elderly as a mall is for teenagers, we've had quite a few. Probably my favorites were the pair of old ladies who sat about two pews apart in the back section. They were like a pair of schoolkids, constantly bickering, competing, doing all sorts of amusing things. One was hard of hearing and would ask the other for the song number, and she would promptly be told a number that had nothing to do with the current song. On Sundays when we gave out free bread, they would race to the distribution table. Fun to watch, since both were in their late eighties. They didn't race fair either. Walkers would whip out into the aisle as barricades and during closing prayer, there would occasionally be a cheating start. Church'd be a whole lot quieter without them,and a good deal less interesting.Whatever would we do without them?
In closing,all I can say is keep an eye out in your church, if you attend one. One never knows when something odd is just waiting for the right moment to break loose upon your perfectly ordered service. If you look closely,it may already have. Is the man sitting next to you really wearing his clothes inside out? And why on earth is the woman three rows back throwing wads of paper at the man across the aisle? I'm not guaranteeing outright hilarity...but one never knows, does one?

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