Robert Hitt Neill column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Church antics activate funny bone

Your Uncle Bob has spent a lifetime (so far) involved in church and church-related work, and while most of it has been just as inspiring as that type service ought to be, there have been times when it was as much fun as a barrel of monkeys!  

Sometimes I think that non-Christians have as their image of religious folks that cartoon of the farm couple with the pitchfork: dour, or really, sour facial expressions depicting suffering and disapproval of the world in general. Nothing could be further from the truth, in my humble opinion.

One of my earliest memories of church was when a bunch of us Presbyterian boys had lost most of our marbles – literally! – to Ed Wood in the churchyard during the interval between Sunday School and church.

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He had a new steelie taw, and we lost ‘em fair and square, more than enough to bulge Ed’s pockets, which he patted braggingly on the back row of the sanctuary afterward. However, our ensuing activity displaced a whole pocketful of marbles, and the floors under the pews were not only wooden, but slanted downward toward the pulpit, where the pastor stood delivering the sermon.

In retrospect, it does seem like Seminary professors would cover such incidents, so that preachers would not be so severely distracted as ours got that day. We boys all got painful licks from our daddies and uncles before we left the sanctuary that Sabbath, but for the rest of our lives, that recollection caused knee-slapping mirth among us and our elders.

Turkey season is rapidly approaching as I write this, and that particular Presbyterian parson used to do his best work when the Boy Pew was relatively empty, during turkey season and deer season!

Easter is also rapidly approaching, and during my stint as a Baptist Youth Minister, we used to make an annual trek to the Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Ark.

At the point when Herod’s soldiers are scourging the bound Christ, one of our older boys jumped to his feet and raced down the amphitheater steps toward the action, to intervene on the Side of Righteousness! Wesley and I caught Gene from behind and tackled him just before he jumped the rail to join the fray – I mean, some of Herod’s soldiers were already preparing to retreat from his charge!

I’ve worked in the Kairos Prison Ministry for nearly two decades now with never a qualm about witnessing to the men in striped britches, many of whom I have grown to be friends with. However, I was absolutely terrified the evening I attempted to leave the prison where I’d been for Kairos Prayer & Share hour, and the Gate Guard discovered a dynamite box in the back of my car!  Facing her drawn pistol, I blurted out, “Ma’am, there’s no dynamite in that box: it’s books!”

To which she responded, “Mister, there BETTER be dynamite in that box!  There better not be ONE STICK missing!”

I’ve never carried my books in dynamite boxes again, I guarantee!

The surest way to cure someone who eats onions before Choir practice is to always have a can of flat sardines in one’s pocket, and never be afraid to use it.

On the other hand, the best way to bring a weekly prayer meeting to an early close because everyone is in tears, is to eat hot peppers with your fingers just before cupping your face into your hands for earnest prayer time.

Suppose another Sunday school teacher has snagged your set of maps on the morning that the lesson deals with the wandering Hebrew Children and their troubles with the various native tribes? A lovely lady class member may be drafted to stand for territorial demonstrations with a pointer, but a teacher must be careful to keep the class focused on geographical concepts!

There is a new book just published about these and other type rib-tickling episodes in a lifetime of churchwork, by yours truly, Robert Hitt Neill.  You can order that for $25 + $5 S&H from P.O. Box 6, Stoneville, MS 38776, or by e-mailing to The Holy Ghost really does have a Funny Bone!