Pastor Goodenough and the New Baby
Editorial Note: We ask that our readers recognize that the humorous motifs deployed in this post are intended for “laughing with” rather than “laughing at” one another, and that the book from which this article has been excerpted has enough space to develop some redemptive themes that put the humor in its proper context.
Little does young Pastor Willie B. Goodenough expect the challenges awaiting him at his first call: All Sports Lutheran Church in Cadaver, Wisconsin. There he meets Betty May, the gossip; Erv Klipstein, the treasurer who is determined not to spend people’s offerings on the Lord’s work; and I. C. Coldshoulder, the greeter who makes sure church visitors never return. Countless other curmudgeons take turns whisking away their unsuspecting pastor on a whirlwind of unforeseeable, unforgettable, and nearly unforgivable antics. Again and again we’re reminded that scoundrels never get past God—or the minister’s wife. In this humorous parody of a pastor’s life, real-life Pastor Lyle Luchterhand leads his readers from one laugh to another, while Willie’s faithful wife Missy reminds us that no matter how crazy the ministry gets, no congregation is ever quite so God-forsaken as it may seem.
They’re Having a Baby!
The news that Missy Goodenough was expecting a baby hit the people of All Sports like a lit match in a dynamite patch. The Catholics in town were understandably angry, because another little Lutheran was going to be born. But their irritation was nothing compared to the uproar this caused among the members of All Sports Lutheran Church.
Troubling questions were raised. Did the pastor and his wife ask the congregation if they could do this? Could this poor, struggling congregation of less than 400 people afford another mouth to feed? How many children would the pastor and his wife have? Would they have so many that their two-bedroom parsonage wouldn’t be big enough? Would they be like Pastor and Mrs. Prolific in the neighboring town of Comatosa who had twenty-one children before they finally quit?
What kind of parents would they be? They had no experience at it! No one had even seen Missy Goodenough hold a baby in her arms. Why would the Lord entrust a precious, tender, innocent child to people who had absolutely no experience taking care of such a child?
When the little monster becomes a toddler, will he mark up the walls of the parsonage with his crayons? Would the Goodenoughs get a cat or dog at the little devil’s urging? Would there be pet mice, pet rats, pet gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, pot-bellied pigs, ferrets, fish, canaries, parrots, turtles, snakes, lizards, or even pet rocks? Would anyone be safe going into that house? How much damage would be done before the house would collapse? Somebody better set some limits! The chairman of the congregation, the Council, the Elders, yes, somebody better have a talk with the pastor before this childbearing thing gets out of hand!
That was the congregation’s first reaction to the wonderful news that Missy Goodenough was expecting a baby. Thankfully, everybody settled down a bit before anything rash was done. But the news of the coming baby was the choice topic of conversation every time ladies of the congregation got together. They asked one another, “When is the baby due? Are we sure there aren’t twins or triplets in there? What does Betty May say? Who’s the doctor? Can we find out anything from him?”
Thankfully, some of the people in the congregation began to think a little more positively about the coming baby. Pressure was put on the Ladies Aid to have a baby shower for Missy. Isn’t that what other congregations did when their pastor’s wife was expecting her first baby? Soon all the women of the congregation were buzzing with excitement over the prospect of having a baby shower.
The shower was finally scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of May. That meant that none of the working women of the congregation would be able to attend. But the hands of the Ladies Aid officers were tied. The Ladies Aid always met in the afternoon of the first Thursday of the month. Nothing could be done to change that.
There was some disappointment when it was learned that Missy Goodenough herself wouldn’t be able to attend because of her job, but that soon faded when the Ladies Aid officers announced that they would open Missy’s gifts in her absence so everyone could see what she got. The officers would then present the gifts to Missy privately.
It all worked out wonderfully. The officers of the Ladies Aid were the center of attention as they opened Missy’s gifts and thanked everyone for participating. They enjoyed a great moment in the sun in front of all their admiring Ladies Aid members. And later, when they presented the gifts to Missy, they claimed exclusive praise and gratitude from her.
