There will be a potluck following the business meeting, and Miss Mattie Esther needs our prayers.

There will be a potluck following the business meeting, and Miss Mattie Esther needs our prayers.
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You've been to Sunday School, turned in your offering envelope, and debated the meaning of the Book of Job. Now the superintendent's ringing the bell, and it's time to dismiss for the worship hour in your small-town Southern church. You're about to hear some classic church quotes (and maybe a few church jokes) because the announcements are coming soon.

The chair of the hostess committee will take advantage of pre-service chat time to tell all the ladies there will be a brief fellowship planning meeting immediately following the service—15 minutes tops because she knows everybody's got a roast in the oven.

As the pianist and organist begin their prelude—maybe something from the Gaither canon—the men talk football, and the women swarm that new mom who's giving them their first glimpse of little Hannah Rose.

At about 1 minute before the appointed hour, a silent exchange will take place. Most of the congregation has never noticed it—a raised eyebrow that one of the musicians will give the deacon or elder who reads the announcements. If he's ready to begin, he'll respond to the raised brow with a quick, almost imperceptible nod, and the music will stop.

Before he "opens with a word o' prayer," he will present the morning announcements, and you never know what direction they might take—from the poignant to the priceless.

First, give us the numbers: We had 45 in Sunday School this morning—that's a record high, y'all—and we're just $100 shy of our goal for the charity Christmas shop, so everybody keep up the good work.

Do we have any birthdays this month? (We probably do—which is why the pianist keeps an old Broadman Hymnal open to "Good Morning to You," the same tune as "Happy Birthday." The pianist hates getting caught off guard.)

Next comes the reading of the thank-you notes—maybe from church members who have suffered bereavement and want to express appreciation for the food and the prayers, or from nonmembers the congregation has supported through a hard time. These always make us sad and grateful at the same time—sad for those suffering and grateful to have a church family that looks after people.

We need to know where the flowers came from: The flowers in the vestibule were donated by the high school to say thank-you for letting them have their football banquet in the fellowship hall, and let's give the boys a hand for making it to the state playoffs . . . The altar flowers today are from the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. John Jarvis Jr., and I know we all wish J.J. and Meg a happy honeymoon in Gatlinburg. I believe I saw Brother Willie circle that wedding cake for another slice SEVERAL times . . .

There's a churchwide potluck following the monthly business meeting, so you ladies get with Nadine, if you would, and tell her what you're bringing—she'll let you know if she sees any holes in the menu.

We need volunteers for [depending on what time of year it is] the Christmas program, the Valentine banquet, the Easter program, the Easter egg hunt, the brotherhood breakfast, the women's ministry, Vacation Bible School, the youth mission trip, the building and grounds committee, the cleaning committee, the hostess committee, the nominating committee, the homecoming committee, the flower committee, the music committee . . .

Are there any prayer requests? Miss Mattie Esther's still not doing a bit o' good, y'all. Mama's carrying food tomorrow afternoon if any o' you ladies would like to go with her . . . Mae Allen's little grandbaby has the cholic, so let's all pray for him and his poor mama, who hasn't had a wink o' sleep since she came home from the hospital . . . Let's put our police department on the prayer list—they were so nice to sell barbecue at the fall festival, and all four of 'em showed up to work their booth. Are there any other announcements? [There aren't.]

Well, what are you waiting for? Bow your head! Your mama didn't raise you to stare at a computer screen while somebody's praying!

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