Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

September 23, 2013

Lessons learned at church ... by chance

ASHLAND — As country churches go, it was an impressive structure with a large steeple and a circular driveway.

My brother, sister and I went there with our mother. Many of the congregation had died or moved away from the little town.

I remember a kind, elderly woman, a widow whose family lived away.

Our church music leader liked the hymn, “We’re Marching to Zion” and we sang it several times a year.

Each time that happened, the old lady got up and marched around the sanctuary, singing at the top of her lungs and banging on her purse like a drum.

I decided to go marching with her one Sunday. As we strutted past my mother’s seat, she almost pulled my arm out of socket. My march was over.

The girl wasn’t the cutest one in my Sunday school class but she definitely thought of me as her sweetheart.

We were about 10 and I was not the least bit interested.

Our class was in the Christmas play and the girl insisted I stand beside her during the closing song.

I waited until we went on stage and quickly lined up on the other side of the big, heavily decorated Christmas tree.

She glared at me and said I would be sorry and I said something dumb like she couldn’t reach me.

That was just before she pushed the tree over on top of me … and announced loudly that I was no longer her boyfriend.

I can still hear my brother laughing.

But my most indelible church memory is of a young preacher who was determined to warn us about the evils of strong drink.

As he began his Sunday sermon, he pulled a half pint bottle of whiskey from his coat pocket and poured some into a saucer on top of the pulpit.

The audience was too surprised to react until he dropped a lighted match, igniting the whiskey.

The preacher then was shocked when his shirt sleeve caught fire from the booze.

He tried to snuff it out but accidentally tipped the saucer of burning whiskey which quickly cascaded down the front of the pulpit.

Now in a dead panic, he took off his suit coat to smother the flames while church members scattered amid screams and muffled laughter.

As I recall, the young preacher had some minor burns on his hands but his pride suffered the most.

But, to this day, I have remembered his good example. I’ve never set any whiskey on fire.

KEITH KAPPES is publisher of The Morehead News and Grayson Journal-Times.

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