Lowe column: As fas I know there's only one Methodist snake handler

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I can tell you up front that I have had no desire to handle snakes. I envy those who do a bit, because it takes a lot of faith. You better have faith when you are staring a rattlesnake right in the eyes.
You may not believe it, but I once saw a Methodist handle a snake right in the middle of a funeral. It happened so fast no one but me saw it. I knew Bill fairly well but I did not know he handled snakes. I was amazed.
The church was packed for Peggy’s service in a way that would turn a fire marshal’s face red. Bill was part of the family so he was sitting on the front pew. I was about halfway through the service when I saw Bill bend over real fast and grab something. This church used to be a school so there was a door to the outside just a little up from the front pew. Bill got up and went for the door. I could see the tail of a snake wiggling out from his hands. He went outside, came back in and sat down as if nothing had happened.
I wish I could tell you the snake was a 4-foot-long copperhead or even a rattlesnake. It would make a better story if I could. In all honesty, it was a garter snake that was a foot long at the most.
As you well know, though, that is enough snake to make some folks start acting crazy and squealing and jumping up on anything that will hold them. Can you imagine what might have happened if that snake had started making its way under the pews to the back of the church? I have no idea, but I do know it would not have been good.
I am so thankful that Bill did what he did. Bill jumped into action and took care of the need in a way that other folks hardly noticed. In fact, no one but me and Bill even knew what had happened. I wish we had more people like Bill in our churches. It is so hard to get volunteers to do things. Many folks want special recognition when they do help, or volunteer, or serve.
Bill just came forward and took the snake by the tail and took care of it. Bill did not ask anyone first. Bill did not do it for recognition. Bill did it because he was led to do it, and so he sprung into action.
Can you imagine what a church might look like if it were full of folks like my friend Bill? I am so glad Bill did what he did, to show me, and I hope you, what real service looks like in a church.
Bill was the only snake handling Methodist I ever knew.
Thank God he was.
The Rev. Vance Lowe is senior pastor of First United Methodist Church, China Grove.