Update on Our Little Parish: Our pastor, thanks be to God, came through surgery with flying colors, is recovering in the hospital and should be home sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile...I've been busy. (As may be evident by my sparsity of posts.) I spent Monday and Tuesday at church answering the phone and doing other tasks related to our pastor's absence, and filled in for him at our last Lenten service this week.
And yesterday I helped welcome our interim pastor to our humble church home. He is commuting from across the state two days a week to act as a pastoral resource, which is partly about doing stuff that we lay ministers aren't authorized to do and partly about, as I remarked only partly tongue-in-cheek, making sure that the inmates don't wind up running the asylum in the next six to eight weeks.
Actually, our interim is a long-time friend of our pastor who, I'm sure, has heard an earful about our congregation over the years. But there's always a first day on the job, and when he walked into the office yesterday morning -- into a scene that included two of our church matriarchs fussing with bulletins and Fellow Traveler installing a new phone system -- I detected the tentativeness of unknowing.
So I took him on a grand tour of the facilities. I shared important names and phone numbers with him. I gave him a heads-up on some of our seriously sick and afflicted. And, as noontime rolled around, Fellow Traveler and I invited him to lunch down the road at the local diner.
The little unincorporated community where our church has been on a downhill slide ever since the end of the timber era, but it still maintains a post office, two churches and a restaurant. The restaurant, as we informed our interim, is the place to meet everyone and learn everything about anything going on in the general area.
The diner is housed in an old false-front building from the village's short-lived glory days; one walks into a kind of lean-to, then opens the door into an atmosphere thick with the mingled aromas of cigarette smoke, brewing coffee and fried onions. I had thought that our presence would be the most newsworthy event of the moment; then I saw the perky, clipboard-bearing young Health Department inspector striding into the kitchen, followed by several pairs of customer eyes, and knew we'd probably only get second billing on this day.
We took our seats behind the booth of one of the church-bulletin ladies, who was having lunch with a crusty old parish patriarch and next-door neighbor to the church who holds court at the diner for much of the day. We exchanged pleasantries, then got to talking with our interim about the neighborhood.
As I was trying to play helpful co-hostess during the meal, though, I kept hearing loud snippets of conversation from the next booth:
"Well, someone had better tell the new preacher to turn off the goddamned lights in the church when he leaves! People keep leaving the goddamned lights on!"
"Shhhh...not so loud..."
"I had to call my boy the other night and get him to stop in and turn off the goddamned lights."
A few minutes later I felt a poke in my shoulder. I turned around to find the old man waving a large, screwlike device in my face.
"Here. Take it. Where you think that came from?"
I didn't know. I fiddled with the interlocking parts.
"That's what the doctor took out of my hip the other week 'cause it was sticking outta me."
I dropped the screw on the table. I looked around for the Health Department inspector.
"Wow...that thing titanium?" inquired a nearby diner.
"That's expensive. Maybe you can sell it."
We proceeded to hear about the replacement procedure, in detail.
Then we proceeded to hear, also in detail, the deficiencies of the gentleman's visiting nurse in dressing his healing wound. Another diner contributed his thoughts on wound hygiene. Gangrene, pubic hair and scabbing all made a conversational appearance.
"That's enough," the old man's luncheon guest murmured.
"Too much information!" echoed the waitress.
After lunch, the interim said, "I really want to thank you two for introducing me to this place."
The thing is -- he was smiling. And I think he meant it.