Church Characters #1: Frances

Dixie Carter played Julia Sugarbaker on the series “Designing Women” She declared in one scene, “I’m saying this is the south. And we’re proud of our crazy people. We don’t hide them in the attic. We bring ‘em right down to the living room and show ‘em off!”

I recall many characters from country churches who personified Ms. Carter’s statement. During a series entitled “Church Characters,” I’m recalling some memorable people from decades of ministry.

Frances belonged to Emory Chapel Methodist near Newnan, Georgia. In her youth, she played the piano at the local theater for silent movies. The elderly matriarch still played at the church on occasion, but the notes oozed like cold molasses in wintertime. A single hymn could last one-third of the service.

I often visited Frances at home with her husband, John. The vain man never wore his hearing aids, so I shouted over the TV. My hostess served sweet tea in dirty glasses while an oscillating fan stirred the musty air.

The couple owned an ornery Chihuahua named Peanut. The mutt took an instant disliking to me. During one pastoral visit, the canine terrorist hiked his leg and baptized my ankle.

Both Frances and John died during my five years at Emory Chapel. Peanut sadly survived.

I sat beside Frances’ hospital bed days before her death. She squeezed my hand tightly and said, “When I die, you tell them at the funeral that I’ve gone on to my glory!”

She did, and I did. Glory hallelujah. Amen.   

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