One of the most treasured experiences I have had in my faith journey is to have been mentored and encouraged by a rather wonderfully outrageous, larger than life, member of on of Britain's pentecostal denominations.
Over the time that I knew him we'd share a Coke and he'd tell me stories of when he began in ministry (and getting up to stoke the church boiler in the early hours to ensure the church building was warm for Sunday and how when his wife was in labour she knocked on the church wall when it was time for the midwife) and also told me many tales of those with whom he served on the denomination's executive. Here's but three of them (names changed to protect the clumsy):
Many years ago a member of a certain denomination's executive was asked to be the speaker at the monthly meeting of the Welsh branch of their women's missions group. Having duly arrived at the venue (St David's Hall in Cardiff) and taken his seat on the platform the meeting began with one of 'those' fantastic dirges that appear to live on in some of the more traditional pentecostal circles.
The ladies present were all fairly well advanced in years, the evidence of this being handbags upon laps and a wonderful array of hays, and they looked like they were ready for a public execution (though none were knitting Madame Guillotine style). Up springs the hero of this piece and with vim, vigour and a cheesy grin greets the assembled masses with:
"I can tell by the look on yours faces that it's that time of the month again . . " and from there on in, for the next thirty minutes, it descends deeper downhill as his confidence and their demeanour slowly evaporate. Apparently the man almost ran from the building in his haste to avoid the assembled ladies!
Another story relates to another of the executive who having arrived a little late and finding the service he was to preach at already started decided to pop into the toilet before appearing in main building. Knowing the building fairly well he made his way into the toilet but found the lights were not working (it transpires that the fuse had blown); undaunted, he opened the door of the cubicle and relieved himself and made his was onto the stage area. He'd just taken his seat when a small child came in and in a loud voice informed his mother that he'd been having a poo and someone wee'd on him!
The person who told me this tale (with unconcealed glee) also told me that experienced members of the travelling guest preaching circuits 'always' took a spare lightbulb in their briefcase as many of the places they'd visit had a failed lightbulb in their toilets.
The last one of the pentecostal preacher stories relates to yet another of the executive who arrived at a new building and having, at last, found what appeared to be the place entered just as the person leading announced that they were overjoyed to have a guest preacher that evening.
Taking that as his cue he rushed up the aisle and onto the platform. Taking his place behind the lectern he began to preach his sermon. When eventually he finished he was a little taken aback at the rather unresponsive congregation and was also aware that he appeared to recognise few of those who had been sitting behind him. Taking his seat the man next to him congratulated him on an 'interesting' sermon, suffixed by the question, "Who are you?"
He quickly explained that he was a member of the executive and had come to celebrate the opening of the new church building. "Ah, I see," said his companion, "That would be the place at the other end of the street. This is the Baptist church!"
Taking his leave during a hymn the man took his leave and made his way down the street where, the worship still in progress, he entered and did his sermon again to rapturous 'hallelujah, amens' and heartfelt 'Praise the Lords'.
Not sure I'd have told anyone if that had been me, but one way or the other the story came to the ears of my confidant and when the self-same man came to preach only a few of us understood the little 'glad you found the right building' comment in the greeting.