Church Stories

After reading this article on baptism, I realized that I have a ton of stories in the same vein. They are a mixture of things that happened to my family, as well as things that happened to my dad and mom while they were in ministry before I was born. Because I was not there for all of these stories, I will preface this piece by saying that it is as factually accurate as my memories allow.

  1. My dad thought it would be a good idea to let kids bring in their own objects  for children’s time. He got a little red felt bag and gave it out on Sundays. If you got the bag, it was your job to bring it back full. After a while, my dad had to start saying things like, “nothing alive… or dead.” Afterwards, he’d make a children’s sermon out of whatever was in the bag. The only one that I remember from my own childhood is that a kid brought his mother’s pantyhose. The congregation howled, and I wish I could remember what he said. That part has faded, much to my dismay.
  2. June is both my mother’s birthday and one of the church members at Naples UMC. He was known for being an absolute cutup, so when we celebrated their birthdays during the service, some joker put relighting candles on their cake. This ol boy didn’t miss a beat. He blew on them a couple of times and then put them out in the cake.
  3. At St. Mark’s, a little old lady brought the entire congregation to a screeching halt when, in the middle of my dad’s sermon, she stood up and said, “David?! Have you lost your mic?!” You could have heard a pin drop, and my dad paused for a couple of seconds. Thinking fast on his feet, he said, “Oh my God! I thought you said MIND!” The congregation was in FITS.
  4. When I was in second or third grade, I was cast as Mary in the First Methodist Naples nativity play. Joseph was a classmate in which we had a love-hate relationship. I wanted him for my boyfriend all my own, but this was in jeopardy as we were sitting in the manger. I want to say FOR THE RECORD that he started it. He thumped the baby Jesus (my Cabbage Patch doll) on the head and I was extremely offended. We started elbowing each other, hard. I will leave you with that image because as that scene unfolds, whatever you’re thinking, it was worse.
  5. My dad was giving communion one day, and he noticed that everyone was walking away, their faces scrunched up in the pain of having eaten something so horrible that you can’t control your facial expressions. We’d started to run out of grape juice for the chalice, so one of the little old ladies mistakenly filled it up with Hawaiian Punch Concentrate.
  6. An associate pastor that my dad knew told this story on himself. The senior pastor asked him to grab the baptismal font and bring it over to the other side of the sanctuary. What he meant was, “there’s a little bowl of holy water inside the baptismal font. Could you bring it to me?” Cut to associate pastor trying to drag a 3,500 lb granite baptismal font along the floor. Hilarity ensues.
  7. The ushers at our church in Naples were relentless. If the Cowboys were playing at noon, they would start throwing the football in the narthex around 11:45. During the Olympics, they held up score cards for my dad’s sermons.
  8. The back row of the choir at Naples was equally incorrigible, to the point that my dad had a rear-view mirror installed on the microphone of his pulpit.
  9. During a memorable children’s sermon, my dad invited all of the kids to take a look behind the pulpit. He told us to describe what we saw. I, absolutely without thinking, said, “it’s a big mess.” My dad leaned into the microphone and said, “we’re going to have a looooong talk when we get home.” It was in this moment that I realized I knew how to work a crowd. 😉
  10. During an even more memorable children’s sermon, my dad talked about priceless treasures and took up the arm of his robe to show us kids his watch, his own priceless treasure. My sister wasn’t buying it. She looked straight at him and said, “NO IT’S NOT! You got it at Burger King for $2.99.” It was in this moment that I realized my sister knew how to work a crowd.
  11. During our time at Naples, a chapel was built in the education building, and the nursery was right above it. I was watching Lindsay and she was being a holy terror at that particular moment. My eyebrows were going over my forehead when Lindsay opened the door and started running. My dad was in the middle of the pastoral prayer (one of the quietest moments in a Methodist service) when he heard my booming voice. “LINDSAY!” I was livid. “GET YOUR BUTT UPSTAIRS!”
  12. When I was 16, my job became bringing Lindsay to church, because my dad usually finished up a few things before the service (*cough* sermon *cough*), and my mom was in the adult choir.That meant that Lindsay and I could do what we wanted, because we had wheels. I think she was 11, maybe just turned 12, when the offering plate came around and she put in all the money she had. Afterward, she leaned into me and said, very quietly, “can we go to Subway when this is over?” I nodded yes and she leaned even closer… “Leslie!” she said “You have to pay for lunch because I paid for church.”
  13. I hope my mom doesn’t mind me telling this story, but it is literally one of the reasons she is my freaking hero. At St. Mark’s, our organist fell down the stairs to the choir loft during choir practice, and had to be rushed to the emergency room. My mom is a pianist, so she was on deck to accompany us. But as any pianist knows, the piano and the pipe organ have very little in common. To add insult to injury, our friend David was turning the pages for her and when she modulated from one of the hymns to the Doxology, David turned the page and it was in a different key. Instead of panicking, my mom TRANSPOSED THE CHORDS IN HER HEAD. It’s not the funniest story, but it shows that my mom is literally grace under pressure.
  14. In the summer between 7th and 8th grades, I had the best boyfriend in the world. How did I know this? I met him at band camp. The first time he ever approached me was less than 10 minutes after the first time I shaved my legs, and I was bleeding. This beautiful boy looks at me and says, “Hi, my name is Ryan Darlington. You look like you could use a band-aid.” What does this have to do with church? It was a sermon illustration. Glad to be helpful, dad. 🙂
  15. My dad and I had this game we played when I was younger. I would say two words and if my dad could incorporate those two words into his sermon, then I owed him a quarter. Best win? Aluminum siding. Like a boss, dad.LIKE A BOSS!

8 thoughts on “Church Stories

  1. Great post. I was an atheist for years before having a sudden realization at the gym of all places. Now, to quote Anne Lamott, “I’m about three months away from slapping a Jesus fish on my car. But I’ll have to check the lease agreement first.”


  2. Oh my, hilarious. I had the same thing with the juice concentrate happen while on a mission trip. The locals knew we couldn’t drink the water so rather than use the bottled water we’d brought with us they gave us pure grape concentrate, absolutely terrible.


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