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Behind the Scenes at the Community Church

Behind the Scenes at the Community Church
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Welcome to the June 2007 edition of “Jud’s New England Journal,” the rather curious monthly musings of Judson Hale, editor-in-chief of Yankee Magazine, published for over 70 years in Dublin, New Hampshire.

This month “Jud’s New England Journal” is brought to you by The New England Quarterly: Publishing the history of our region for eight decades. Come explore the past from new perspectives.

Behind the Scenes at the Community Church

Some things that happen here just aren’t included in one’s local church or town history. For example …

The minister of the local church is usually a central figure in a small New England town, closely observed by everyone. And sometimes that also applies to his wife (or her husband, as the case may be). Vivid in my own memory, for instance, is a particular minister’s wife who, as it turned out, happened to be observed more carefully than most.

She was a handsome woman and very concerned about health, eating the correct foods, exercising, and so forth. She also felt that the sun’s rays are important to the well-being of one’s body. So during the summer, beginning usually in June, she would sunbathe in a well-hidden area behind the church parsonage, often without a stitch of clothing on.

About a quarter of a mile up the hill from the parsonage was the only garage and gas station, which, in those days, served as a meeting place for male townspeople after four o’clock. A few beers were consumed, and the day was reviewed.

I would happen over there on occasion and was, therefore, a witness to a harmless little ritual that started quite by accident one early June afternoon and was then deliberately continued off and on for the rest of the summer. It began when someone in the group used the wall telephone in the garage to call the minister on some matter then under discussion.

The minister wasn’t there. The caller let the phone ring a number of times in case he was outside. He wasn’t. But his wife was. And suddenly someone in the group caught a fleeting, distant glimpse of her running for the parsonage back door — stark naked!

Well, several days later at the garage gathering, the consensus was (its being a bright, sunny afternoon) that the minister ought to be telephoned. If he was there, the caller would ask whether or not a church supper was being planned for that month, or some such, and if he wasn’t there … well, let it ring for a while, because he might be outside.

This time everyone caught a fleeting, distant glimpse of a stark-naked lady racing for the parsonage’s back door. When she answered the phone, the caller left an unimportant message for her husband.

I believe it was several weeks before someone brought a pair of binoculars to the garage gathering. That someone, as I recall, was none other than one of the church deacons, and it was that very same church deacon who, after the minister and his wife divorced several years later, eventually became her second husband.

Too bad that church histories and annual reports seldom, if ever, include the romantic stories of small-town church life …

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Behind the Scenes at the Community Church

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