Friday, August 14, 2009

Offerings and Other Hazards

I'm not quite sure what this topic has to do with this preacher's family except that somehow my family has found a way to turn what is supposed to be a fairly harmless part of the church service into an adventure. Perhaps it all started with our oldest daughter, a toddler at the time, who became quite offended when the usher forgot to pass the offering plate to her so she could give her dime. When she realized that she had been rudely bypassed, she turned to find the usher - now a couple of rows behind her - reared back as if she were delivering a fastball, and threw the dime like a bullet at the usher. The coin landed dead-center in the offering plate. There was one time when I also found a way to "contribute" to the service. My dad and I were sitting in the midst of a very crowded service in the largest Baptist church in town when the offering began. As the ushers proceeded in our direction, I realized that they did not use plates, but offering baskets instead. I suppose they were expecting lots of money. Anyway, as the basket made its way toward us, I reached for it, and my dad, thinking I was going to drop the now-full basket of money, reached for it as well. He knocked it out of my hand. Money flew in every conceivable direction - lots and lots of money. I never dreamed money could travel so far. Dozens of people were on the floor trying to pick up and account for every coin, every dollar. The pianist, who had meticulously practiced his offertory to the last second, suddenly realized that his wonderfully planned, practiced and precise offertory was now out the window. He scrambled to replay everything and kept glancing in our direction to check on our money-recovery effort, now in full swing. At least once, I thought I saw him look my way with a "If I could hit you with a hymnal right now, I would" sort of stare. This had become the unofficial Longest Offering in the History of the Universe thanks to me and my dad. But there are other hazards in the church service as well. Like baptisms. When I baptized our pint-sized youngest daughter, she was so happy with the experience, she decided to celebrate in her own way. Immediately after I raised up from the water, she flipped over and began doing the dog paddle. As discretely as possible, I leaned over and whispered to her, "You can't swim in the baptistery." She ignored me, swam to the handrail, and got out on her own. It could have been worse. I have baptized impossibly large people in impossibly small baptisteries, all while praying "Lord, I can get him in, but You have to get him out." I baptized one lady outdoors in a pond - February - and it was snowing! My legs were never so cold. I don't see how she survived, but the whole thing was her family's idea. It could have been worse. One of my uncles was baptizing a fellow in a creek when my uncle lost his grip and the man floated downstream, so the family legend goes. At least I never lost one in the baptistery.

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