Near the conclusion of another spirit-filled communion Sunday at Grace Baptist Church on a beautiful spring day, Reverend Cousins stood, wiped the sweat from his face, smiled then exclaimed,
" God is good!"
" All the time! , the congregation replied.
" And all the time!", Reverend Cousins bellowed.
" God is good! , we shouted back. Reverend Cousins is a bear of a man, a gentle giant if you will. His deep voice, firm handshakes, drooping eyelids, Christian warmth and kindness are what define him. Approaching the back end of his sixties, and a little slower now in step and speech, he's the only pastor Grace Baptist has ever known.
" My Lord! Now before we dismiss, and if all minds are clear, I want to welcome back our very own Brantley Wilkerson II. God has delivered him back to us, safe and sound from seminary. And I'm told he's brought a friend home with him. Why don't you step up here son, and say a few words." I took to the podium and said, " Good afternoon church. First and foremost I want to thank God for all my blessings. I'm grateful for Him bringing me through seminary because without Him, and my friend Tucker here, I probably wouldn't have graduated. And since Tucker's unchurched, I invited him to come worship with us to see if he'd like to join our family. Come on up here Tucker, and introduce yourself to the congregation."
" Good afternoon saints, I'm Tucker Wakefield, Brantley's friend, and like he said, we met at seminary. You'll be proud to know, from the moment we met until now, all he talked about was Grace Baptist Church. He told me how the Holy Spirit fills this house. He also told me about Reverend Cousins' powerful and moving sermons. He also spoke about the kind, caring and genuine Christian fellowship here. And from what I've witnessed today, he undersold it. It's far better than I could have imagined! I lost my parents when I was five, and have no other family I know of. Family means everything to me, especially since I grew up in foster and group homes. So if you'll have me, I'd love to cast my lot with y'all and be a part of this great family!" The entire congregation stood and applauded as the Pastor pulled Tucker into a bear hug and formally welcomed him into our fold. After the benediction, the congregation did the same. They were so move by Tucker's speech, he received countless invitations for supper and lodging. But in the end, he decided to stay with me and my mother, Lois..
As the crowd dispersed, my fiancee' Viola joined me. Beautiful, kind and a bit naive, she's Pastor's and Ms. Annie's only child. Reverend Cousins is planning to retire at the year's end. With the backing of the trustee board, he'll appoint his successor. Since I'm his son-in-law to be, I have the inside track. Our union has been forecasted by our parents since we were kids. And though I love and care about Viola dearly, I feel we lack the necessary passion and chemistry to sustain our union over the long haul. Nevertheless, I'll marry her still. I readily admit my wandering eye usually holds sway to temptation's door. I have no doubt Viola's going to be an excellent wife and mother. I'll keep praying for God to deliver me from my transgressions, with the hope I can someday be the husband she deserves. I've yet to own up to, or be called to the carpet for any of my sins. All my life, I've flown by the seat of my pants, relying on charm and wit, and help from others to deflect the trouble I've found myself in over the years.
After meeting and glad-handing with the congregation, Tucker joined Viola and I in the vestibule near the sanctuary's entrance. Since I hadn't introduced them yet, I believed now was the right time.
" Brantley, you were right, I love this church. the folks here are so warm and kind, this is home now."
" I'm so happy to hear that. Tucker, this is my fiancee', Ms. Viola Cousins."
" Pleased to meet you Viola, it's an honor."
" Likewise Tucker, the pleasure's all mine. Thank you for helping my baby make it through seminary."
" Oh, it was nothing, he did the work himself. I merely pointed out a couple of things here and there."
" Baby, don't let him fool you, he was a tremendous help."
" Well thank you just the same Tucker, and welcome to our family."
" Thank you Viola, I'm grateful to be here."
" Baby, an idea just hit me. Since Mama and Daddy will be out visiting the sick and shut-in, why don't we eat out today?"
" Ok Sweetie, sounds good to me. How about you Tucker, what do you say?"
" Sounds good Bro, but I'll probably accept one of the many supper invitations I received. Besides, you've been away for a while, go spend some quality time with your fiancee'. I'd just feel like a third wheel. Two's company, and three's a crowd you know." Viola's eyes lit up the way they do when she's excited or has an idea. " Ooh, I know! What if I invited Jada to come with us? She's up in the office. Why don't I go get her?"
" Ok, but remember what I said about matchmaking."
" Who's matchmaking , we're only going out for a bite to eat. It's not like they're going to meet and elope or something."
" Ok, go on and get her, I just don't want you starting in on Tucker. He hasn't been here a whole day yet, and you're already trying to marry him off."
" Aw, it's ok Brantley, I don't mind. Besides, like Viola said, it's only supper."
And with that, Viola happily skipped down the hall to fetch her best friend.