Monday, March 5, 2007

Something wicked this way comes

Growing up at the Hillcrest church of Christ was very interesting. My parents, once they began attending, never missed a Sunday morning, Sunday night, or Wednesday. Churches of Christ have very traditional meeting times, usually three times a week on Sunday and Wednesday all across the country. Sunday night's in the church were much the same as Sunday morning for me only I could wear jeans. The atmosphere was certainly more relaxed than during the morning service. One thing that always stood out to me were those people who didn't change clothes. Usually the older folks who got dressed once a day and only changed to go to bed. These folks usually smelled like the food they ate and you pretty much tell where they had been by the funk. One elderly gentlemen helped solve the mystery because you could identify the stains on his clip on tie and nail not only where he ate, but what he ate. On lucky days you could still catch a glimpse of lunch in the corner of his mouth! Beautiful.
In the church, as a boy or young man, you are not allowed to do much until you become baptized. About the only thing you can do pre-baptism is pick up attendance cards and occasionally hand out stuff to the congregation. That's about it. But, once you are baptized you get to start out serving communion. We serve communion every Sunday in the church of Christ and on Sunday night for those who missed Sunday morning. Serving communion on Sunday morning is major league while serving on Sunday night is farm team. I never understood why we just didn't take communion at night and in the morning, but these questions are not answered and anyone who pokes around asking questions is never heard from again.
I was baptized when I was 12 (that is a story in and of itself) and promptly got drafted for Sunday night communion. I was mortified! Just the thought of me standing up in front of that church was horrible, saying a prayer in front of that church--death! I cringed every time I had to do communion on Sunday night. I would always sit on the North side leaving a huge space from the end of the pew to allow the prayer leader plenty of room to assume his position. The North side was the lead team. North side prayer leader had to say, "If you were unable to partake [very important verbiage] of the Lord's supper this morning it has been prepared for you this evening. Please stand after each prayer and we will serve you." Then the prayer. After which time people would stand up and you would walk to your side and give them communion. I always gave my Aunt Opal communion. She was my Dad's aunt and one of the sweetest people in the entire universe. She stayed home every week and cooked lunch for her family and came to church on Sunday night. Her hands smelled of comet always she didn't have a single tooth in her head, just like my Granny. I usually had one or two others who would stand, North side was very faithful in their attendance.
There are only two times that stand out in my memory of serving communion on Sunday night. First, the night a lady drank communion after someone else. In the church of Christ communion is served in individual one ounce cups. The special trays hold each cup in it's own little space. On Sunday mornings every hole was full and you would put your empty cup back in the same hole and move on down the road. It is an unwritten rule that you drink from the fullest cup because some lady's don't drink all the juice as it makes them burp all through service and get their reflux all keyed up. Sunday nights were a different story. Usually there were 15 or so cups filled with the two outer most rings completely empty. The unwritten rule during this service was taking the full cup, partaking, then placing it in the empty outer rings. One Sunday night I had to serve three lady's. The first lady took her cup, sipped, placed the lipstick stained cup in the appropriate outer ring and sat down. On to the next. Again, this lady picked up the same cup! In the church of Christ reverence is translated as silence and you remain forward looking not making one sound. I could not break form and say, "NOT THAT ONE!" I tried to quietly whisper, "not that one" but she didn't hear me and drank from the same cup! Mortified. I am an unashamed germaphobe! The thought of drinking after someone makes me cringe.
The second most memorable involved a hostage situation, literally. This man and his family came to church for the sole purpose of him marrying his daughter. We do not indulge in this kind of thought process and tend to shy away from those who do sinner or not! The fact that he had a gun made it easier for us to oblige him. He was placed in a classroom, our classrooms surrounded the auditorium. Our preacher stood up and told the church that there was a troubled man in the building, the police had been called and we would only have one song, a prayer, and serve communion then all be dismissed as quickly and quietly as possible. HOSTAGE SITUATION...TROUBLED MAN...GUN!? In my church! On Sunday night! WOW!
I had communion duty. My palms were even more sweaty because I was freaking out at the thought of a shooting spree, that just didn't happen in the 80's period! People wouldn't be that kind of crazy for another twenty years! All of the Marlboro men were on alert and had cinched and hiked their pants set and ready to relive combat! As we stood there looking at the crowd my only thought was, "which one of these crazy people are the crazy person being talked about" It was a crap shoot, honestly. I had Aunt Opal and the basketball coach, Coach Busby to serve and that was it. As I stood there waiting for coach to decide which of the identical cups of the same juice to wasn't that hard even for a coach! A classroom door slowly crept open and out came this man. He was about 6'3" with dark brown crazy hair and wicked green eyes, cat green. He had on a red tattered t-shirt and a flannel shirt worn like a jacket, rustler jeans, and serial killer combat boots. His whole family, who were in the room with him, looked like people who are featured in a Larry Jones, Feed the Children commercial focusing on the poor of America. "That's him...that's the crazy man with a gun!" "Why is he looking at me? Why is he standing in the hall?" As I walked down the aisle he grabbed my arm. I nearly lost all control of my bladder and colon. I was a hostage for this twisted man!
What would I do. How could I, the one who has drilled every disaster known to man down the the Gothic lantern precariously hanging from the ceiling falling on someone, not have planned for a deranged mad man who wanted to marry his daughter come to my church with a gun and want communion from me? I had no reference point, no one to run to. Here I was in no man's land. There was a mad man grabbing my arm wanting communion...looking forward to a honeymoon with his daughter! Would I be drug into the classroom and join Brisco Darlin and his family for the wedding of the century? Would he take his bread and juice and cap me--the first of many victims in his twisted plan of matrimony? "I just want communion...I'm not going to hurt you." I am sure I looked like a lemur--my eyes were huge! "yes, take it." My hands were shaking so hard I looked palsied. On our particular Sunday night service we prayed...served the cracker...came back forward...prayed for the juice then passed it. After that we had to pray and pass the collection plate. Normally this mundane task took about twenty minutes, however on this night it took a century. Horrible, just horrible. Cracker, done...bread, done! We also passed the collection plate in the off chance folks wanted to give. If you are standing up waiting to give and don't give not good! Crazy man didn't give.
I was never more scared than at that moment. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. Aunt Opal asked, "Honey, are you OK? you look like you've seen a ghost." "I'm OK, I just saw a crazy man and he touched me." Turns out that he was not on his medicine and easily surrendered to the authorities to get the proper medical attention he needed. He never married his daughter, and I've often wondered how Christmas went that year in their home.
I have yet to have a Sunday night more intense than this one, and hope I never do.


