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Mack Williams: Hot time in church

Mack Williams

Taking refuge in a church is a time-honored tradition. But on a recent Sunday, if the Von Trapp family had returned from the past and entered the doors at my church seeking asylum from the recent heat wave (instead of from the Gestapo), such effort would have been in vain.
Someone evidently didn’t adjust the thermostat early enough that morning. One church deacon had just returned from participation in a hot, dry archaeological dig in the Jordan Valley Project; and it would not have surprised me if she had been asked, “Why did you bring the heat back with you?”
I told the minister the warmth would make a “good old Hell sermon” appropriate. I added, that my having been raised Lutheran, later becoming Presbyterian, I’d never heard a “good old Hell sermon,” and it might do me some good. He said, “Yes, it’s hot.” (I forgot to ask if he meant the Sanctuary, or Hell?).
With pre-service sweat having already precipitated (from within) upon my brow, I found an old church fan in the choir rack, but it was “invertebrate,” lacking its thin wooden “spine” (handle), It flopped as I fanned. When I paused, the air seemed even hotter than before, so I gave up.
During the Prelude, someone in the choir said, shockingly, “The candles haven’t been lit.” An older choir member then had difficulty with the candle lighter/snuffer, and asked me to light them.
I hadn’t lit Altar candles since my Confirmation back at Saint Paul’s Lutheran. Afterwards, I almost sat in the acolyte seat. Scientists speculate about parallel universes and “quirks” of time, so I like to think “somewhere” I’m still sitting in my old acolyte seat, listening to Pastor Floyd W. Bost’s sermon, both of us, much younger, and he, still in pre-Heavenly life.
I did wonder if the candles hadn’t been lit earlier so as to not add any more heat to “the equation” than there already was (“candle power,” a measure of brightness, must include heat too).
As the organist played, I fantasized about an organ pipe brought out of the from behind the screen and mounted in front of me, so that when that note was played, I would receive a big, face-on “puff.” (the “bass-er” the pipe, the bigger the puff).
Suddenly, I heard a baby “babbling,” and I took it as baby lingo for “It’s hot in here.”
Singing a hymn’s bass line, instead of my usual tenor made me feel cooler; but I couldn’t reach those much cooler, cavernous bass depths of the late J.D. Sumner of the Stamps Quartet.
I don’t know if the minister acted on my suggestion of a “Hell sermon;” because , right after the choir Anthem, I told a fellow choir member that I was sneaking out to go home and get back into cool air (not for the same reason as the man in H.P. Lovecraft’s “Cool Air”). I said it was so warm that I was having flashbacks to when, as a child, I rode with my father past the Salisbury Ice & Fuel Plant, we saw men handling great blocks of ice with with tongs.
On the way home, I got a CookOut milkshake (the kind you have to eat with a spoon). I didn’t care if I ate it so fast that my brain froze (it’s just the upper palate anyway, not the brain).
But if my brain did freeze, it might send out “freezing thoughts,” making me think the rest of me had cooled too.

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