Country Church

A few years ago. A secluded country highway. Lots of farms, silos, and flat nothingness.

My wife was driving. We were on our way home. We’d been out of town for days. We’d stayed in cheap hotels, ate crummy food, we were wearing and re-wearing our clothes.

It was Easter Sunday morning. We were tired. We had almost forgotten it was a holiday because being on the road too long will do that to you.

That’s when we kept noticing all the country churches along the highway. At each one were swarms of automobiles in each parking lot. People in pastel colors.

My wife said, “Look at all the cars.”

And I felt very guilty. My wife and I were both raised under a strict religious regime. To forget Easter was like forgetting to buy your mother a greeting card for Billy Graham’s birthday.

So we pulled over at a church. The building sat next to a large soybean field. Church people were staring at our car.

“What’re we doing?” I aksed my wife.

“Well, we can’t skip Easter,” she said.

“We look like two hobos,” I said. “I’m wearing a T-shirt, I probably smell bad.”

“We can’t skip Easter,” she pointed out again.

So we hiked up the steps into the little chapel. An elderly greeter adjusted his hearing aid and handed us a bulletin. He glanced at my wife’s ratty attire. T-shirt. Jeans. Flops.

By Southern Baptist Convention rules this was grounds for public execution. I’ve lost many good friends whose bodies were never found when they appeared in church without cufflinks.

We wandered toward a pew. We sat in the back. The lady next to me was elderly. She looked like every church woman you’ve ever known. Sky blue dress. White hair. I spoke to her to break the ice. She ignored me. I felt so ashamed.

Was it the way I smelled? Did I offend? I sniffed my armpits.

Truthfully, I would have rather been anywhere else than here. I was tired. I wanted to be home, sitting on my sofa, eating takeout ribs, watching TV. A cold beer wouldn’t have hurt.

When the sanctuary filled up—maybe thirty-five people total—we stood. We sang. I could feel everyone rubbernecking, looking at the young couple in T-shirts.

The old woman did not sing, nor did she look at me.

There was a big white screen behind the pulpit and a projector broadcasting the lyrics. There was a man on playing guitar with a headset mic, which was sort of bizarre. In my childhood, piano and organ ruled the world. There were no Garth Brooks microphones.

When the singing ended, the old woman sat down and got her purse ready. I knew what was coming next. The Offertory. This is the part of service where the most talented individual takes stage and sings their butt off. If they are good at what they do, God willing, parishioners will put an extra ten in the plate.

The ushers passed plates. I put in a few ones. My wife gave me an angry look that could have killed small woodland creatures. So I tossed in a twenty.

The young lady who sang was high school age. She performed sign language along with her music. It took me back to the times when I used to sing in church.

I grew up singing for offertories. I was painfully shy. I was a bad singer. I hated crowds. I was a perfect fit.

I would close my eyes when I sang. I had a little body quirk when I sang. My eyes would roll back into my head and my eyelids would open so that all you could see the whites of my eyes.

When this happened, my friends on the front pew would whisper things like: “Look! It’s the girl from the ‘Exorcist!’” And if any church ladies nearby heard this, these boys would disappear and never be seen again until their fortieth-fifth birthday.

The girl singing was poised and beautiful. Her song was done so well that a few people stood when she hit the final chorus. One man in the front row stood and lifted both hands. We call these the Hallelujah Field Goal Hands.

When she finished, the applause lasted for maybe a full minute. Baptists support their own. The girl left the stage and sat next to the old lady. They held each other’s arms. I didn’t even pay attention to the sermon because I am a people-watcher, and these two fascinated me.

When service was over, the old woman stood onto shaky knees, the young singer held her for support. The lady began walking away and I stopped her. I just couldn’t let it go. So I wished the old woman a happy Easter.

The woman looked at me with a blank face. The young girl translated my words into sign language. The woman smiled big. She said to me in a loud voice, “HE IS RISEN!”

And I gave her the same Easter response I’ve been giving since I was a child. Then we hugged. It was like we’d known each other all our lives. She was so tiny. And I was so underdressed.

Afterward, my wife and I crawled into our vehicle. We didn’t say anything for a few minutes. We had that sort of glow you have when you win a baseball game, or when you see the Grand Canyon for the first time.

“Happy Easter,” my wife said to me.

“Yeah,” I said. “It sure was.”

Then my wife held my hand. With a gentle smile, she said, “I didn’t want to say this to you inside, but you smell like a billy goat.”


  1. Lita - April 11, 2020 7:04 am

    Happy Easter, to you and yours, Sean. Thank you for all that you share with the world. <3

  2. Sarah - April 11, 2020 7:11 am

    He is risen indeed!

