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An Unlikely Gathering
by Betty Castleberry
11/19/2007 / Short Stories
Shelly looked out upon a snow-blanketed world. The weatherman had been right. There was at least a foot of snow, and it was still coming down.
She shook her husband gently. "Tom, wake up."
"It's snowing. I heard on the radio that most churches had cancelled their services."
Tom rose up in the bed. "No church?"
"That's right. It's practically a blizzard out there."
"Really? Then let's have coffee."
"I made waffles, too. Let's enjoy this morning and stay inside where it's warm. Maybe we could turn on one of those TV preachers."
Tom followed Shelly into the kitchen. She poured his coffee, then filled plates with crispy waffles and bacon and joined him at the table. They ate in silence and watched the fat white flakes fall.
Soon, a tiny figure appeared on the doorstep across the street. Shelly spoke. "Look, there's Mrs. Parsons standing outside. I wonder what she's doing?"
The couple watched the petite lady as she began to wave in their direction. She appeared to be trying to get their attention. Shelly put down her fork. "That feisty little thing doesn't need to be out in this. I'll go see what she wants."
A blast of freezing air smacked her when she opened the door. She heard Mrs. Parsons calling, "Yoo hoo. Do you have electricity?"
"Yes, don't you?"
"Oh no, dear. It's been off for some time. It looks like it's just off on this side of the street."
Shelly took a quick inventory of the opposite side of the street and didn't see any lights on in any houses. "I think you're right. Mrs. Parsons, would you like to come over here where it's warm? I have coffee."
Mrs. Parsons was hard of hearing, and shouting across the street wasn't helping matters. "Stay there Mrs. Parsons. I'm sending Tom after you."
Shelly started to ask Tom to go help their neighbor, but he was already in a heavy overcoat. She gave him a hug. Several of their neighbors were elderly, and she was concerned about them. "Tom, while you're out, check on Mr. Jackson and Lydia and the Marvelle sisters. Would you, please?" Tom pulled on gloves, boots, and hat, and grabbed a shovel.
Shelly watched from her cozy vantage point while Tom shoveled a trail across the street. He cleared a path down the sidewalk and knocked on doors. Shortly, he had a small parade of people walking across the street with him. They held onto each other tightly. Shelly had to giggle at the senior conga line slowly approaching her front door.
When they reached the house, Shelly greeted them all. Mrs. Parsons pulled off her gloves and rubbed her hands together. "Let's have church."
Shelly peered at Mrs. Parsons. "Here?"
"Of course, dear. I haven't missed a church service in years."
Mr. Jackson frowned. "I haven't been to one in years."
"Then it will do you good."
Mr. Jackson snorted. Mrs. Parsons put her hands on her hips and clucked her tongue at him.
She turned her attention to the ladies. "What do you say, girls?"
Ivy Marvelle spoke first. "You know we are all different denominations."
"So? There won't be any denominations in heaven. Let's read scripture. Music would be nice, but there's no organ."
Ivy grinned. "Don't need one. Tom can play guitar."
Shelly looked at Tom. "Well, why not?"
He shrugged. "Yes, why not?"
Lydia almost whispered. "I would like some candles lighted."
Mr. Jackson grumbled. "What for?"
"Because it would make Lydia feel more comfortable." Mrs. Parson's stare dared him to say more.
Shelly lit several candles as they gathered in the living room. Tom opened the impromptu service with the Lord's Prayer. There was a bit of stumbling over the words "debts" or "trespasses", but they all said "Amen" together. He picked up his guitar and played "Amazing Grace." Mrs. Parsons sang along in a surprisingly clear soprano voice.
When the song was over, Violet Marvelle requested some praise music. Tom played an upbeat worship chorus, and the sisters raised their hands toward heaven.
Mrs. Parsons watched curiously, then tentatively raised one hand.
Ivy shouted, "Praise the Lord."
Mr. Jackson wiped his eyes. "Read from the gospel of John. Start with verse 3:16."
Shelly looked around at the unlikely gathering. It would take more than snow to stop this group of worshippers. Church hadn't been cancelled after all.
Copyright 2006 Betty Castleberry
~The author is a retired-early-by-choice RN who lives in Texas with her husband and three parrots. She has a daughter, step daughter, and five grandchildren. She is a published author, and loves to write for the Lord. Email her @
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