Saturday, August 07, 2010


August 7, 2010


People have found these stories interesting and I hope you will too. Last week, “First Baptism,’ this week “First Communion.” Next week, wait and see.


Newtown-Waterford Pastoral Charge, in southern New Brunswick, consisted of seven churches in the country surrounding Sussex in the beautiful Kennebecasis valley. Indeed it was beautiful, especially when in the late afternoon the sun cast shadows on the surrounding hills. The main point on the charge was Sussex Corner, just outside of the town of Sussex.

Newly ordained, I was there for less than two weeks when I got a call, my first pastoral crisis. It was the day of the annual Strawberry Festival at Sussex Corner, a big event. People from all over the countryside came to the Sussex Corner Strawberry Festival. The minister was expected to be there, of course, putting in an appearance, mixing with the crowd, urging the troops (the women of the congregation) in their efforts, and of course sampling the strawberry shortcake.

Then someone came up to me to say that Mrs. Dalling had had a stroke. The doctor said she would not live till sunset. Would I come?

Not knowing what else to do, I went home and got the home communion set that had been given me as an ordination present. With the communion set containers filled with grape juice and little cubes of bread, I set off for Russell & Jane Crowe’s place. (Jane, who had been a Dalling, was a daughter.)

Russell had a farm up the New Line Road, a couple of miles from the Corner. He grew vegetables for the Saint John market. Entering the house, I was shown into a first floor bedroom. In the bed was a little old woman, quite unconscious. Surrounding the bed were her children, about six of them and all of them BIG – tall, and not one under 250 pounds. They didn’t look too friendly either.

Unsure what was expected, I opened the communion set and prepared to give the unconscious woman communion. After a prayer, I began to repeat the 46th psalm, “God is our refuge and strength….” From the unconscious woman on the bed, a voice seeming from the grave, came the response: “… a very present help in trouble.”

I went on to the next verse, “Therefore will I not fear.” Again the response, “though the earth be removed.” The voice faded.

Of course my attempt to give her communion was quite unsuccessful. Fortunately it didn’t do any harm. In fact, Mrs. Dalling lived far beyond sunset. She quite enjoyed life for another three years and more. Finally, though, she died and, as they said, I “had to bury her.”

I have never forgotten the mystery of that first communion service. Who am I to say that faith was not a central part of that healing occasion, the faith of an old woman who had lived a hard life but who knew the psalm and had no doubt repeated the words often not just in church but in the quiet of her heart for her own comfort and strengthening?


This from Phil McLarren, in response to last week’s “Puzzled Philosopher.” You may remember George Carlin had a series of “Why’s,” like Rumours had. My favourite has always been, “Why do we park in a driveway and drive on a parkway?”

And from Bob Latimer, re the piece on baptism: There was the day in Orangedale when the baptisee relieved himself during the baptism and the drips fell through the heating register grating, setting up both an audible hissing sound and then the wafting of steam vapours.

If you wish to respond, please respond to

It was my barber, Corky Knight, who told me this story first, a number of years ago. Don Wade sent it to me this past week with a number of other “clergy jokes” which will no doubt appear from time to time in this spot.

One Sunday morning, a mother went in to wake her son and tell him it was time to get ready for church, to which he replied, "I'm not going.""Why not?" she asked.
“I'll give you two good reasons," he said. "They don't like me, and, I don't like them."His mother replied, "I'll give YOU two good reasons why YOU SHOULD go to church.One, you're 40 years old, and two, you're the pastor!"

It’s a Rap. Grace and peace to all. Alan

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

I wonder how many preachers file- thirteened the first draft of their Monday morning resignation letter, simply because someone sent something along to help them see the humour in the midst of the serious work they do.
Who knows, perhaps some pastoral soul may be saved through this Rap!

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