Taking Tea with the Methodists
“Brenda Johnson, I cannot believe you have started going to the Methodists. What would your grandmama—God rest her soul—have thought about her only grandchild prancing off across town and leaving the Baptists without a decent organist on Sunday mornings? And to beat all, the Methodists have already got a good organist.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing through my cell phone. I thought this woman was my friend. “As I have tried to tell you, Mary Lou, this is something I felt like the Lord wanted me to do. If you have a problem with it, you need to take it up with HIM. And I’d appreciate it if you would not drag my sweet grandmama into this personal matter.”
Mary Lou Carter and I had gone to church together ever since we were in the nursery, and she was having a hissyfit over the fact I’ve decided to become a Methodist. She should know I wouldn’t have made such an important decision without a lot of prayer.
“I’m not buying that, not for one minute,” Mary Lou said. “Everybody knows you got your feelings hurt when Starla Mooneyham didn’t put your chicken salad biscuits on the menu for the Spring Tea and Luncheon.”
“That is not true,” I said. While Starla, who was in charge of the ladies ministry, had chosen other tea sandwiches, I certainly never expected that mine would automatically be selected—even if they were award-winning and the recipe was once printed in Southern Lady magazine. “And for your information, they are not biscuits. They are croissants. It’s a French word, so I don’t expect Baptists to be able to pronounce it, but—”
“So we’re a bunch of bumpkins now that you’re in with the Methodists. Is that it? We’re not good enough anymore?”
Mary Lou sure had her knickers in a knot.
I sighed. “No, that’s not it at all. I’m just saying that not everyone knows how to pronounce croissants, and they are not like biscuits. And to be honest with you, I had totally forgotten about y’all’s little spring tea. That go off okay?”
“It wasn’t the same without you there in charge of the tea service, but yeah, it went fine,” Mary Lou said. “Starla’s college roommate’s sister-in-law was the speaker this year. She was all right, I guess, but some of the women said she spoke too long.”
That didn’t surprise me. I’ve always kept my opinions about this sort of thing to myself, but Baptist luncheon speakers are not known for their brevity. Now the Methodists, those women know how to book a good speaker.
“Glad to hear it went well,” I said. “Listen, if you’re not busy the first Saturday in May, you’re welcome to come join us for our Mother’s Day Tea.”
“But you’re not a mother, Brenda.”
I get so tired of women pointing this out to me as if it’s a news flash I have somehow missed for the past fifty-seven years.
“No, I’m not, but the Methodists believe in honoring all women, not just those who were blessed with children,” I said. “Our assistant pastor, Emily Nelson, believes God gives some women physical children but all women have spiritual children.”
Mary Lou’s chuckle made me want to scream. “I forgot y’all have one of those lady preachers,” she said.
I was not going into that with Mary Lou, that was for sure.
“So back to the Mother’s Day Tea, I’d love for you to be my guest, especially since I’m on the program.”
“Is that so? What are you gonna do?
“I’m speaking on The Womanly Art of Hospitality,” I said. “Several of the women knew about my being president of the Tea Society and asked if I’d speak.”
“Sure, I’ll come,” Mary Lou said. “What do y’all eat? You don’t have alcohol at Methodist tea parties, do you?”
I was starting to wish I hadn’t asked Mary Lou to attend. “No, we don’t have alcohol at our teas, or anything else at the church, for heaven’s sake. This isn’t the Country Club.”
“Coulda fooled me,” she muttered.
She really needed to let it go. I wish her and all my old church friends the best, really, I do, but it was clearly time for me to move on. I’m not saying I’ve outgrown them spiritually—that would be prideful, wouldn’t it?—but again, as I told Mary Lou, I knew when the Lord was telling me I needed to become a Methodist.
I was trying to figure out how to end the call when Mary Lou asked the strangest question.
“So which of your tea sandwiches are you making for the tea?”
“How did you know I was making tea sandwiches?”
“Just a hunch,” Mary Lou said. I could have sworn I heard her snicker.
“For your information, the Methodists don’t have cliques like the Baptists, so anyone who wants to make tea sandwiches can volunteer and bring a tray. I’m making my Ham Salad Ladyfingers. These women are so appreciative, too.”
“I’m sure they are,” said Mary Lou. “I hear half of ’em can’t cook.” That was rich coming from Mary Lou, whose only edible homemade food was pimiento cheese spread.
“There are some fine cooks at my new church,” I said, “and I’m sure you’ll agree once you see how nice a church tea can be.”
Mary Lou had to go after that, and I’ve never been so glad to say good-bye to a woman in my life. Besides, I need to call the ladies in my new Bible study. They’ve asked me to be in charge of the refreshments each Tuesday morning.
I think I’ll go practice making some Ham Salad Ladyfingers while I think about my speech for the Mother’s Day Tea. It is so nice to be appreciated, unlike the way I was treated at my old church. I can’t wait for Mary Lou to see what a wonderful time we have at the tea!