“Doc” Schwartz was delighted this cloudy Sunday morning by the crowd of people gathered under the old poplar in front of the church steps. “Usually”, he said “there are only a few eager souls at church on the first Sunday. Then all the next week people keep asking if the first service was last Sunday. Oh, they say, I was afraid of that.” For this first service the pews were full. Grindstone Islanders were ready to get the summer started! Leon Rusho and Annie couch were there right in the pew they liked to sit in last year, and years and years before that.. Sadly, Sis Matthews is now down in the Alexandrai Bay nursing facility, where one of her grandchildren reminded us “We can go to see her sometime.” Skip and Nancy took care of her as long as they could, and we all thank them for that. We love Sis. And we will go see her.
The whole congregation was delighted to welcome Dick and Mary Petrie back to the parsonage. It makes a huge difference in the church to have the same minister come for several years in a row. We’ve gotten to know Dick and Mary, and they have made a tremendous effort to get to know us. Dick joins the breakfast crowd up at Erma’s almost every morning, and that is where all the real business of the island is carried on. If someone is sick, you learn how he or she is, and if there is something you can do to help. If you need a ride across the island, someone offers to take you; if you need a part for your car, someone can surely tell you where there is likely to be a derelict car to rob for just the part you need; if you wonder who that fellow was walking the road down by the schoolhouse, no doubt someone will tell you; if you are on your way to Clayton, you might end up with a list of things you might get... for several people...and so on. So Dick gets to know and even serve his parishioners down at Erma’s.
So they come to church on Sunday. A couple of dogs came too. And I was reminded of Nellie Dodge, the organist-post mistress all the old timers remember with nostalgia, whose old dog lay beside her, not disturbing any one, as she played the organ every Sunday. Someone asked if we were going to bless the animals.
And John Marks did tell an animal story before the worship service started this morning. As he was “getting reacquainted” with the organ last week, a black creature flew suddenly up to the turnbuckle. He was afraid it was a bat, but when it left the high perch and flew down to the altar, he could see that it was a bird, probably a swallow because it was wearing tails. John got up and looked to see if there was a door open, and then approached the altar to examine his companion. The little bird let him come very, very close. So close, in fact, that he slowly reached out and grasped the tiny bird in his hand. It squawked, and John took it to the door where it flew free up into the trees without so much as a “Thank you”. And John went back to his organ practice. Well, we didn’t bless the animals, but we were pleased that they are so much a part of our life on the island. We have lots of deer stories too! And racoon stories, at least one of those not so sweet. Coons are far too clever when they invade a house closed up for winter!
As we were thinking of the kind of mess we all often have to cleanup when we come back to the island in early summer, we looked around at the sparklingly clean church, parsonage, and carriage house. Aleatha Williams and Chris had everything smelling like Murphy’s oil, shining like sun, and looking inviting for the life of summer to begin.
The minister began the service with several announcements: On Wednesday morning, July 11th, at 10:30, The Rev. Dick Petrie and Mary invite any children who like to work on crafts to come to the parish house to work on some projects the two of them have devised. I’m sure they will be as interesting and as much fun as the ones they brought with them last year. So star that date on your calendars.
Janice McPhail and Dan, her husband, then brought forward a gift to the congregation. Janice wants everyone to know it is a gift given by her mother, Elaine Brooks. It is an old Epworth League document from August 25, 1902 which recognizes the organization of an Epworth League at the Grindstone Island Methodist Church. Elaine found it when she was cleaning the children’s corner of the carriage house, tucked away in a crumpled roll behind the books. It looked extremely old, and she thought it might be worth saving. So with Janice’s help, and Dan’s, they had it beautifully restored and framed for the church to display on one of the newly decorated walls. We will read it and be reminded of all the people we still hear stories about who belonged to the young peoples’ group in the early part of the last century.
Dick and Mary came to Grindstone last winter! So they know what winter is like on the island. Dick has a great pile of photos to show us: pictures of the church with no leaves on the trees, pictures of the ice on the cold river where men are fishing through a hole in the ice, or just putzing around as Jay Slate is on his snow mobile near the fishing shanties, and pictures to prove they themselves (Mary and Dick) were really here! We passed the photos around to see for ourselves how lovely the north country can be even in bleak midwinter.
When we’d sung “Cum Ba Ya”, when Mary had told the children how God even counts the hairs on each of their heads, when Aleatha had taken the children out to Sunday School in the carriage house, Dick settled down to his sermon. I kept wondering why the Cross became the central image of Jesus. I don’t think it is because Jesus wants us to try to be martyrs. It seemed, as Dick talked, that perhaps it is because he was so absolutely, lovingly forgiving as he hung there. That’s a trait of Grindstone Islanders, I think. Maybe they learned it in Epworth League all those years ago.
I’m sure the choir will sing about forgiveness (among other things) many times throughout the summer. They decided, in a meeting after church, to practice every Sunday at 10:00 am. All of you who would like to join the church choir are invited to come practice with this very enthusiastic musical group.
Kitty Paxton has an authoritative list of parishioners. It is posted in the rear of the church. Everyone who comes to the Grindstone church should look at it and have your name added if it should be there. Call Kitty Paxton about it.
After the benediction, we went to the carriage hall for coffee and good talk together.
And, you can’t believe it. But after this first summer service, after the coffee hour, a lot of us went “down to the foot” of Grindstone to an open house party at Skip and Joan Tolette’s beautiful new house which looks up the river through the string of little islands that chain along the north side of bigger Grindstone Island. It was a wonderful party where we ate and ate and ate, and, meeting for the first time in nine cold months, we talked and caught up with all of our friends. What a nice way to begin the new year! John and I had first class transportation; Brenda and Erma Slate let us climb (I rolled) into the rear of Brenda’s six-wheeler! It was a fine ride over the gravel roads of the interior of the island, on some of the routes Buck used to take us over on his annual hay rides.
And hay rides remind me that Jeff Marra tells me the Dodge Hall Steering Committee has been working efficiently and successfully in working out its independent status. The first dance will be held this very Saturday night with DJ John Morrow presiding! So come one, come all!
Church service on Sunday, July 1, 10:30am
Choir practice on Sunday, July 1, at 10:am
Church Council Meeting, July 1, after service
Outdoor service is early this year, July 8th, weather permitting, (McPhail-Brooks place).
July 11, children’s craft project at the parish house. 10:30am.
First Dance of the year at the Dodge Hall, July 1. John Morrow will be the DJ.
So it is.