  3. Deb Gouge - April 11, 2020 8:24 am

    Yet another treasure. Thank you for painting the world with your pen. Happy Easter. “He is risen, indeed!”

  4. Marilyn Ward Vance - April 11, 2020 10:28 am

    He is risen, indeed!

  5. Rob Goudy - April 11, 2020 11:21 am

    My mother was deaf so I loved your story today. It helped remind me of her on this special weekend. Thank you friend.

  6. Cathi Russell - April 11, 2020 11:55 am

    Yes, Easter will look very different in 2020 but the Promise of the Empty Tomb will be filfilled tomorrow. It’s sorta “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” Easter this year. Happy Resurrection Day Sean & Jamie…He Lives!

  7. Anne Arthur - April 11, 2020 12:15 pm

    Happy Easter! He is risen!
    It’s so heartwarming to read you. Be blessed.

  8. Judy Tayloe - April 11, 2020 1:06 pm

    Happy Easter, Sean and Jamie! He is risen, indeed!

  9. lovemonteelou - April 11, 2020 1:10 pm

    So sweet.

  10. Teresa Tindle - April 11, 2020 1:14 pm

    I love this! Easter Sunday’s in the South. They never change. Funny what Jamie said to you. I’m laughing out loud. Thank you!

  11. Tom - April 11, 2020 1:41 pm

    Yes He is!! Happy Easter.

  12. John Pritchett - April 11, 2020 2:26 pm

    Sean what makes you wonderful is, “You is us!”

  13. DeLane Califf - April 11, 2020 2:37 pm

    He is risen indeed! Happy Easter, Sean. Such a great descriptive in this today. Almost any Southerners can totally relate.

  14. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - April 11, 2020 2:54 pm

    Well, God loves billy goats too.
    How many times have I passed one of these tiny churches on Sunday morning to see all the folks headed inside. Usually coming home from a late Saturday night band gig & a $29 motel. Often wished I was going inside with them but never did. Was usually in big van with 6 or 8 others.
    God bless you both in Christ’s name this weekend especially.
    Love, Steve

  15. Glenda Hinkle - April 11, 2020 4:01 pm

    God Bless You both. Happy Easter!!

  16. Linda Moon - April 11, 2020 4:25 pm

    Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. One of the many gingerheads I know and love just joined the Resurrected One yesterday. It didn’t matter what she was wearing or how she smelled. HE welcomed her In. Indeed.

  17. angie5804 - April 11, 2020 4:38 pm

    You made me tear up then laugh so I nearly spit out my grits.

  18. angie5804 - April 11, 2020 4:40 pm

    You made me tear up, then laugh so that I nearly spit out my grits.

  19. Chasity Davis Ritter - April 11, 2020 5:13 pm

    You made me smile and my eyes leak again, Sean. Tomorrow is going to be a different kind of Easter for a lot of us but just like that one was different for you I believe we will all find what we are supposed to. Happy Easter!

  20. Bobbie E - April 11, 2020 6:03 pm

    There’s a moral in this story, in fact, more than one. I’m sure you already know. He is risen indeed ! God bless you and Jamie for forgetting your pride to experience these wonderful moments.
    HAPPY EASTER TO ALL!! May we all find joy this Easter season….each in their own way ❤️🇺🇸🇺🇸

  21. Jess - April 11, 2020 8:11 pm

    I suppose your wife’s comment about you smelling like a billy goat kind of killed that glow you were feeling…………..

  22. Martha - April 11, 2020 8:23 pm

    He is indeed ! Happy Easter

  23. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - April 11, 2020 9:01 pm

    Billy goat, huh? AND no cufflinks! You are bound for the left hand side, my friend! Happy Easter. Your blog has made mine special.

  24. Ann - April 12, 2020 12:14 am

    He is risen indeed 🙏🏻❤️
    Easter blessings

  25. Mary Wood Walsh - April 12, 2020 1:28 pm

    I laughed so hard at that last line! Love your work. Happy Easter to all! He is Risen!

  26. bill boswell - April 12, 2020 5:43 pm

    I think that it was me that she was smelling!

  27. Mary M Berryman - April 12, 2020 6:56 pm

    When you get to Heaven,Sean, God won’t care how you smell’. Happy Easter! Blessings on you and Jamie.

  28. that is jack - April 13, 2020 1:51 am

    Ignore what Mary M.said above. Just stay bathed so the mortician won’t have a big job to do to get you ready for you r big day. You don’
    t want to meet St. Pete smelling like a goat! ………………. (maybe a sheep would be ok,HE likes sheep!))
    Enjoyed the read, thanks for the smiles!!!
    Sherry & jack


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