Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Hope You Were Watching
I felt my mom smiling Tuesday night. The folks in the audience in Montgomery were laughing but Naia Goddard was smiling from heaven. No doubt about it.
To give you a little background, my mama was a diehard Methodist. She was a Sunday school teacher, youth fellowship leader and youth choir leader. She sang in the choir and was never afraid to even get behind the pulpit to make some comments if called upon.
Anybody and everybody that grew up in the Methodist Church in Reynolds from the fifties until the mid nineties will tell you they crossed paths with my mom. She had a passion to do what she believed God created her to do. And most of that passion revolved around the happenings at the Reynolds United Methodist Church.
One large event that happened once a year was the South Georgia Annual Conference. This was the meeting where the pastor and a couple of delegates from every church in the South Georgia conference gathered to do the business of the church and the Bishop would announce the appointments for the following year. In other words this was the meeting when every four years (sometimes 2 years if we had a bad one) we would find out who our new preacher would be. I never could figure out what everyone wanted. Some years members wanted a young preacher who would stir up the crowd. Other years they were hoping for an older mature preacher who could relate to the older folks. The behind the scenes politics of getting a preacher in the Methodist Church was an art and Mama was an artist. But I never fully understood the process.
But I did understand that on those years when we were due for a new preacher, the annual conference was a huge event for all the Methodists in Reynolds.
I showed up Tuesday night at Frazier United Methodist Church in Montgomery to speak to what I thought was a laity banquet. I was correct in that but what I did not understand was the banquet was part of the South Alabama – West Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. (that is the annual conference where the people of South Alabama and West Florida find out who their preachers will be).
Knowing there were so many Methodist preachers in the audience and so many key leaders of their churches, I have to admit I had some thoughts as I was sitting on the stage at the head table. Thoughts like should I really tell this joke or that funny story or should I do more serious stuff? My goodness the Bishop was sitting just 4 seats down from me! I certainly didn’t want to embarrass Mama who I just knew had moved up to the edge of the window of heaven to watch.
So when I got to the podium, I did what I have learned to do after a lot of speaking engagements. I baited the crowd. I told a certain story in my repertoire to see what reaction I would get. I have learned if the crowd gives a lukewarm reaction to a story like that, I move quickly in another direction. If they react well, I move into my happy place.
This crowd rocked and I knew I was about to have way too much fun. I was off to the races. I connected with the 600 or so pastors and delegates of this Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and just knew that I would have them in the palm of my hand before I finished. At the end of my speech the crowd gave me a standing ovation, which is the best pay a speaker can ever get.
As I stood at the podium watching the folks standing on their feet and clapping, I had chill bumps running up and down my spine. And I could think of only one person.
And that would be my Mama.
Mama, that one was for you. I sure hope you were watching.