For many years my family attended a small country church down in Sandy Point. There is a family history from both sides of my family recorded in old concrete and marble slabs spread across the cemetery. Many obliterated almost by time.
Originally established there is 1830 when some land was donated for the church there is a long history there associated with the Methodist Church, later called the United (Brethren) Methodist Church. The church that stands there now is a replacement for the original which was destroyed by a tornado in the early 40’s.
One of the characteristics of the Methodist has been the tradition of moving pastors around. These moves usually take place around June and some churches would get a new preacher about every year. As time went on the more successful ones (meaning they got a lot of new members and grew the budget) stayed longer. The Church finally took into consideration the stress the annual moves put on the pastor’s family. Today, some have been at the same church for almost their entire career. Another Methodist tradition was the establishment of charges, an arrangement where a pastor may have more then one church that they serve due to the size of the churches and their inability to pay an adequate salary on their own. How services were held varied. Our church shared a pastor for many years with the big city of Lizella, just a few miles away. He preached two sermons every Sunday morning, one at each church. And there were periods when we had a pastor to ourselves.
Not all of the pastors were memorable, of course. We had several that were like members of the family and adored by most of the congregation and some that are long forgotten although they were probably nice people.
But we had one that was a character, if there ever was one. He had stories and mannerisms that made him stand out.
He had preached in Savannah in his early days as a new pastor and he told of his first sermon at the nice old church. He said he was nervous but gave it his best shot and at the end of the sermon went to the sanctuary doors to extend a hand to the members as they left. He said they were not gushing with praise but all were polite as they left. But there was this one old lady standing off to the side.
He said he kept watching her out the corner of his eye as all the members filed out and eventually she was the only one left as she walked up to him and from her short statue looked up and spoke to him. “I have been going to this church almost all my life,” she said. “I have heard good sermons and bad sermons over the years.”
He thought for a moment, he said, that she was about to lavish him with praise. Not so, however.
“That sermon this morning would have to be the worst sermon I have ever heard in my life,” she announced.
Off to a fine start in the new church. But he managed to stay there for a while before he was moved and he said the biggest compliment he might have ever received was the call asking to that he come and preach her funeral. She had specifically requested him. But he said he couldn’t help but wonder if she was trying to give him one last shot at preaching a good sermon in her presence.
He was good about visiting his congregation and on several occasions, on a Saturday around noon, he would show up at our house. The first time he came my wife had cooked a big lunch and we invited him to eat.
As he sat down he asked if this was preacher food. I had to have him explain what that was and he said over the years people would ask him to join them for a meal and when he would express any concern about being an imposition they would say, “Oh come on and join us because if you don’t eat it we will just throw it out anyway.” He said that was Preacher Food and was not worth anything, it seems, and he said sarcastically that always made him really feel special.
He had many personal problems in his life and I’m not sure he died a happy man but he had a hidden talent. He had a secret recipe for cooking chicken on a barbeque grill!
The church had a barbeque pit like device made out of concrete blocks that sat at the edge of the church yard. In fact the grill is still there today. He kept saying we should have a barbeque, invite the community and sell barbeque chicken plates. He said he had a mouthwatering recipe. He talked several of the older guys into helping and some had experience at the Masonic lodge, etc. A lot of people pitched in. James Gordon, Jim Jones, Jimmy Williams, and some of us younger guys assisted but the Preacher was in charge.
The Preacher had his secret recipe sauce and they were swabbing down the dozens of chickens that were spread out over the hot coals on the large home made grill. After a few minutes, a lot of sampling and tasting was going on. The chickens started getting done and people were showing up to get theirs and people were chowing down. The preacher had said people would eat two chickens because they would be so good. And they did. The old men and old ladies loved the chicken. The young adults loved the chicken. The kids loved the chicken and everyone had seconds and thirds!
I don’t know how many times this was carried out. But one day in June, the Preacher’s time had come to go. But there was one thing left to do: pass on his secret sauce recipe to a member of the church. Then, they found out what made his chicken so good and so secret: it was the wine!
While many of the folks wouldn’t have touched that chicken with a ten foot fork had they known it had wine in it, but they had no trouble gobbling it down without the knowledge. They found out why people ate so much and came back for more: it was the wine! “What you don’t know”, you know. But some secrets are meant to be just that: a secret. Maybe it’s no secret anymore.
I don’t know if there was ever another chicken barbeque at the Methodist Church since that preacher left. But the ones he did were to be remembered. And, after all, it was preacher food with a secret ingredient. Good chicken swabbed in good wine and served with love! It was real Preacher Food.