Pennies in my handkerchief
I don’t believe a Sunday morning has passed in decades that my mind hasn’t returned to the stained-glass sanctuary of the Promise City United Methodist Church. For our little farming area, that sacred space on Highway 2 with its welcoming classrooms and big-kitchened basement was the focal point of family connection, community fellowship and legendary food.
Soup-and-pie suppers, ice cream socials, mid-winter fish fries. The groaning tables of the annual God’s Portion Sale.Oh, yeah and amen.
The peaceful worship area was filled with wonder for small children whose attention spans had yet to be stretched-and-stapled by adult responsibilities. There was the dome, echoing the sky, itself. The Seth Thomas clock, ticking strong and steady, just like the Iowa farmers in the pews. The baptismal pool, something of a mystery in a church still practicing immersion after the denomination moved on to sprinkling. And our architectural wonder of wonders: the gently sloping hardwood floor canted at the perfect angle for shooting a single penny down to the altar, into the massive forced-air grate and spiraling through the vent work into the furnace below.
On occasion, those pennies were dropped by accident.
More often, they were strategically set in motion by the fun-loving boys who filled the back pew.
Now, I am not accusing my ever-grinning cousin Ron Thompson and his pals Gary Lord, Don Carpenter and David Tuttle of coin-careening. But the incidence (or would that be coin-cidence?) did seem to rise when these guys gathered. As did the giggles from the congregation as we waited for the fantastic sound effects.
Click. Whir-whir-whir. Clang-clang-clang. Silence.
A pretty good return on investment for a single copper.
Our mom was not a fan of penny ante. Which probably explains why my coins for the Sunday School offering were tied in the corner of my handkerchief for many years. My sister Marilyn will tell you that it was she who struggled to get it untied on my behalf when the plate was passed, and that the task wasn’t made any easier by the fact that either my slobber or sweat had often tightened the knot into semi-permanence.
But as I tell her, blest be the tie that binds.