It didn’t take Reverend Shilling long to figure out what was going on in the church. He could see hints of it here and there, but the members tried their best to present themselves in the most favorable light to their new leader. Instead of arguing and fussing in the monthly church meetings, they would sit quietly until service was over and then call each other when they got home.
My mom was the ring leader in the phone tag operation that the women of the church had going. She and Sister Violet would call each other every Sunday as soon as they got home. They would talk about the other church members, the pastor, and anything else they could think of.
I remember one Sunday in particular when they were talking. The pastor had preached a sermon called “The Hell-a-phone”. It was about gossiping and starting mess over the phone. My mom and Sister Violet were made as all get out about this. They felt that the pastor was talking about them. They discussed that sermon for almost two hours. I remember thinking that that was ironic because the sermon was only thirty minutes long.
I thought that when their conversation was over, the topic would drop, but as soon as Mom and Sister Violet hung up the phone, it rang again. This time it was Sister Ella. She wanted to talk about the sermon.
My mom spent the rest of the day talking to the ladies of the church, and then the next morning, she was talking to members from other churches.
Somehow all the phone chatter got back to Reverend Shilling’s wife, Sister Della.
Sister Della was a quiet woman who never really had much to say about anything. She sat there on the same pew every Sunday- the second from the front on the right side of the sanctuary. She never spoke any thing negative about any body. Which was okay because she never spoke any thing positive either, but when we got to church that next Sunday, she was all mouth?
All the members were seated and waiting for Reverend Shilling to come in to start service. Since he started every service with prayer, this was the usual practice, but not this day. Sister Shilling came out from the pastor’s study with a strange look on her face. She went directly to the podium and stood there looking out across the congregation. Just as she was about to open her mouth to speak, her cell phone rang. She politely answered it, and began to talk.
Every woman in the church sat there opened mouthed as Sister Shilling relayed every word of what had been said the previous Sunday on the seven and a half hour phone rant that the ladies of the church had gone on after the last service. All the kids giggled at the day’s commentary, but the adults did not think that any thing was funny. They were mad!
“Oh, yes. Revered Shilling was definitely talking about Sister Ella. She is always on the phone talking about people. She gossips entirely too much. No! Not Sister Masie! She doesn’t seem like the type to talk about people,” she said looking more and more serious as she listened to what was being said on the other end of the phone line.
“Surely not! Why would be telling people that this church will never grow under Reverend Shilling? She did not say that he was not qualified to polish shoes on the side of the freeway! NO!” she said with exaggerated expressions of disbelief.
“Sister Violet did not call the pastor a little hot-headed bull-frog.”
The conversation went on for almost an hour. No one else in the church said a word. The men all looked on with barely contained amusement, but the women looked about ready to jump up and gang rush Sister Shilling. When it was all over, Pastor Shilling came out with his cell phone in hand. He thanked his wife for her help and then took his seat behind the pulpit.
Still no one said a word. A few minutes later, he started service. That Sunday he preached about “Those Back-stabbing Church Folk.” The sermon was short and to the point.
When we returned home that Sunday, the phone did not ring. No phone calls were made. My mother quietly prepared Sunday dinner, helped us kids get our things ready for school the next day, and got us ready for bed. She did not say a word to any one about church- not even to my father.
I remember thinking that it was odd to have the house so quiet on a Sunday. Reverend Shilling deserved an award or something because that day, he preached one heck of a sermon.