Friday, November 25, 2022

Clayton and Krystal: Judging a book by its cover

A few women drifted out of the door to visit their vehicles.

Another woman slid a box from beneath the table by the sink and pulled out a gallon of water and two coffee makers. Noticing that Krystal was watching, the woman explained “The water here is hard enough to pound nails into an oak plank. Coffee tastes better when made with soft water.”

Within a minute a pot of Columbian “leaded” and de-caf were gurgling.

The two women came back from their trip to the parking lot. One carried a foil-covered sheet cake. The other carried in a tray of coffee-cakes on a cookie-sheet.

Alice and Krystal were centers of attention. Janet volunteered to be Krystal’s wing-man and did the introductions. Alice, unencumbered by Krystal, mingled on her own.

Betty, the woman who brought in the sheet-cake was the first person Janet introduced Krystal to. “Hi Betty. This is Krystal. Her house burned down and her family is living with Ed and Alice while they get back on their feet.”

“Oh dear! That is terrible” Betty exclaimed.

“It could have been worse. At least we were not in the house when it happened and Clayton was able to salvage his tools” Krystal said, fudging the time-table a bit.

“Tools?” Betty asked. “Does he work with his hands?”

“Yes” Krystal said with a sparkle in her eyes. “Clayton is what you call ‘handy’. He can do about anything with his hands if he sets his mind to it.”

“My goodness. It is good to have people like that moving back to Lolium.” Betty asserted.

Krystal glowed. It was so unlike her family who disparaged anybody who was not doing “something on the Web”. Here, Clayton was valued for who he was.

“And she has a baby” Judy added.

Hearing that, the woman placing the coffee cake on the table turned and introduced herself. “Hello! My name is Cecelia. Please, bring your baby the next time you visit our church.”

“Oh, I couldn’t. She is teething and can be fussy” Krystal said.

“Tosh!” Betty said. “We have all had children and grandchildren. Some of us are have great-grand children. You will probably have to fight to pry the little darling out of our arms.”

In very short order, Krystal found herself with a paper plate with a slice of pecan, brown sugar, cinnamon and cardamom coffee-cake and a slab of German Chocolate cake with a ½ inch thick slab of rich, home-made frosting troweled on top of it. The weight of the treats required two-hands lest the plate collapse. Judy had to carry her coffee cup for her.

Janet helped her back to her chair where Krystal savored the delectable “its only Bisquick” coffee cake and the rich cake. It gave her a chance to listen to the women chatter and bring each other up-to-date on what was happening in the community.

It seemed but a minute for her to eat every last crumb and to exchange pleasantries with the women when Alice’s phone rang. It was Ed. “When are you coming home? Its almost lunchtime!”

Alice playfully rolled her eyes. “I guess it is time for us to go. Ed forgot where the refrigerator is.”

The other women chuckled in appreciation. At least Alice HAD a husband. Several of the women were widows.

Walking out of the door, Krystal found herself carrying a foil covered paper plate and if her nose was any guide, it held massive samples of left-over cake and coffee-cake.

Krystal counted it as a rousing success. She felt far more plugged into the community. She had several phone-numbers and offers to watch Mattie if she needed baby-sitting services.

“Well, what did you think?” Alice asked on the ride home.

“It was marvelous. I have never experienced anything like it. Too bad it is closing” Krystal said.

“What! What did you hear?” Alice asked, alarmed. This was news to her.

“I didn’t hear anything” Krystal said. “But it just makes sense. There were only about a dozen people there and I can’t see how they can pay the bills to keep the place open.”

That gave Alice a much needed belly-laugh. When she finally regained her breath (Alice not being a tiny woman) she said “I needed that.”

“How much do you think it costs to keep that church open?” Alice asked.

“Well, you have to pay the preacher and rent and the lights and taxes” Krystal said. She knew a little bit about businesses.

“And everybody there is just SO poor” Krystal said.

“What do you think the preacher is paid?” Alice asked.

“I dunno” Krystal said, unconsciously mimicking Alice’s manner of speech. “Maybe $50-to-$60 thousand a year. That would be at least a thousand dollars a week”.

“What if I told you Preacher Mike works full-time as a Diesel Mechanic and preaches as an unpaid sideline?” Alice said. “He feels it is something he is called to do. If you ask him, he will point out that Paul sewed tents while spreading the Gospel and he doesn’t feel he should accept anything Paul didn’t.”

