George and Margaret have been married for 60 years. George was born and raised in Beaufort, SC, and bears the thick-as-molasses, unmistakable drawl associated with the South’s earliest Cavalier settlers. Margaret grew up in West Virginia. They were both raised Episcopalians.
After last night’s Bible study from Ephesians 1:15-23, George and I were talking, heart to heart. I was filled with sadness, for in a couple of weeks this silver-headed couple will withdraw to Blowing Rock in the North Carolina high country to spend the summer. I had shared something in the study I learned from a sermon by Rico Tice, a pastor at All Souls Langham Place, London: that when Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica to check on the spiritual condition of the fledgling church in the face of fierce persecution, Paul figuratively held his breath (1 Thess. 3:5) until he knew how the Thessalonians were getting along. I told George that we would all be holding our collective breath until he and Margaret returned in the Fall.
They have endured much. Week to week they put up with a ragamuffin bunch of Gen-Xer’s at our tiny church. Worst of all, in these golden years of their lives they have dealt with the loss of the church they once knew. “The Episcopal church left us, brother,” said George, referring to the denomination at large. “They twisted the Bible all around till it means something different from what it says.”
“Not all of them,” I answered. “I have an old picture of St. Michael’s in Charleston that was taken at the end of the War. Some of the buildings around it are burned out, but it’s still standing. Fire and war and earthquake; its congregation seems not to have swerved to the left or the right.”
George grinned and his eyes glistened. “My home church down in Beaufort is the same way. It’s been around since 1712; they don’t know the Bible other than what it’s always been.”
Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:32)