There was one mistake made by the Ladies Aid secretary, Miss Ima Airhead. Ima lost the list of who had given what. Consequently, Missy was unable to thank anyone individually. She could only send a general thank-you card to the Ladies Aid organization for its generosity. Some of the ladies found it hard to forgive Missy for that, but in the end cooler heads prevailed.
Labor and Delivery
Missy felt the first labor pains at exactly 3:01 a.m. on Sunday, June 29. She woke her husband at exactly 4:01 a.m. Two minutes later, as soon as he could get his pants on and find his car keys, Willie made a first hair-raising, wheel-squealing, rubber-burning trip to the hospital. At 4:08 a.m. he returned home to pick up Missy. Then he made a second hair-raising, wheel-squealing, rubber-burning trip to the hospital, this time with everybody on board.
By 6:01 a.m. Willie said good-bye to his wife and trudged out to his car to go home. Unfortunately, it was Sunday morning. He wanted to stay to comfort his wife in her peril, but he had to conduct services that morning or there would be consequences.
Soon after Willie left the hospital, the members of All Sports, alerted by Betty May, began to arrive at the hospital. They filled the parking lot with their cars. They filled the two small waiting rooms in the hospital. They filled the hallways of the hospital. They paced back and forth in the waiting rooms and hallways like expectant fathers and grandmothers. Every one of them had secretly smuggled in a gift for the baby, which they intended to present to the child immediately after its birth. In their pockets and duffel bags, they were hiding pets they no longer wanted. There were pet mice, pet rats, pet gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, pot-bellied pigs, ferrets, fish, canaries, parrots, turtles, snakes, lizards, and even pet rocks—all the animals, birds, lizards and snakes they had once hoped would never see the inside of the parsonage.
At exactly 8:01 a.m., when the worship service began, there were only four people in church: the pastor, the organist, and two visitors. Everyone else was at the hospital anxiously awaiting the moment they could give away their unwanted pets. Pastor Goodenough thought about slipping away to the hospital. He desperately wanted to be with his wife in her time of peril, but he had to conduct the service because of the two visitors. As he patiently chatted with the visitors after the service, he was at a loss to explain where his congregation was. He only knew where he wanted to be: at the hospital!
Finally the moment came when he could rip off his gown, jump in his car and make a third hair-raising, wheel-squealing, rubber-burning trip to the hospital. But when he got to the hospital, there was no place to park! He drove around and around the hospital until he finally found a parking place three blocks away. He parked and then ran to the hospital entrance, only to be barred from entering by a fire marshal. No additional people could be admitted to the hospital, because the building had reached its capacity.
Willie was beside himself with anxiety and disappointment. Somehow he had to get into the hospital. He looked up toward the second floor, where he had left his dear wife in her peril. There were all the missing members of All Sports Lutheran Church looking out of the windows! They were all at the hospital to witness the birth of his baby! “How wonderful!” Willie thought. “But if only he could get one of them to leave the hospital so he could enter!”
Then the Lord Himself took matters into his hands. All the animals, birds, lizards and snakes people brought began to get restless. They began to escape from the pockets and duffel bags where they were hidden. The snakes began to chase the mice and rats. The larger animals began to chase the smaller animals. The smaller animals ran up the men’s trousers and the women’s skirts, trying to escape. The men were dancing, trying to shake the rats and gerbils out of their pant-legs. The women were screaming, trying to dislodge the lizards and pet rocks out of their skirts.
Finally, the whole menagerie of dancing, screaming people fled down the stairs, out of the hospital and into the parking lot, taking all the animals, birds, lizards and snakes with them and trampling the fire marshal along the way. Knowing there was room for him now, Willie dashed into the hospital. He ran up to the second floor into his wife’s delivery room, just in time to witness the birth of his son. …
Excerpted from Meet Pastor Goodenough: A Humorous Look at Life in the Parish, by Lyle L. Luchterhand, with permission of the author.
Pastor Lyle L. Luchterhand entered the parish ministry in 1970. He holds a Master of Sacred Theology degree from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wisconsin, and has served congregations in both Illinois and Wisconsin. Aside from the humorous Meet Pastor Goodenough, Pastor Luchterhand has published several works of serious theology.
TAGS: Fatherhood, Motherhood