Leonard and Betty

The big truck backed into our yard, and we loaded everything we owned into the trailer for yet another move. I was nervous about our destination as I was taking on the pastorate of a small church with an even smaller congregation.

We visited the church a few weeks before. We sang and I gave the trial sermon, which was essentially an audition, which was lame. Not that the sermon was lame, I don’t know, maybe it was. The process was lame. How can any group of people tell whether a person is going to be a good pastor after a thirty-minute sermon? Answer: they can’t.

I was interviewed by the church board a few days before the Sunday tryout. I guess my answers to their questions were satisfactory because they asked me to come and preach. After the audition the board officially invited me to come and be the pastor. It was then up to us to decide whether or not to accept their invitation.

We had dinner with a lovely family in their home. He was the chairman of the church board, and a few days later he called to ask if we had made a decision. I told him we decided to accept their invitation. He seemed surprised.

We moved into the tiny church-owned house with our four children. The house and approximately ten acres was once owned by Betty, who donated it to the church.

On our first Sunday, the little group of people took us out to the front of the church where they presented me with a small sign with my name on it. It read, “Pastor Dale R. Parsons.” It was to hang below the church sign so everyone passing by would know I was the pastor. Not that anyone would have any idea who Dale Parsons was, but the church folks believed people driving by would certainly take notice and want to attend.

The church was in the process of selling the current building to a landfill company. The sale provided the money to build a new church directly behind the house where we were living. Construction began in November of 1992 and was completed a year later. The new church was small, but beautiful.

Leonard and Betty made many of the special additions to the building possible, such as the brick facade and stained glass windows. They also provided all the furniture for the pastor’s office, including a beautiful mahogany desk, credenza, tall shelves, and a fancy leather chair. I felt like a bank president. Leonard and Betty chose the mauve colored carpet and pew upholstery, and it was lovely.

When Christmas time came, Betty insisted we have three huge douglas fir trees on the platform. When the trees were delivered, they were so tall we had to wire them to the wall to keep them from toppling over, taking out the pastor in the crash.

Each of the pews was adorned with an artificial floral arrangement that matched the carpet. There were other decorations around the church that added to the beauty of the season. I have to admit, the entire sanctuary was beautiful, especially with the lights off. The glow of the twinkle lights on the trees was breathtaking.

By the time Christmas was over, the short needles of the great firs were no longer on the branches but huddled on the floor in great heaps. As I removed the long strings of lights from the trees, the last remaining needles fell. I pulled the naked trees out the side door and wondered how in the world we ever managed to get the freshly cut trees in the building.

After the skeletons were gone, I had to gather all the orphaned needles from the floor. I found a snow shovel and began heaving scoops of needles out the door. I promised myself there would never be another real tree in the sanctuary. I think there are still needles hiding, thirty years later, near the walls, under pews, the pulpit, and in the baptistry.

Leonard and Betty were very supportive and caring people. Every year they provided a Christmas dinner in their home for everyone who helped with church activities. Their home was beautifully decorated. Every room had a Christmas tree and animated figures. Betty told me they always started decorating in September.

Leonard and Betty were the kind of people who do what they do without fanfare. Leonard was the head usher. Betty was the organist. They were always the first ones in the building on Sunday and the last ones to leave. If they are still able, I imagine Leonard and Betty are still doing everything they can to make the little church function smoothly.

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