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Like all small Maine towns, mine has its share of churches.
We have Catholic, Congregational, Methodist, Presbyterian, Fundamentalist and three Baptist.
I bring the whole subject up not to start an argument about religion. I learned not to do something like that soon after I started doing a talk show on WGAN radio in Portland.
I raise the subject to tell about an embarrassing incident down to one of the Baptist churches a few weeks ago.
Hometown boy Frank Kellogg, who had just graduated from the seminary up there in Bangor and was supposed to deliver his first sermon at the church on a recent weekend. No one is quite sure how it happened, but the special invitations to the service went out to the wrong people, with the wrong date and time on them. It was a mess.
So, it wasn’t surprising that when the new preacher stood in the pulpit to deliver his first sermon, there was only one lonely soul sitting in the pews to hear it. It’s not known how this lone fella happened to be there at the time, but there he was.
Not knowing exactly what to do, and feeling a little embarrassed, the young reverend climbed down from the pulpit and walked over to the fella.
“I’m at a loss as to what to do here,” said Reverend Kellogg. “I was supposed to preach my first sermon here this morning and was told all my friends and neighbors for miles around would be sitting here in the pews to hear me. But you’re the only one here. What do you think I should do?”
The fella, a local farmer who didn’t attend church all that often, sat there looking down at his worn boots, then said, “Well, Reverend, I ain’t a preacher, and I don’t pretend to know anything about it. I’m just a farmer. But I can tell you one thing: If I went down to the pasture to feed my cows and only one showed up, I guess I’d feed her.”
Nodding his head knowingly, the Reverend said, “That’s an excellent answer! You are absolutely right. If only one cow showed up, of course you’d feed her.”
With that he spun around on his heels, and with all the determination he could muster, he marched right back up to the pulpit and started the sermon that had taken him so long to prepare.
I’m not sure how word got out, but it did. It’s been said the new preacher unleashed a sermon the likes of which had seldom been heard.
They say the young Reverend Kellogg began preaching about the Old Testament and without skipping a beat he moved on to the New Testament. They say he preached about every one of the Ten Commandments before moving on to the parables and the beatitudes. Before he finished he began preaching against sins that hadn’t even been committed yet, just for good measure.
For over two hours, the walls of that old church rang; the large candelabra began swaying organ pipes in the choir loft were vibrating. His voice rose to such a pitch that the paint blistered right off the walls.
Finally, the young preacher brought his first sermon to a thundering conclusion and just stood there looking out over the empty church.
After a minute or two, he climbed down from the pulpit and walked over to the farmer.
“Well,” he said, “what did you think?
It’s like I said Reverend,” began the farmer, “ ain’t a preacher and don’t pretend to know anything about it. And like I told you, if I went down to the pasture to feed my cow and only one cow showed up, I said I’d feed her. But good Lord almighty, Reverend, I wouldn’t give her the whole darn load!”
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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