When Evelyn showed up at church one Sunday morning, I didn’t have to ask the regular members about the new lady whose appearance was striking and a bit bizarre.
“Oh, that’s just Evelyn,” I was told. “She’s a country music star.”
Evelyn turned heads. You almost couldn’t look away. She was dressed outlandishly, rather gaudily. Her makeup was quite heavy. The hair was far darker than her age would permit and coiffed vertically. And there were sprinkles of glitter and clouds of perfume everywhere.
The congregation was polite and cordial and most members seemed to be accustomed to her. She was a sporadic visitor to our church, sometimes for weeks at a time. No one said much beyond the acknowledgement, I thought it was mild sarcasm based on her appearance, that she was a country music star. I was thinking Sunset Boulevard but no one ever volunteered details.
Consider me among those that has an affection for the oddball, the underdog, the person looked askance at by others. Evelyn clearly was not normal. I sought to build a relationship with her and her husband, a small, quiet man. I would see him at the Post Office and chat but didn’t learn much. In our Wednesday service which was smaller and more informal, Evelyn would occasionally volunteer a prayer request. Several times she talked about how the First Lady called her to ask for prayer for our country. These robocalls seems to be realistic to her. People would listen politely and we would move on. Once I had to publicly, politely ask her not to do something that was inappropriate and she obeyed me. No big deal.
Pastors worry about folks in their church that might drive people away but most of us recognize that everyone ought to be treated with respect and consideration, wherever they fall on the scale of normality and abnormality. Evelyn was someone whom the Lord sent to our church. That’s the way I saw it. We take what we get and do the best we can with it or them.
Evelyn moved on to other churches. Time passed and I found out that she had cancer and was very sick. Since she lived in our small town, I dropped by for a visit. She was indeed very ill, bedridden with her husband taking care of her. Even though she was sick, without the hair, a wig I suppose, the makeup, the perfume, the glitter, and the out-of-place dresses, she was very attractive. I had never seen her like this.
I had never been in her home. On the walls were photographs of her from years past – publicity photos of her in cowgirl garb holding a guitar, quite beautiful in her youth. And there were framed newspaper articles about her music and performances. Indeed, Evelyn, the country music star for a time and to some degree.
We talked, just a little, and I prayed for her. She died soon thereafter.
Pastors are sometimes known for their desire to be around important and influential people. We all know the guy who touts the politician who attends his services, or who fawns over the wealthy businessman who has donated a lot to the church. It’s an old SBC trope to talk about pastors who greet you warmly at meetings while looking over your shoulder for someone more important than you. Shame on you, pastor, if you ignore the oddballs and outcasts. Jesus talked about that.
I suspect that we are more likely to find God’s presence and work in the misfits than the prim and proper. You can have all of the movers and shakers, celebrities and trendsetters. I’ll take whomever God sends, weirdo or not.
And I can still go to my old church and see stray pieces of glitter in the upholstered pews left by Evelyn, the country music star.
I’ve written accounts of this before.