Methodist Fellowship

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We at Bethany United Methodist pipe the service into the nursery, and once when Martin was mixing Kent’s bottle — just us two parents and our infants in the room — I’d unbuttoned my blouse, pushed up my cup and we’d discussed baby clothes as I nursed Sophia. Look all you want, Martin, I’d wanted to say. You think I pop them out in public?

At our picnic that afternoon — we Methodists are all about fellowship — Martin was dishing ice cream and I was queen of the toppings. Let our mid-school boys serve themselves and we’d be out in ten minutes.

Martin’s Betty is our assistant pastor. United Methodist Church assistant pastors get to do what they’re good at, keeping Bethany chugging along in regards to finance and fellowship, in her case, not sermons. Assistant pastors aren’t paid a lot, but Martin and Betty don’t need it.

My Stan’s Bethany’s treasurer, something only a diligent denominational servant would consider being.

Stan and Betty were late for the picnic because they’d been in her office working on the budget, but I’d saved some strawberries. In most UMC congregations, the assistant pastor isn’t involved with the finances, but Betty’s got an eye for numbers.

Martin’s elbow kept bumping mine as we served the ice cream, but it didn’t slow us down. We were rather used to togetherness, actually, as church architects think more about pew arrangement than about the congregational worker bees, and we’d been squeezing by each other for years.

There was Camp John Wesley’s Parent and Me, a someday-to-be-camper weekend with a parent in the ready, though speaking from experience, it’s when they go to Sr. High Camp that parental oversight might be more crucial. Martin and I took Sophia and Kent, our spouses having to get the church books in order.

At the lake, us pulling our kids in floaties. I’m the one who tripped and thank goodness for Martin there to get me back on my feet. If he ended up around my front, that was OK. I wished my nipples hadn’t shown, was all, and hoped he couldn’t feel them.

That evening at the campfire, the kids scooted up front to do the animal song, us parents excused from the hand motions. Martin shared his blanket, our shoulders touching while the kids did the cow, the horse, the pig and the cat. As the path back to our cabins was uneven, Martin held the flashlight and I took his elbow, and again I hoped he didn’t notice what his arm was on.

Then there was our Sunday school on Restorative Justice. Martin and I jammed together at the corner of the table, his knee against mine. A timely topic makes for a full class and that’s how you have to sit.

And there was our Central American evening where we ate pupusas and learned about the refugee upswing. I’d chosen my blouse because it was Costa Rican and put a rose in my hair. Stan didn’t notice, but Martin thought I looked like what’s-her-name in West Side Story. I told him it was Maria, muchas gracias, and he gave me a peck on the cheek, Spanish style.

And there was the Saturday when we were painting the choir room and Martin helped me up and down the ladder. Had he not been behind me, I might have fallen further than into his arms. Afterward I had to go to the eye doctor, and as you shouldn’t do that in a painty sweatshirt, I’d brought an extra. After the others left, “You don’t mind?” I asked as I changed.

Once when we were carrying decorations to the sanctuary, we grabbed the box of banners from opposite sides, the backs of his hands against my front “Sorry,” he apologized, but as I told him that the carton was too heavy for one, that’s how we’d maneuvered it, him walking backward, me forward.

And at District Conference, Stan and Betty having a bookkeeping software training, Martin and I jammed together in the elevator, escaping for some fresh air, hm giving me a shoulder rub after all our delegate seating. Me being on the bench, him behind, I knew Escort Haramidere he could see further under my bra than he should, but so what? When we returned, the other two were up in the room looking at the user’s manual.

I just wondered if Martin remembered watching me nurse Sophia.


I always enjoyed stopping by Betty’s office with its couch, coffee table and teapot, a woman’s sort of office. She embraced progressive ideas — what did I think about doing away with ecclesiastical hierarchy, that sort of thing. Actually I’d never given it much thought, but maybe we’d discuss it in Sunday school.

“The Patriarchs were polygamists,” she pointed out, “but a Bible written by males forgets to mention polyandry,’ something else maybe for me to think about, which for sure I’d do if I ever had some spare time and a dictionary.

“Becoming less tradition-bound regarding our sexuality, is another topic,” she mentioned, pointing to a book entitled “Free Spirit,” with the backsides of a naked couple on the cover.

I nodded, though not exactly sure what I was agreeing with. What if one of Bethany’s high schoolers came in and saw it?

“Martin says that you two get along great,” she went on, “and Stan manages to put up with me. The four of us have a good relationship, don’t you think?

