'Rock of Ages,' draft for me

Sometimes things that you don’t normally think of as going together actually complement each other quite well.

By Amy Butler

When I was little my mom would occasionally leave us for an evening in the sole care of my father, who was tasked with the dinnertime routine for five kids. To keep things interesting, Dad would try to come up with some kind of unconventional dinner offering on the nights he cooked.

Sometimes, I’m sorry to report, his experiments were not successful. One of his creations, however, became a dining classic around our house.

The first time we were served Dad’s peanut-butter-and-bacon sandwiches we, predictably, turned up our noses. After the required first bite, however, we were hooked. Try them if you don’t believe me. You’ll see.

My father’s solution to the family dinner dilemma has stuck with me all these years, because it taught me that sometimes things you think should never appear in a sandwich at the same time -- or in life simultaneously -- can be surprisingly wonderful together.

I was reminded of this just last week, when our church community prepared to ordain a member of our congregation to the gospel ministry. Candidates who go through the ordination process here follow a fairly time-consuming and rigorous process. They spend many months in writing papers, meeting with ordination council members, discussing issues with the pastor and meeting recognition requirements of national denominational bodies.

By last week, the ordination committee had done its work. The staff had planned the service down to the last detail. The newly minted ordination certificate complete with shiny gold embossed seal was ready to go. The only thing left to do was to plan a party, so we asked what kind of party our ordinand would like to have.

“Beer and hymns,” she said.

“Beer and hymns?” we asked.

Yes, beer, the kind you drink, and hymns, the songs you sing in church, all together in one great big wonderful ordination party.

Although an event including beer and hymns together was not featured in any church programming plan I had ever heard of, our ordinand experienced just such an event last year at a gathering for Christians from all different denominations. She assured us that -- just like the peanut-butter-and-bacon sandwiches that became a favorite of my dad’s culinary repertoire -- beer and hymns go together very well.

I wasn’t sure how such a party would work, and I confess I became slightly concerned when it was determined the best place to hold such a gathering was on the pastor’s front lawn. I labored over the wording to the neighborhood listserv: “As many of you know I am the pastor of a church. Just to let you know, we’re having a church party Saturday night…on my front lawn…with beer and hymns. We’ll try not to be too loud or rowdy?”

When church folk started arriving, it was clear that everyone was happy to be celebrating a new minister and, most of all, happy to be together. Despite the fact that our gathering took place on one of D.C.’s hottest days to date, folks gamely dragged up their folding chairs, laid down picnic blankets and settled in for the evening.

Everyone passed around old Baptist hymnals from the church storage closet. Children ran through the sprinkler, giggling with the fun of it all. Watermelon was cut and iced, and yes, there was cold beer for anybody who wanted some.

To get the ball rolling, our amateur and enthusiastic musicians led us in some old favorites. After warm ups, folks started calling out favorite hymns, clapping enthusiastically to “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” “I’ll Fly Away” and other stirring classics. And even when it got too dark to see the words to verse five of, say, “Praise the Lord, the King of Heaven,” they just ad-libbed or hummed along. Everybody who came had fun, whether they were teetotalers or tone-deaf.

Beer and hymns together: Who knew?

After last Saturday night I feel sure we’ll have another beer and hymns party, maybe even on the pastor’s front lawn again. The truth is, sometimes the most unusual things can go so well together, drawing people into sacred community, creating love-filled memories, celebrating life-changing events, laying one more brick in the shared foundation of who we are: the people of God, together.

OPINION: Views expressed in ABPnews/Herald columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.