The older I get, the harder it is to define my particular brand of religion. However, when in need of a label, I consider myself Presbyterian because that's where I've spent most of my formative years... But my roots are a bit more diverse.
Growing up, we did the Presbyterian thing to follow my mom's family. Her dad had been raised Lutheran, but found there to be a shortage of churches in our part of the world and figured being a Presbyterian would be almost as good. On the other side, my dad's mom actually preached back in the day in a small country church and my dad's brother grew up to be a big shot in the Church of God. So, I guess it's no wonder that I'm a Presbyterian marrying a Baptist at her church in a service led by a Methodist minister.
The minister was my choice. Jessie got to pick her church as the venue, so I got dibs on choosing our preacher man. I went back in the time machine to do so.
In the early 1990s, I was spending most of my weekends at my mom's mother's house in a very small Delta town. Did I mention that it was very small? Our weekly attendance at the Presbyterian Church usually hovered around 10. I'm guessing that to an outsider, ours looked very much like a lost cause... But, to this day, I thikn there is something to be said for worshiping in small numbers.
It came to pass in those days that we found ourselves without a regular minister. And, fortunatley for us, there happened to be an unemployed Methodist minister in the next town over. After coming to the conclusion that the Methodists' God and the Presbyterians' God were the same one, we offered him a job. To this day, his sermons are the best I've ever heard.
From the pulpit, he was never bossy or preachy. His messages were always conversational. If you weren't careful, you'd listen to him long enough and start to think he was talking directly to you. Almost every sermon began with a joke. The joke led him into a story that he would take apart, explain what each part did and what it meant before putting it all back together again in the end for you to understand.
When it came time to get a wedding minister, I knew he was our guy.
Even though it had been more than a decade since I'd last seen him preach a sermon, we tracked him down shortly after Jessie & I were engaged. After catching up with him and explaining the Cliff's Notes version of the Fletch/Jessie saga of more than 11 years, he said that he didn't need to counsel us. If after such a long friendship, the two of us wanted to be married, he'd be happy to do the service. He marked November 18 on his calendar. We wrote him down on ours.
Fast forward to June, when many Methodist ministers do a shuffle or sorts and get moved from one church to another. You guessed it -- our guy was relocated to a different church. What complicated matters was that many of the church staff left when he did. So, when we called to firm up details later in the year, not only was our guy not preaching at this church anymore, no one knew where he'd gone. None of the phone number we had for him worked. We had lost our preacher.
As it turns out, he wasn't lost for long -- only a few days. Of course, a few days without a preacher is enough to hiccup wedding prep just slightly. For the record, I was never worried... But I enjoyed telling people that we had lost our preacher. It adds color to the engagement story.
Sunday, Jessie and I drove an hour and a half to the small-town church where now preaches. The sermon was exactly as I remembered from many years prior... The conversation format... The simple explanation of a complex message. After one service, Jessie agreed with me that his was the benchmark by which most ministers should be measured.
We spent Sunday afternoon hashing out the details of the ceremony. To be honest, I didn't realize exactly how much was involved from the preacher's standpoint. I thought he'd show up, ask if we would, listen to us tell him that we do and move on. However, there are prayers and blessings and a script, of sorts, even. Although it's obvious that with every passing day, the wedding has seemed more real to me... Hearing the preacher read the vows we'd take -- using Fletch and Jessie with those words -- made it very real... Goosebumps reals.