Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Mormons of Cloverdale. Devotion with Character

The Cloverdale Seventh Day Adventist / LDS Mormon Church

Everything is done somewhat differently here in the Confederacy of Dunces. I guess you might say that life is never dull. Take going to church for example. I enjoy going to church in the Cloverdale LDS (Mormon) Branch during my ‘regain my sanity’ weekends away from The Other World. I think 'Mormonism Lite' is the best way to describe this unique form of worship. Church is held in the Seventh Day Adventist chapel. The Adventists go to church on Saturday, making their building available for Mormons to rent on Sundays for a reasonable rent.

Church officially starts at 10:00 A.M., although many members come early to socialize. It’s like a religious, tale gate pre-worship party, held outdoors on the church green in the summers and indoors in the church’s hall in the winters (except on Fast Sundays). Its a pot luck event. Members bring whatever they want and share. Normally you’d expect tea and coffee at a church function like this. That is if Mormonism was a normal religion. Instead you’ll find hot chocolate and a variety of juices and milk. Sister Lang’s treats are the ones you Christianly fight over. Sister Lang works at Moss’ Wonderland Bakery. Mr. Moss lets her take the day old pastries and cakes home with her when she leaves late Saturday afternoons at store's closing. The Branch's two deacons wait in the parking lot to ‘help’ her out of her car. She rewards them handsomely for their self serving kindness with decadent Double Fudge Twice Frosted Double Decker Brownies. The boy's mothers bring spare shirts just in case the slobbering becomes unmanageable.

The hour long, pre-meeting mixer, allows you to socialize with people that care about you and - I’m afraid to admit - your business. That is to be expected in a small village. In exchange, you get to hear everyone else’s business. The members are careful and cautious when it comes to people's private business. There is a line and they rarely cross it.

Nina Mitchell is a Seventh Day Adventist and the LDS Branch Organist. She
volunteered to play for the Mormons on Sundays after discovering no one in the branch could play.

At 10:00 A.M. Sacrament Meeting begins. There are usually twenty to thirty in attendance. The Branch President and his councilors refuse to sit on the stand for several reasons. First, they are older gentlemen and have a tendency to drift off during the talks. Secondly, they want to sit with their families. “Why do I want to sit up there and let everyone stare at me?” the Branch President says. “Besides, I like to look at the faces of the people speaking, not the back of their heads.” The presiding member rises from the congregation and walks to the pulpit to make announcements. The Branch President also refuses to be served the Sacrament first. He won't give his reasons because he feels it may offend the District President who seems to enjoy sitting on the stand when he visits from Capital City and does expect to be served the Sacrament first.

The Branch’s two deacons serve the Sacrament. One boy is your traditional Utah variety deacon. He wears the white shirt and the poorly tied tie that hangs down well below his belt. Many fear if it were a bit lower he’d trip over it sending the bread or water all over the floor. I feel it is inevitable - a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Payton Pills, A Deacon with Style wearing his Ordination Tie
(the shirt is buttoned nearly to the top up during Sacrament. Whew!)

The other deacon is my favorite. His name is Payton Pills. He and his mother joined the church six months ago. Payton is a good boy through and through. He is as honest as a day is long and never swears. He is the man of the house and takes his role seriously. He protects his mother and does his best to help her as she raises the family alone. Payton is a character. I don’t know how else to describe him. He refuses to conform in areas he feels are personal choice - clothes for instance. Before he was ordained a deacon by the Branch President, Payton made it clear he wouldn’t wear a white shirt or tie. “Does God really care what I wear?” he asked. The Branch President realized Payton’s stubbornness could be his religious downfall or a blessing for a struggling Branch. He was popular at school and stood up for his new religious beliefs. The Branch President worried that if he fought this battle with Payton, the Branch could lose him.

The night before his ordination the Branch President and his wife invited the Pills to their home for supper. During dessert a deal was struck. Payton agreed to wear a tie. That was it. The Branch President left the rest to God.

Today Payton wears a tie and buttons up his black shirt when he passes the sacrament. As soon as he's done he unbuttons the first two buttons "so he can breath". I admire his attitude. He is the kind of boy any organization would both love and hate. That makes him a character. I really enjoy watching the faces of the District leaders when they visit from Capital City. Their look of shock and horror when they see Payton passing the Sacrament is priceless. Yes, there have been sharp exchanges of opinion held after church in the President’s office but the Branch President always wins the day. He insists that Payton be left alone. He reminds the District President that Payton is a good boy and everyone knows you have to pick your battles carefully when it comes to teenagers.

The Branch President calls members to leadership positions. That isn’t unusual. It happens every Sunday worldwide. What makes this Branch President different is his method of filling other positions in the Branch. His style is more a matching service between needs and talents. A portable bulletin board is set up in the hallway. On one half are the Branch announcements. The other lists open ‘callings’ with a note asking interested members to make an appointment to meet with the Branch President. If there are no eligible volunteers then members are brought in and ‘asked’ if they would be kind enough to volunteer. The key word in this branch is volunteer. “Its all about free agency,” the Branch President says. “Sometimes I need to apply a bit of pressure but most of the time someone will step up and fill a need There is no guilt and no shame. I’m not calling you I’m asking you to volunteer your time and talents in the service of your fellow man and God.”

A visit to the Cloverdale Branch is a delight. The members are happy. They sing hymns with enthusiasm. They work in their callings with dedication and what’s most important, they truly love each other no matter their individual circumstances. “Every soul is precious,” is the theme preached from this pulpit.

My hat is off to you my Cloverdale brothers and sisters.

1 comment:

  1. This is the best branch in the world, I want to join!