By Kevin Slimp
As April moved aside for May 1998, the good folks of Lennox Valley had no idea how their world was about to change on Monday, May 4.
On Talk Radio 88.3’s “Rendering With Raymond,” callers were equally divided between two topics of vital importance.
The first had to do with a book published a few months earlier that was all the rage among Lennox Valley teens. “Harry Potter,” barked the first caller, Martha Jean Bratton, was “of the devil” and “has no place in the hands of any self-respecting young person.” Host Raymond Cooper felt certain, he told his listeners, that enthusiasm for this “Potter character” would wane soon enough.
As for the second critical topic, the plight of the Federal Reserve System, which took up much of the next three hours, Raymond felt less confident. Especially with “insiders” like Iris Long fanning the flames in support of the government. Raymond noted, with a sly grin not seen by his listeners, that the Hofbrau had raised the price of a Denver omelette from $3.25 to $3.29 over the weekend, more proof of the havoc resulting from federal mismanagement.
The big news of May 4 didn’t happen until 3:10 that afternoon, just after the show went off the air. That’s when Diane Curtis, chair of the Lennox Valley Methodist Church Pastor/Parish Committee, received a call from Rev. James Whedbee, Springfield district superintendent. Methodists, you see, don’t select their own ministers like most Protestant churches. Their pastors are assigned by bishops and word is sent to the individual congregations through district superintendents.
“Mrs. Curtis,” began the soft-voiced superintendent, “I’m calling with good news. After prayerful consideration, we have selected a new pastor for Lennox Valley.”
Diane had been on pins and needles for weeks, wondering who the new pastor would be. Like everyone else at the Methodist Church, she hoped for a powerful orator, with a strong singing voice and, if the Lord felt especially gracious, a wife who played piano. Reverend Vickers had been very popular during his three years, but in a congregation as small as Lennox Valley, three years was about as long as ministers stayed before they were sent to a larger congregation.
“The Reverend Sarah Hyden-Smith is being appointed to Lennox Valley,” Reverend Whedbee uttered before continuing, “and her first Sunday will be June 14.”
There was a long pause before Diane responded, “Did you say ‘Sarah?”
The district superintendent mentioned that Diane’s committee should start making plans to welcome the new pastor.
“Perhaps a potluck meal after her first service,” he suggested tacitly. “Some music might be nice. Maybe someone could play piano,” he added.
Wisely, Diane held back from responding with her first instinct, “I’m guessing the new pastor’s wife doesn’t play piano.” Instead, she replied, “Yes, I suppose we should.”
As Diane Curtis, hung up the phone, Iris Long, editor of The Lennox Valley Hometown News, penned what she thought would be her next front page story. Like much in Lennox Valley, that was about to change.