I was pleased that Martin would say that about me, and knew that Stan appreciated Betty, so I again agreed. We got along great.

“So let’s get together some evening,” she wondered.

She seemed surprised when I asked if they played bridge, but said, “Absolutely.”


Betty, not playing her pastor role, wasn’t wearing a bra, but it was just our husbands.

Playing bridge was fun. Not that I bid that well, but we didn’t really keep score.

When Stan mentioned his back was complaining about too many hours at his desk, Betty had him in a chair to see if a backrub helped. She’d been learning about some tantra something, pulling his head back against her to align his neck. He thought it did.

When Martin said something about working in the garden, Betty being occupied, I didn’t have much choice but to offer him one as well, though I really didn’t know how, but as I guess Martin was used to Betty’s way, I leaned him back into me the same. Probably Batty shouldn’t have been without her bra, however.

Betty asked if we might be interested in another round, but I said I was good for only so many hands, so she didn’t insist.

Stan kissed Betty goodnight and Martin kissed me — not really a Methodist thing — but as I said, this wasn’t church. Martin came pretty close to my lips, actually, and if I saw it correctly, Stan and Betty didn’t miss at all, but it was pretty quick.

“Let’s do this again,” she said as we left.


And that we did, our place. I’d the card table ready, but as the guys had their back issues, first things first. Betty happened to have a Tibetan chant CD with her — interdenominational meditation, one of her interests — and we turned down the lights to free our minds of the everyday.

As Martin did me, however, that’s not all that got freed, my bra strap loosened with a one-hand-squeeze through my blouse, something familiar to Methodist Youth Fellowship girls of all generations

He shouldn’t have come so far under my arms, though but as I was meditating and it was dark, I mostly didn’t notice him making it all the way around from both sides. It wasn’t as if it was anything, though — our spouses right beside us, for heaven’s sake — other than with my bra unhooked, he was under it, but as maybe Betty would have objected, I held still until he realized where he was and returned to my back.

I must have been mistaken about Betty wearing a bra when she arrived, as she was without when we got the lights back on.

In kissing goodnight, Betty and Stan hugged quite İkitelli escort a bit, but I kept Martin to more of a church-lobby side-to side one.


As choir rehearsal needed the music stands from Fellowship Hall, it was nice of Martin to help me get them, and when we did, he did something that caught me entirely off-guard — he kissed me on the cheek.

If I’d not been so surprised, I’d have pretended he hadn’t, but as I was confused, I kissed him back and maybe it didn’t end up just on our cheeks.

Why maybe I did allow him to hold me pretty close.

“You shouldn’t,” but as not to leave him feeling bad, added, “Not here.”

That’s all that happened, other than there were five stands and his help was appreciated.

He must have taken my words to mind, because it was in the parking lot that we did again. So MYFish, but still as fun as it had been back then.

I was thinking we could get into my car, but wouldn’t have wanted somebody coming to the next one over.


As UMC membership tends to be homegrown, a congregation needs to retain its youth. Sunday school works for a while — we’ve lots of teaching aids — but it’s MYF that does the trick. When Stan and I met at Wesleyan, we shared MYF stories while making out behind the library.

Sophia and Kent hung out together, but for them, they’d been friends forever.

The first time I even gave their friendship further thought — blind me — was when I heard them giggling in the Fireside Room. As it was dark in there, though, I thought it best not to intrude, as it’s better for it to happen in a Methodist setting.


Wednesday evenings are busy at Bethany. For Stan and Betty, it’s Church Council. The MYFers were meeting to sort out Youth Sunday. It’s a miracle they pull it off. Others of us were around for Stone Soup.

Stone Soup went quickly, but Council was going to take forever — something about denominational road maps, perhaps. It made sense for Martin and Kent to run me and Sophia home. Stan would drop Betty at her place whenever Council wrapped up.

In the back seat, Kent’s arm was around Sophia’s shoulders. They change faster than you can keep track of, but it still surprised me that they let us know it.

“So tell me,” I asked, trying to act as if the way they were caused me no surprise, “about Methodists in Motion?” a youth event the weekend before at Trinity Methodist.

Sophia thought for a moment, grinned. “Kent, here, him and me. You’re supposed to start with somebody you feel safe with.”

“Start what?”

“You know, your first time,” as if I should have known. “We’re becoming less tradition-bound,” probably from something Rev. Betty had presented in some youth meeting, “becoming” being big with Methodists. “It’s how God made us. The sponsors make the boys promise to wear what they need to.”

