Paul Andresen, Pastor of Berryville's First Presbyterian Church, has accepted a call to the First Presbyterian Church in Marshall, Texas. He and his Good Wife Marie will take up their duties on October 1st. During their five plus years in Berryville Paul and Marie have been a popular couple and an always dependable source of good humor and common sense. Our local registered Calvinist are few in number, but their church, located at 301 West Church Street, has one of the prettiest sanctuaries in the area and it has always been a pleasure to visit with them. They, and I, will miss Paul and Marie.
I first met Paul at a pastor's meeting in Berryville were I introduced the local vicars to Carroll County Fresh and asked for their support for CCF's sustainable agriculture agenda. Later, Paul was a frequent visitor at my wife's bookstore. I recall that Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization was the first book I sold him and, after I got over my incredulity about the idea of the Irish saving anything, we went on to have many enjoyable conversations.
Still later, Paul introduced me to his blog, Time Loves a Hero (www.timelovesahero.blogspot.com) where he has compiled his weekly sermons. I read these religiously (okay, okay) and always came away a bit better informed about Christianity in general and my own faith in particular.
One of the things I like best about Paul's sermons is his ability to tie some aspect of popular or modern culture--a rock and roll song, a story from history, a novel, to scripture. Last Sunday, for example, he related a story about Parker Palmer, the founder of The Center for Courage & Renewal. Palmer was telling a group of spiritual brothers about a great job offer he'd just received to be the President of Some Big Deal. His pals asked him why the job was important to him, and after much hemming and hawing about the "opportunity for service" Palmer admitted that he liked the idea of having his picture in the paper, along with the word "President." That's the sort of story that we can all relate to.
Paul was also a recurring "character" in my novel, Coffee with John Heartbreak, where he was portrayed sensibly enough as the Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church Berryville. When the book was chosen as a book club selection by a group of United Church of Christ congregations in Iowa, passages by and about Paul were among the most avidly discussed. Naturally, I give myself credit for having the wisdom to fill the book with writers far more gifted than I.
I don't know much about Marshall, Texas except that it is in east Texas and was the birthplace of Yelberton Abraham (Y.A.) Tittle, a hero of my boyhood. Paul says the church he's going to is famous for the Styrofoam or fiberglass bells it "rings" the church with every Christmas. I don't know what to say about that except that it must be an east Texas thing. I do, however, enjoy the idea of Paul and Marie teamed up with a cadre of eager Presbyterians out in dawn's early light, stringing bells.
So: Congratulations, Marshall, Texas. Paul and Marie, Godspeed.