Sunday was a day the Alan family kept in a particular way.
Hank had learned that Sunday, the first day of the week, had been set aside by Christians as a day of worship, and to commemorate the resurrection of Christ.
Hank had instructed his children of this fact early and often. And none of them had any other expectation. Going to church Sunday morning was as natural as getting up.
Phyllis was up, dressed, and practicing her piano offertory. Her (mostly correct) rendition of “Jesus Loves Me,” filled the house.
The morning was bright, clear, and Virginia’s east room was bathed in morning sunlight. She stretched luxuriantly in her bed, feeling the warmth of the sun. She was aware that she was changing; she hoped for a new improved version, as she was not satisfied with her own striking features.
Virginia was not a Christian and her Christian parents prayed for their children. And both parents lived as consistently as human beings can, so they would be a proper example to them.
Virginia did not particularly like church nor did she dislike it. But today she was happy to be going because she was sure to see Bill for a few minutes.
On that thought she leaped out of her bed.
Linda was in the kitchen preparing breakfast. Hank and Artie entered the kitchen through the shed door, their morning chores finished. She greeted them, “Good morning men, breakfast will be ready in fifteen minutes.”
Artie responded, “It sure smells good in here.” Hank gave Linda a peck on the lips and said, in his best WC Fields impersonation, “Ok my dear, we’ll be back in a flash.”
Hank kissed Phyllis on the neck on his way by the piano. Phyllis, momentarily startled, responded with a discordant clash of keys and big grin. Hank and Art continued upstairs to wash up and dress for church. They met Virginia on her way down. Hank gave her a kiss on the cheek. Virginia flinched away saying, “Dad, you’ll get me all barn smelly. I don’t want to smell like the barn in church.”
Art countered with, “No danger, with that gallon of perfume you have on.” “Oh Dad!”, she exclaimed, “Do I have too much on?”
To which Hank replied, “Don’t worry. Most of it will be blown away by the 40 mile an hour ride in the back of the truck.” Virginia pleaded, “Can’t I ride inside with you? I don’t want to get all wind blown before church.”
Art was sure that Virginia was concerned with the opinion of one particular member of the church, and that was Bill Richards. Art pondered the mystery and said nothing.
Hank assured her by saying, “We’ll work it out.”
Hank and Art continued to their clean up and shortly the family was gather at the table for breakfast. Grace was said and they chatted pleasantly. Hank asked questions in anticipation of the Sunday sermon – preparing the children for church. Questions like, “I wonder what I will learn about God today?” This was a cue to the children that they should listen with care. The topic would come up in family devotions.
When they had finished breakfast Hank led them in a prayer asking God’s blessing on the pastor and church family. At the conclusion of the prayer Linda excused herself to go change. The children cleared the table and washed up the dishes.
Linda joined the rest of her family on the front porch where they had gathered to wait for her.
Hank commented how nice all the ladies looked and assigned seating in the truck with a simple command, “The two youngest in the back.”
The old truck rattled through the tranquil Maine countryside on that perfect August morning. Each passenger was lost in their own prayers and contemplations. Phyllis was apprehensive about playing for the offertory. Linda was praying for her daughters. Virginia was occupied with her thoughts of seeing Bill. Art was just looking forward to hearing the Bible preached while he soaked up the ambiance of the ride through the natural beauty. Hank’s prayers ranged from family, to Pastor, to his service buddies and their families, to Ab, and lastly to his mom and dad.
They pulled up in front of the old church building. The original building was built back when God used George Whitefield in the 1740’s and 50’s to preach His word up and down the East coast. Many heard the Gospel massage in those days and many believed.
Many understood that God sent what was then called the “Great Awakening”, with which was God preparing citizens for the new country.
Hank parked the truck and then went to the back to lift Phyllis down from the truck.
The greetings from church members passed back and forth as they filed into the newer building which was over a hundred years old. It was a New England style white clapboard wood framed building with stained glass windows. Inside, the bell rope hangs at the right as you enter the vestibule. Straight ahead is the sanctuary with seating for something over a hundred people.
There are worn oak pews fixed to equally worn pine plank floors. Center and side aisles allow access to seating before a raised platform with a centered pulpit. There was a real pipe organ around which the church was built. The organ and pipe racks were made of solid English walnut. The organist is a frail looking woman named Ruby Oaks.
Ruby would actually die playing that organ on a Sunday morning. So peacefully did she pass into eternity that her passing was not noticed until it was time for her to play the recessional. God had played her recessional and she exited this temporal life from an earthly sanctuary to the heavenly. The reaction of the church family was amazing in its tranquility. There were a few life long friends upon whose cheeks could be seen a tear; but mostly it was a joyful resignation that Ruby had gone to be with her Lord.
But all this about Ruby passing during church is yet years in the future.
This Sunday morning she played and the congregation sang. Phyllis’s offertory was played well and finished before she had time to worry any more over it, and then the preacher preached.
Over the years, Art learned to be uncertain of himself but confident in his Bible convictions. Neither the storms of life, the infirmities of the flesh, or the winds of doctrine could move him from his confidence in God.
He would learn to temper his expectations of others and himself. He would bring those expectations into accord with what the Bible reveals about the condition of man, as it was summed up for him by Miss Netta, (a little Scots woman who was also a nurse), “We are no good and never will be – isn’t that wonderful?”