8-30-09 Marine Services Corp., Dolton, IL

By the time we got up today, the 4 other loopers that were here had already left to be towed through the "carpel tunnel" which is about 30 miles from here. We've decided to wait about a week to see what transpires, hoping we can go through on our own without being towed to the tune of $600.00. The 4 boats that left had time constraints that we do not have.

We took the truck that had been left by the marina for our use over the weekend and went to the Faith United Methodist Church. The town of Dolton is by our estimation about 90% black, and that was true for this church as well. We got there early and were warmly greeted at the door. Then something really spooky happened! Rick's mother's name (prior to her second marriage) was Verna Johnson. She died in 1999. We were the only people in the sanctuary at first, so we had our choice of where to sit. We walked about mid-way down the center aisle, and Rick sort of pointed at a pew so I went in and sat down. Before sitting beside me, Rick glanced at the bronze plate on the side of the pew. Believe it or not, and this is too weird for me to make up, the plaque said "In memory of Verna Johnson"!!!

At first we thought we might be the only whites there, but by the 11:00 starting time, there were a total of about 7 whites (including us) and 30 blacks. The sanctuary was quite nice, and would accommodate over 200, so it seemed empty with less than 40 people there. The chancel choir consisted of 4 women (1 white) and 1 man.

The pastor (black) was Rev. Charles Straight. We knew as soon as he entered that we were in for a rousing service and a lot of "amens!" The first hymn was one of my old favorites (and made me remember Buzz Vorpagel), "Onward Christian Soldiers." Following a unison prayer, the chancel choir sang, and sang, and sang. After one stanza I was singing silently along with them...the words were the same over and over: "I feel Jesus in this place; Oh my soul doth burn within me." We clapped for them both before and after their number.

After another unison reading, the pastor requested that all the visitors please remain standing. That was Rick and me. We were joyfully welcomed, and welcomed, and welcomed. Then they had the "passing of the peace" and we were welcomed some more. That was followed by about 15 minutes of announcements....although small in numbers, this seems to be a church that is very active in the community. If no one volunteers when the preacher asks, he calls people by name and says "you'll be glad to do that won't you?" Next there was an altar call, which brought about half the congregation to the altar.

We were then entertained by a soloist (not a member of the choir) who really had a beautiful voice, and sang what I can only describe as a free form song. It was lovely, but had no real tune and the words, though meaningful, sort of rambled on, and on, and on. The theme was "just ordinary people." She got a rousing standing ovation.

It was just after 12:00 when the sermon began. The title was "What shall we do with this great faith of ours." It started and ended with a recording from a TV show, but in the middle the preacher gave a moving sermon. The scripture lesson was James 2:14-28, about faith without deeds. He talked a lot about modern day can people of faith allow this to go on, not only in foreign lands but in this country as well. The sermon only lasted about 20 minutes (whew!).

Then we sang another hymn ("'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus"), and then it was time to collect the offering. He spent about 10 minutes saying how much this church needed money. By the time they had met the payroll this week, there is no money left in the account. Next week they have to pay utility bills, etc., and they need money to do that. You don't want to come to church next Sunday and not have any lights or air conditioning, do you? Then the plates were passed and brought to the front. Then he reminded everyone that this is the fifth Sunday of the month, and on the fifth Sunday everyone is supposed to put in an extra $10 for "apportionment." We were then told what that money was used for. Since he had forgotten to mention that before the first offering was taken, let's take up another offering so people can put in that extra $10!! As the ushers walked down the aisle a second time holding the plates and sort of looking to see if anyone wanted to put in more money, the preacher said that wasn't the right way to do it! They were told to make sure the plates were passed to each person.

The service finally ended about 1:00, and we were invited to share refreshments with them. All the people were very nice and very welcoming. Overall, I must say I enjoyed the service and the overall experience. And yes, Rick and I did utter a few "Amen brothers!"

Our one other option for church had been a Baptist church. That one started at 10:00, and driving by that church later in the day, I imagine they didn't get out much earlier than the Methodists did!

Taking advantage of the use of the truck, we drove around a little after church and ran across a Petco store. Beamer the pyscho dog has not been groomed since we left home on May 18, so she was a little grungy looking and I had hoped to get her groomed while we waited here for the river to reopen. So we went into Petco to see if they could do her, and sure enough they had time to do her today. So we drove back to the marina and got her and took her and dropped her off for the afternoon. Psycho dog that she is, I'm always a little apprehensive about leaving her in a strange place, but when we picked her up they said she had been fine...she just wouldn't let them cut her toenails and didn't like having her face done. But she didn't bite anyone and she sure looks (and smells) better than she did.

We seem to have the marina entirely to ourselves tonight. It is very peaceful here (and the aroma of the landfill next door only bothers us when the wind blows a certain way). We're very close to the facilities and have a great wi-fi signal. So we are content to stay here as long as it takes. We expect several of our looper friends to meet us here within the next few days. All is well. Amen and amen.


  1. Bow Thruster Becky and Texas Lounge Lance (AKA: The Ambassador are enjoying the trials and tribulations of Loopers in general and Betsy and Rick in particular. We are taking a survey as to which year they will arrive back to their home: 2009, 2010 or 2011. We are leaning towards 2011.

  2. Fun to read this latest post about your church experience! Sounds a little different than SFPC - it is always fun to visit a variety of churches, isn't it?!

    Betsy - on this journey, get thee to a bookstore and get "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein and then stop by the drugstore for a couple of boxes of Kleenex! A great read - read it aloud to the spiffy cleaned up Beamer!
    m & t