Note: I am doing a short series of postings about a few of the more memorable church services I have witnessed. These entries took place years ago, and they are taken from my private journal.
I am embarrassed to admit it, but there was a time, years ago, when I thought about becoming a preacher. My idea, back then, was that my sermons would focus on telling stories from the Bible. Well… that was then. As the saying goes, “time changes everything”, and given my current heresies, it is probably a blessing to believers that I did not persist in pursuing the pulpit. In any event, one Sunday in 1995, I happened to hear a fellow whose idea of a Bible lesson was very close to what I imagined (at the time) that I would do, given the chance.
15 January 1995 Sunday
This morning I heard a fellow at Southwest Central Church of Christ in Houston who is doing Bible story-telling from the pulpit. J. G. “Paw-Paw” Pinkerton is a visiting story-teller from Stamford, Connecticut where he is an elder in their local congregation. His card says he is “a grandfather who tells old and original stories for all ages, all occasions, anytime, anywhere!”
He is a rather round fellow, and balding. What hair he has is wavy and gray. He’d make a good Santa, except he doesn’t have a beard. Wears suspenders and a string tie. The slide in the string tie has two paw prints on it, meaning his name. There were two strings in the tie, representing his two kids. Each string had three short strings on the end, about an inch long each. These represent his six grandchildren – 3 boys and 3 girls. Another grandchild is expected soon, so I guess he’ll have to add another short string. As we talked, one old lady said to him, “Well, I hope your next grandchild is a boy, because boys have an easier life.” I wonder what her story is!
He began telling personal and family stories about 12 years ago, after he saw a magazine article about storytelling. Now he says his mission is to get the church to telling its stories again.
Pinkerton told three Bible stories this morning. The first was from John 9, where Jesus heals the blind man. The next was Elijah and the prophets af Baal told from the point of view of Elijah’s servant. The last was the prodigal son told from a neighbor’s point of view. Sometimes his delivery was too fast and too folksy. But the main thing is that he was telling Bible stories, and that kind of teaching is a vanishing art anywhere, especially in churches.