Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


CHRIST IN WINTER; Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…

Helen and I went to worship at the Solsberry United Methodist Church last Sunday. It was my first “permanent” pastoral appointment. The Solsberry Circuit had three preaching “points,” Koleen and Mineral in addition to Solsberry. We had not been there for 58 years. [1]

We went just to close the circle, to worship in the same place we did when we were courting, where we lived the first year of our marriage. We did not know that Danny Funderberk, formerly of the Cathedrals gospel quartet, would be there to do a Sunday morning concert. But that turned out fine. It was a lot of fun. We got to sing a lot of the songs we sang back in the day, the songs we don’t get to sing in our sophisticated college town church.

Surprisingly, several old women remembered us. They had been members of the youth fellowship, in high school and junior high. They clustered around us in a circle of smiles, telling us how important we had been to their spiritual growth back when, how they had incorporated those lessons into their lives as they went along. I was pleased, but also astounded. I had no idea.

I had no idea or memory of other things they talked about, either. They reminded me that we won a District award for having the largest MYF attendance, a big achievement for a small church. Apparently, though, we had such a large group because, as one of the old ladies said, “We were all in love with you.” “Oh, yes,” another said. “My mother was so hoping you’d end up marrying my older sister.”

I guess that is not surprising. I’m exceptionally good-looking. Except that’s mostly due to my bald head and white beard and ear hair, none of which I had when I started preaching at Solsberry, when I was 19 years old, a college sophomore. Although I don’t really recall it, I must have been at least slightly aware that those girls were in love with me, if juvenile infatuation can be called “in love,” but I was a mature college man, interested in mature college women, with their pony tails and poodle skirts and saddle shoes. I just wasn’t interested in mere girls, some a whole year younger than I.

The ministry is not a visible results job. Occasionally you know that you have done something that was good for someone, but mostly you just have to hope. My mentors in ministry have always said things like “You are not called to be successful, only faithful,” and “You never know how much good you do.” It’s gratifying to know that even when I was so young, I was faithful, and that I did good I did not know about.

Of course, one of my friends says, “You also never know how much harm you did.” A good counter-weight, but I think whenever Helen gets out of line, I’ll remind her that she did have competition once, even if I didn’t know it.


For years I thought Solsberry was a typical SoInd corruption of the British Salisbury, as in cathedral and steak. 35 years after I preached there, I spent time in a hospital waiting room with the wife of Jim Cummings, a member of my church in Arcola, IL, while Jim had an operation. It was a long operation, and we were alone, so we talked of many things. Somehow, Solsberry came up. “Oh,” she said, “Jim was born there. His folks lived here then, but she wanted him to be born in Solsberry, so when her delivery time came, she went over there to have him where the town was named for his grandfather, Sol Cummings, and the berry bushes that grew wild on those hills.”

1] My first actual appointment was to the Chrisney Circuit, also three points, with Crossroads and Bloomfield [not the Bloomfield that is the seat of Greene County.] I knew that the Chrisney appointment was temporary, from Sept. until January, when Ellis P. Hukill, Jr. would graduate from Asbury Seminary and be appointed there full-time.

These were part-time appointments, of course, while I was a student at IU. After Helen and I married, and she was doing her senior year at IU, a new Solsberry Circuit was created, to make a full-time appointment for me before I went off to seminary. It was still three points, with Greene County Chapel and Walker’s Chapel in place of Koleen and Mineral.

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