Krystal said, “Well, labor is the most expensive part of running a business. But what about the rent. That much space in Lansing would be at LEAST $500 a month.”

“The next time we visit I will show you the signage by the parking lot” Alice said.

“The church in part of a county park and the Historical Society is proud of the fact that the church has been in continuous operation since 1886. They rent it to us for a dollar a year” Alice said.

“Doesn’t the ALCU get bent out of shape by that?” Krystal asked.

“I am pretty sure nobody asked them for their opinion" Alice said. "The park rents the church out to the Historical Society to manage and the Historical Society rents it out to us.”

“And besides, what gives you the impression that we are all so poor?” Alice asked.

Krystal blushed. “I don’t know. Maybe the clothes the women were wearing and the old cars and trucks?” She really hadn’t given it any thought.

“Well, a few of them do have to watch their pennies” Alice said. “But there are a few of them that own at least a section of farm-land, free-and-clear. One of them owns almost four sections.”

“Is that a lot?” Krystal asked.

Alice shot Krystal a glance. It was a serious question.

“A section is a square-mile, 640 acres” Alice said.

“Is that worth much?” Krystal asked.

“Depends on the market. Prime Michigan farmland don’t hold a candle to prime Ohio or Iowa land, but some of it went to auction last month and got $6500 an acre” Alice said.

Alice could see the gears turning in Krystal’s head. “What is that, like a million dollars a section?” Krystal asked at last.

“That is 4 million a section” Alice said.

The rest of the drive home was silent.

Next Installment


  1. I'll say it out loud "Don't believe in paid preacher as a profession". It makes for a sterile group not really living Faith. A good retired one was making $100,000 but also "farmed" so he had writeoffs, and his wife helped. The new one is getting $120,000 just to get him in the door. Uninspiring as a leader. His wife doesn't help "You hired him, not me." Even the good retired one lost some personality when he stopped taking prayer requests, stopped encouraging audience participation.
    Other local church experienced lead pastor, left after caught in affair with church secretary. The elder marriage guidance pastor, left when caught in affair. Another "new" church in a warehouse, the pastor was convicted skimming from the till.
    Some buddies explained their choices in career "I could do this, or be a pastor. Once you learn to fake sincerity, you can get away with anything." They chose to do other.

    1. Watch out for anyone who gets into preaching for the money...

      Having said that, many churches are working to raise salaries because everything has gotten so expensive, and a good worker is worth it, whatever his profession.

      The author is right that costs are likely lower than they appear, especially outside of cities. Many churches are paid for and have relatively low market value because of charitable group asset rules, and there are ways to keep utilities reasonable even now.

    2. Theres a fellow here that fits that bill. Good speaker, very engaging, I'll give him that, but total hypocrite.
      Begs for money for church programs, wears new outfit to every Sunday. Kids are in school with mine, all 4 of his (yes, 4!) - latest iPhones, Nike, etc. Lives in a lakefront home, has 2 boats, vacations, drives a brand new Suburban... But I need to give more? He was caught having an affair at his other church before he moved here. She committed suicide after. I truly hope and pray there is a God and he gets to meet him.
      THIS, is why I am against organized religion. You can give whatever reason you want, but very few of the preachers I have met are men of the cloth. Those that are however, I have always treated with respect and reverence.

    3. I don't attend church because I don't need an interlocutor between me and God
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  2. I had a number of great aunts who were widowed, an aunt, both grandmothers and likely other female relatives as well. As things get harder, I wonder how women in that position will fare?

  3. None of the several churches I have attended in the last 30 years had a paid minister. Paul set an excellent example. A minister is supposed to serve the flock, not fleece the flock.

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  5. My paternal uncle was a Baptist Preacher that worked at odd jobs his tentmaking his entire life. One could never question his devotion.

    I have been on the other side, where preachers are paid (keep in mind Paul's admonition that the oxen is worthy of its grain). Some were great, some were not great.

    It has less to do with paid or not paid and more to do their understanding of and relationship to God.

    The after church gathering sounds very very familiar (especially the older women portion - I have been a beneficiary of such women). And yes, there is a preconception by many who are not from the country that wealth is only measured in bank accounts and investment accounts.