Introducing Philip Gulley

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For those who are not familiar with him, Philip Gulley is the author of several novels and books of short stories set in the small town of Harmony, Indiana (I believe). He does for Quakers in Indiana what Jan Karon does for Episcopalians in North Carolina, sometimes with very humorous results. Take for example the following excerpt from the most recent Harmony novel. The scene is that Sam, the pastor, is trying to convince Alice Stout not to teach Sunday School any more. Alice suffers from Alzheimer's and spends most of her time at a constant care facility, but because she's been the Sunday School teacher from time immemorial, she's dragged out each Sunday to teach the class.

from Life Goes On
Philip Gulley

"Did Jonah really get swallowed by a fish?" my son Addison asked.

"You bet your bippee, he did," Alice said. "You can't run from God. He'll hunt you down and nail your hide to the wall, if He's a mind to."

"He's kinda like Superman, except He has a beard and He's a lot older," Billy Grant explained to Addison.l

"Not exactly," I said. "But that's not the important part of the story anyway. The important thing is that God loved the Ninevites and sent Jonah to help them."

"Who were the Ninevites?" Addison asked.

"A bunch of perverts, if you ask me," Alice said. "The Lord sent two angels to warn them, and the men of the city went mad with lust."

"I believe you're thinking of Sodom and Gomorrah," I pointed out to Alice.

"Ninevites, Sodomites, Gomorites. What's the difference?" she said. "They all needed killing if you ask me."

And people wonder why pastors burn out at an alarming rate.

I tried to wrap up the lesson. "Let's just remember that God taught Jonah an important lesson about loving your enemies."

"The thing about Ninevites, you lop off one or two of their heads, and the rest of 'em fall in line pretty quick," Alice declared.

Being crowned Sunday School Queen appeared to bring out the worst in her.

Hoping to redeem the lesson, I asked the children if they had any enemies they could love.

"How about the Russians?" Billy Grant asked.

I explained that the Russainds weren't our enemies anymore.

"Bullfeathers," Alice said, turning toward Billy. "Don't ever trust a Commie, son. They'd sooner slit your throat than look at you."

The sad thing was, Alice Stout with her mind gone was not much different than who she was when she'd been in full possession of it.

Sometimes I wish I were the kind of pastor who challeneged unkind behavior. Mostly I just complain about it to my wife. The upside of timidity is job security. The downside is that my church's idea of suffering for the sake of righteousness is eating coffee cake instead of donuts.

On a more positive note, we were probably the only church in America that had a Sunday School Queen.

If you favor gentle humor with small dollops of sermonizing (as at the end here) you could do worse than Philip Gulley.

Next up Karen or Kathy Valentine, who does the same thing for Catholics in ?Minnesota? or some cold place.

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I'd like more info. on the Valenyine books. Titles, please.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 5, 2004 7:16 AM.

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