Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter -- 

When I pastored in Charleston, IL, we had a lot of young [22-35] singles in our congregation. Our campus minister, to Eastern IL U, George Loveland, was one of them. He and Helen were cooking buddies. He complained to her one day that one of the biggest problems of cooking as a single was left-overs. “Even if you try to cut a recipe down, you have to eat the same thing for a week,” said George. “Well,” said Helen, “let’s have a supper group at our house for singles where you all bring your leftovers. We’ll have a good church fellowship group, and you all can get rid of your leftovers.”

It worked great, except there were several EIU Home Ec professors in the group, and they were not about to bring leftovers when they could show off their culinary skills with new dishes. We ate great, and had good fellowship, but George died with a refrigerator full of leftovers.

One night the guys had all left and the women began to tell horror stories, the ones involving the bathrooms of guys they dated, or where they went to parties. There seemed to be large aggregations of unidentified green things growing in those bathrooms. The women vowed that they would never go to those particular apartments again.

I mentioned it to Eli Sidwell, Charleston’s leading realtor and landlord.
“Well,” he said, “apartment women aren’t so great at cleaning themselves, but yes, the guys are worse. But those are straight guys. I don’t understand people being so anti-gay. You rent to gay guys and they leave the place better than it was when they moved in.”

I don’t think that’s in the Top Ten Reasons Why Gays Should Be Treated Like Everybody Else, but it worked for Eli.

I saw Eli’s obit in the paper last week. He was 86, and the obit pic was current, but he was still a strikingly handsome man. He was one of the leading Republicans in IL, the man who started Charleston’s own Jim Edgar into politics and shepherded him all the way to the governor’s mansion.

He was a true businessman, thinking always in business terms, even trying to convince me that the church was actually a business, with me as the proprietor. I explained that if the church is a business, then the customers are the owners, and I was just the maintenance man. I don’t think we ever connected on that, but it was okay, because he thought the church’s business was selling goodness, not making money, and that’s sort of neat.

He was highly successful as a business man. Most of all, he was a highly successful human being, a staunch church member, a constant supporter of mine--even though we were many furlongs removed in politics--just because I was his pastor. I liked and respected Eli. I pray for the passage of his soul and for the good memories of his loved ones. He sold a lot of goodness in his days.

There has been much speculation recently about why attitudes toward gays have changed so much from exclusion to acceptance in such a short period of time. I doubt that keeping the bathrooms of rental units clean is one of the major reasons, but if you give a decent human being like Eli any chance to exercise his innate goodness… that’s a good start.

John Robert McFarland

“At the end of the day, I’d rather be excluded because of who I include than be included because of who I exclude.” Rev. Eston Williams. The “Sizzle” site says the original source is Caleb Miller.

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