Surprised at Jekyll Island

by Arthur W. Anderson

Have you ever had an author step off the page and confront you in a real situation? What brings serendipity to mind is an illustration I used in two wedding homilies when two of our children were married.

The example comes from Dr. Charlie Shedd, a Presbyterian minister who has written popular books on dieting, marriage, parenting, and the like. In an episode from one of his recent writings, he tells how his wife got so exasperated with him that she walked out on him for a day or so, leaving the following note behind: "Dear Charlie, I hate you. Love, Martha!"

Well, some years ago, when we were driving back from Florida, I recalled reading that Dr. Shedd had retired and was serving a Presbyterian church in Jekyll Island, Georgia. Since it was early Sunday morning, we decided to stop in Jekyll Island, visit the church, and hear Dr. Shedd preach.

Half-an-hour wasn’t early enough to get a seat in the sanctuary, so we were ushered into the overflow room where we could watch the service on TV. Our disappointment was assuaged somewhat when Dr. Shedd walked through this room, greeting and chatting, while his associate started the service. Eventually he came to us. He asked our names, hometown, and so on, and made a comment or two. Later, he went into the main sanctuary to continue the service. It could not have been more than a minute later when the public address system blared out: "Will Arthur and Bernice Anderson and their daughter, Ingrid (about three), please come into the sanctuary!" I thought, are we to be given seats in the sanctuary? Hallelujah! Believe it or not, we were ushered right onto the chancel platform, where Bernice sat in Dr. Shedd’s chair with Ingrid on her lap. For the next 10 to 12 minutes, Pastor Shedd interviewed me with intriguingly frank questions about my ministry, actual problems, and my outlook on the future.

I was flattered, of course, to be so confronted. But what struck me as well was his down-to-earth candor, all in the context of a worship service. How I wish I could experience that in the church more often! "Dear Charlie. You shook me up. But you made me love being human again in church!" Love, Art.