Ecumenical Experiences

Through my connections as a Scout Executive in the Steuben Council territory and membership in the Hornell Area Ministers Association numbers of invitations came during my Second Alfred pastorate to preach in area churches. For reasons I cannot explain, many of these preaching appointments were in Presbyterian churches. New York State communities in whose churches I served included: Hornell, Arkport, Canisteo, Cohocton, Hammondsport and several rural or smaller community churches. There were times when the $25.00 remuneration I normally received saved us from serious financial straits.

I was privileged to preach for the Presbyterian Church in Arkport for several months while they searched for a minister. During that period the Arkport town clerk and I became fast friends. He was an avid ruffed grouse hunter and I enjoyed hosting him in a thrilling hunt near Alfred Station. He hunted with the most beautiful shotgun I have ever seen. It was a Scot and Wembley British made twelve gauge, double-barreled shotgun that was artistically engraved on the breech with water bird scenes. A gold cross was inlayed in the trigger guard. The gun may have once been owned by an English clergyman. My town clerk friend gave me a book I prize highly titled, NEW ENGLAND GROUSE SHOOTING, by William Harnden Foster. The illustrations are superb. Alas, this good Presbyterian’s name eludes me now.

Christmas was celebrated in the Arkport church while I was serving them and they asked me to have our four year old Ann participate in their church school program. In just one week Madeline taught Anne the lovely Christmas poem, If Bethlehem Were Here Today. Anne stood in front of this congregation who were strangers to her and quoted the poem perfectly and with excellent expression to a point where, struck with momentary fright, she turned to Madeline in the choir and said, “Mommy?” With one word of prompting from her mother, she completed reciting the poem flawlessly. We were proud parents.

A teacher, Margery Darcy, in the congregation of the Presbyterian church in Cohocton, New York where I was substituting for several weeks, asked me to assist her Hammondsport church Pastor in performing her marriage ceremony on Good Friday evening, April 11, 1941. She asked that I have them exchange their vows and pronounce them “Man and wife”. The wedding would be in the Hammondsport Presbyterian church.

I accepted Margery’s invitation, making it clear that her Pastor, Rev. Bill Perry, whom I knew, must invite me to assist him in the ceremony. On Bill’s invitation, Madeline and I drove to Hammondsport, forty miles or more, and checked in Pastor Perry for instructions on how we would proceed. He went through the ceremony we would use with me, explaining that we would pass the service book between us as we shared in the ceremony.

The ceremony was conducted on the sanctuary level below the pulpit and when the little flower girl processed she passed us and continued on to the pulpit and organ level. As we moved into the ceremony, passing the book between us, the flower girl walked across the bass pedals of the pipe organ. Pastor Perry almost lost the service book and his glasses. When the organ sounded out a second time with the little girl’s crossing, we were prepared.

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