Members of the United Church congregations in Millbrook and Cavan were served for seven years by Reverend John Sloan, an amiable, sports-loving minister who had “been around”. He is still the Padre for the local legion, but has been retired for many years and now resides in Jackson Creek Retirement Home in Peterborough. He has taken to writing some of the more memorable stories from his long career, where he guided congregations in the US, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The following is an excerpt from his musings.
As I look back on some of my past experiences, I don’t know how I stumbled through them. Nothing in my text books or classes could guide me along these pathways. As I look back now, I’m calling them my “Out of pulpit experiences”.
Most people picture the minister as someone who stands in front of a church building on Sunday morning. That’s only part of it.
The other night, I watched a TV program that triggered an old experience from my past. I had just arrived at a large city church. I thought I was still very anonymous, so I thought I would browse around and see what was happening there.
That’s when I heard about their “mission project” that meant serving a hot lunch to “street people” every day. That seemed to be a good thing to checkout.
I had no trouble getting in line, and there I was, half way down the steam table when I heard a cheery voice chime out “Reverend Sloan, welcome to our mission!”
My cover was blown. I was ushered to a table. Conversations varied around the table. The one I turned into involved a quiet chap across the table. He had a familiar look about him.
After some prodding, I discovered that he and I had both been students at Western University and had taken some of the same classes.
The years had not been kind to him. He was now living with his mother. His habit was to come down to the “Mission” regularly to stretch his home expenses.
That was my only trip to the “Mission”. I have often thought about that experience. “There but for the grace of God go I”. You never know who will be sitting across the table from you.
My Easter with the Moravians
Several years ago, I represented the United Church at a conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Our host was the Moravian Church. After the conference came Easter weekend. A Moravian Family asked me to stay with them. When they discovered I could play a brass instrument, they asked me to join their brass band. I had played in bands in Gravenhurst, Ontario, and Lebret, Saskatchewan.
Easter celebrations were central to the Moravian faith. We went to Good Friday service and there they served communion Moravian style. The elements were rolls and coffee with the belief that a “North American Jesus” would choose local elements for communion. That was different.
Saturday was spent practicing an E flat bass horn that they had provided for me. Easter Sunday was the big day. Band members met for a predawn breakfast in a huge hall. Then, band members were divided into four bands and loaded on to four huge buses. Each band went to a different suburb of the city: North, South, East and West. From the suburbs, the band would play Easter carols in the dark of night. They would then begin to converge towards the center of the city.
The bands worked their way down the sides of the cemetery: East, West, North and South playing Easter carols back and forth. When the four bands reached the center of the huge cemetery the sun came up in a blaze of glory. Now the four bands were a single band and together they played “Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn”, and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”.
I was grouped with twenty other bass horns belting out our part. The hair on my head was standing up. It was like being part of the 76 trombones, 110 cornets, and 20 bass horns on Easter Morning.