I couldn’t see Darla and Ken Bivins, Bethany’s sponsors, facilitating this sort of thing, their Kristie being an honor roll student, but then again, it was Darla who had the church library get Our Bodies, Ourselves.

“They’ve got these sleeping pads from their day care.” Sophia added, maybe thinking I was wondering.

I turned to Martin for support, his Kent — son of our associate pastor, at that — being half the story. “Can you believe this?”

Martin thought for a minute. “He promised me he’d wear one.”

“Right,” as I had to say something.

Kent brightened and changed the subject “Can maybe Sophia spend the night?”

“She’ll have to ask her mother,” his father’s ruling, totally ignoring what she’d said about us doing something.

“Can I, Mom?”

“I’ll have to think about it,” not knowing what else to say.

“We discussed it in MYF. You can too,” from Sophia.

“I can what?”

“Spend the night.”


“Then Rev. Betty can stay with Dad.”

“What?” Çapa escort bayan This had gone way too far.

“Can she, Dad?’ Kent still wondering.

“Better stop at Walgreens, then,” Martin’s suggestion.

“Right. Got any money?”

“You’re sure this is wise?” I asked while the kids made the purchase.

“As long as he wears it.”

Things happen so fast when they’re growing up.

But me staying over? Betty with Stan?


We headed for their place and sent the kids upstairs. No argument on their part.

“MYFers these days are ready earlier,” Martin’s explanation as he steered me to the sofa. “Betty and Stan want to know if we’re in.”

This wasn’t making any sense.

“She said they tried to hold off,” he went on, “but they got a little ahead.”

“They’re…?” maybe guessing, but still not sure.

“Alter a Council meeting.”


But if we’re in? Me and Martin?

“Betty said she tried to discuss it with you,” he added, “but couldn’t get a clear answer.”

“It’s all so sudden,” the most I could say as he undid my blouse.

“Betty said you’d say yes,” easing the straps off my shoulders.

I could hear the bed upstairs — almost feel it — kids their age having so much energy. The other two are probably already at our house, though I guess they could be in her office, her couch and all.

Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay, a Methodist axiom, though now somewhat blurred. “Well if it’s OK with her,” there being safety in numbers, “but what if they come down?”

“The bedroom, then,” Martin agreed. “Betty changed the sheets and said you can borrow her pajamas.”

I thought some more. “No, maybe right here. More old-school.” Old-school, absolutely, him undressing me in steps, for example. Sophia probably just pulled off everything in one fell swoop.

Martin patted his pocket. “Kent wondered if you might need something, so he gave me one back.”


“We’re not MYF.”

“Tell him thanks, but I’m covered.”

“Exactly what Betty told him, but he wanted to be sure.”

Sweet of him, looking out for his girlfriend’s mom.

“Remember way back, that time in the nursery?” I asked afterwards.

“Indeed I do.”


We Methodists love our conferences, but after a day of challenging input, guided meditations, gender-balanced hymns, humorous parable dramatizations, Palestinian updates, working on a Habitat home, and brainstorming about being a Family or Faith, we’re bushed.

For the formalities of registration, both families book rooms, but the kids share one and we adults, the other. The kids are immediately into what’s needed to expand denominational membership, but hopefully not too soon. The four of us, on the other hand, enjoy a glass of wine and put on pajamas. Feeling a bit awkward the first time –our beds next to each other — I tried to be circumspect, but all of us knew why we were in the one we were in. Martin and I still pull a sheet over us, our spouses, the same, but they never stay in place. According to Betty, the term “missionary” has imperial connotations, but, me being old-school anyway, I don’t care.

Next morning, breakfast buffet, the MYFers flashing thumbs-ups probably means that last night saw a good number of Methodist Youth Fellowships. The smiles between couples more my age probably likewise means that there’s been more Methodist Adult Fellowships than what the registration might suggest. Those who’d not brought kids, though, would have still ended up one pair per room, not as communal as us four. All in all, probably a lot of mattresses were bouncing last night, Methodist on Methodist with different last names.

Kent and I will attend an upcoming UMC conference on Methodist Intergenerational Fellowship, what Betty says is our new frontier. “Your young will see visions, your old will dream dreams,” its theme. As the two of us — a visionary and a dreamer, so to speak — get along great and Bethany’s Fellowship budget being tight, she’s signed us up to share a room. Just don’t let him hog the covers, her advice, what he always tries to do after you’re off to dreamland.

For us Methodists, it’s all about fellowship.

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