Donna said...

LOL! Now, that's a unique story. I do love how, no matter what is going on, even if an armed man is inside the church building, by God we will have a song, a prayer, and the Lord's Supper. Period. If it's Sunday, of course. Wednesday and you could have gotten out with a song and a prayer.
I like when the ladies get all up in arms about the taste of the "unleavened bread" or, rather, the little manufactured communion crackers or the taste of the "wine" if some cheap deacon decided to get an off brand juice instead of Welch's. Or the folks who want the Matzo(??) crackers so they can actually "break" the bread to be totally Biblically correct. I think if you want to be totally Biblically correct, Jesus needs to break the bread for you. One time we had a deacon keep the little crackers in the refrigerator where they soaked up every smell imaginable since no one ever cleaned the church refrigerator. I had to take my cracker like a pill. Swallowed it whole with the juice. We'll say the bread "broke" in my digestive tract ;).

Tracy said...

holy crap (pun intended).
we just don't have this kind of thing at St Francis (or at St Peter the Apostle, or at St Ursula - who is no longer a saint btw). we do have wine (never juice.. whats up with the juice?) but they don't serve it at every mass; we do have communion wafers but they don't resemble any bread i've ever seen or tasted (thank the good Lord) and we don't have guys wanting to marry their daughtes (of course we do have a few priests ... well that would be a cheap shot... )
you have theeeeeee best stories will. keep'em comin. its an education LOL