Sure, people come and go. In time, even priests and preachers either move on or pass away. Still, it was soothing to know most things remained the same from week to week and year to year.
At the Lennox Valley Methodist Church, Sarah Hyden-Smith was making last-minute preparations for the morning worship service. She came in early on Sundays, usually around 6:30 a.m., to make sure everything was ready for Sunday school and worship. She glanced over the bulletin Becky Moorehouse, part-time church secretary and bookkeeper, had prepared.
The Methodists count on certain activities. Normally, they began with announcements and then sing an opening hymn, usually written by Charles Wesley, brother of Methodism’s founder, John Wesley. Like the Catholic church across the corner, the fine Methodists of Lennox Valley would dutifully recite the Apostle’s Creed midway through the service.
As Sarah made her final preparations for the morning, Father O’Reilly had already begun the first of two services. The Catholics referred to their worship service as a Mass, which made most of the Baptists and even some Methodists wonder what was actually going on within the walls of All Saints Church. The first Mass, at 8 a.m., was held in Latin, while English was spoken at the 10:30 Mass.
At 8:25, Brother Billy Joe Prather made his way to his chair, located directly behind the pulpit of First Baptist Church. Brother Billy Joe didn’t use notes as he preached, so he used these last few minutes to pray for inspiration as he led his flock.
The Baptists, like the Catholics and Lutherans, held two services on Sunday morning. Being exactly six days before October 31, Brother Billy Joe would firmly remind his congregation to do their trick-or-treating early on Saturday night while being careful to wear suitable costumes. He suggested Moses, Mary and David were especially appropriate characters, allowing children to share in the holiday festivities while evangelizing to their community at the same time.
One day earlier, Iris Long overheard Marvin Walsh telling his friends Raymond Cooper and Earl Goodman, “See you in church.”
Regardless of countless references to his scriptural prowess and spiritual leadership on his radio show, Iris knew Raymond never attended worship, other than a few visits to the Lutheran church just before the mayoral election. She also knew Marvin hadn’t been a regular churchgoer in years, having become upset when First Baptist began singing “rock and roll” songs in church back in the 70s. He especially disliked “Kumbaya,” having no idea what the song was about, prompting several letters to the editor of Hometown News.
Iris guessed if Raymond was to meet Marvin in church, it would be at the contemporary service at Valley Lutheran Church. It was, after all, the place Cooper experienced his “great conversion” just prior to the election.
At 8:28, Brother Jacob welcomed Iris as she entered the fellowship hall where the contemporary service was held. Visitors were rare at the 8:30 service and were greeted warmly. She had been to the service once before, taking a photo and writing a story about the new service for the Hometown News. She now took a seat in the back row of folding metal chairs.
Iris counted 14 folks in attendance as the electronic keyboard began to play, but there was no Raymond Cooper nor Marvin Walsh in sight. At 8:32, she heard some type of commotion coming from the door behind her. She turned to see Raymond walking in alone, then taking a seat in the third row, one ahead of her, on the far end of the row.
As the congregation stood to sing, “Mighty is Our God,” she heard another noise coming from behind. It was Marvin, who had walked into the fellowship hall but seemed to be talking to someone outside the partially open door.
“Good Lord,” she murmured. “What are they up to now?”
Watch for Lennox Valley: The Book, coming in May. Writer Kevin Slimp is a Johnson City native known for his expertise in publishing technology. “The Good Folks of Lennox Valley” is fictionally based on people he has met in years of travel. Contact him at [email protected]. For more on “Lennox Valley,” go to www.lennoxvalley.com.