The following is a sneak preview from my new book, "Yea Though I Walk," which will be available in a couple of weeks.--When I was growing up in Julia A. Porter Methodist Church -- I think it was "Memorial" back then, not "United," I was always enamored of our preachers. Preacher Dillard was the first one I can recall. I thought he was as old as God, but now that I am old, I realize he could have been anywhere from 35 to 75.
They tell me that when I was about two-and-a-half years old, everyone had gathered in the downstairs fellowship hall of our church for a fifth Sunday covered dish dinner. Someone asked the preacher to say grace. I was hungry, my mama's fried chicken and deviled eggs were on the table, and all I heard was "offer thanks." I stood up to the table and said the only mealtime prayer I knew when I was 2. I said, "Ask the blessing, ask the blessing, ask the blessing, Amen!"
Everyone laughed, like everyone does when something like that happens, and then someone told the preacher to pray again.
Again, I took a step forward and said, "Ask the blessing, ask the blessing, ask the blessing, Amen!"
After I delivered that same blessing for the third time, Preacher Dillard said, "That's good enough!" and we all ate dinner.
Preacher Peters was another preacher I remember. I know that he was younger than Preacher Dillard because his hair was black instead of white and his wife was pregnant while he was here -- except nobody ever said the word "pregnant" in those days, not in mixed company. They said "expecting" or, at the very worst, "PG."
The main thing I remember about Preacher Peter's time at Porterdale was how everybody laughed at me when I came home from church one day and excitedly announced that the preacher's wife was wearing a "baby dress," which is what I assumed a maternity outfit was called.
One of my favorite preachers of all time was A.J. "Gus" Bruyere. He was from Green Bay, Wis., and might have been the first Yankee I ever knew. I know he was the first person I ever knew who preferred professional football to college football. His daddy had played for the original Green Bay Packers -- or maybe it was his grandfather -- and he had a model of Lambeau Field on a desk in his office that I loved to go in every Sunday and gaze at.
Preacher Bruyere was a different sort than most of the preachers we had known at Julia A. Porter. Instead of a dark suit, he preached in a black robe with different colored stoles for the different liturgical seasons. I was really curious about everything that went on at church and would always sit by my daddy and ask him about everything.
I will never forget the first time Gus Bruyere served communion. In the past, when we celebrated the Lord's Supper, Blackie Jeffries and Jake Hunt and others would crumble up some soda crackers in the communion plates and pour a little Welch's grape juice into those little shot glasses and we would nibble on a cracker and drink a sip of juice.
That's not how Preacher Gus did it. He stood at the altar and held up a long loaf of freshly baked bread -- my daddy said Gus would have preferred to have been a Catholic priest if it hadn't been for that whole celibacy thing -- and said words over it. I whispered to my daddy, "What does that mean? What does it mean when he does that?"
Daddy told me, "That means that the bread represents the body of Christ and that it was broken for you and me."
Then the preacher held up a big silver chalice and poured grape juice into it from another fancy bottle.
"What does that mean?" I asked. "Why is he doing that?"
"That means that the wine represents the blood of Christ and that it was shed for you and me."
Every Sunday before he preached, the Rev. Bruyere would take off his watch and place it on the pulpit so he could keep his eye on it. "What does that mean?" I would ask. "What does it mean when he does that?"
My daddy would sadly shake his head and say, "It doesn't mean a thing. It doesn't mean a cotton picking thing."--I let y'all read that so you could read this. I love that little Methodist Church in which I was raised and the people in that church helped put me on a firm foundation -- and that has made all the difference in my life. Last summer the Julia A. Porter United Methodist Church invited me to deliver the homecoming message. I have never received a greater honor in my life.
Well, homecoming is this coming Sunday at 11 a.m. All are welcome and I hope some of you will join me as I proclaim the good news.
And I promise, I will glance at my watch every once in a while and try to finish on time.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.