Methodists will soon be saying goodbye and hello to quite a few clergymen and women here in Georgia. Because most Methodist pastors live in church owned homes (parsonages) the pastors who are moving to new churches all do so on the very same day. (It wouldn’t do to have two families living in the same house simultaneously!)
“Moving day” for South Georgia United Methodists is next Wednesday. When that day dawns one parsonage family will be loading their boxes onto the moving van and tossing their last bags into the trash. By sundown of that same day a new family will have begun moving into the same house, unloading boxes and making that house their home.
Some Methodists, in an effort to escape the weirdest aspects of this very strange system, move out of the parsonage a couple of days early, go to the beach, the mountains or even Poppy Mo’s Motel 25 miles down the road to escape the 24-hour insanity of this holy fruit basket turnover. Others, preferring to keep tradition or bound by torpor and procrastination, are still cleaning the oven and defrosting the freezer on moving day, the new pastor and family cooling their heels in the driveway, demurring, “Take your time, it doesn’t matter” while seething on the inside.
It’s a strange system, indeed, and one that – unless you’ve experienced it first hand – you can hardly comprehend. Most people arrange to buy, sell, rent or lease homes in a way that works by an entirely different calendar. There will be stress in any move, but there is unique pressure on the day that these holy dominoes topple across South Georgia.
Hang around Methodist pastors who have lived in parsonages most of their ministry and you’ll hear stories that make you suspect that those who have a propensity to exaggerate in the pulpit might get carried away when describing the horror of moving day. Many of these stories have cleanliness themes: “When we arrived on Moving Day the former preacher had left the kitchen floor so stocky that it pulled the shoes right off our feet… after we moved into that house my children wore oxygen masks for 6 straight months to combat the pet hair embedded in the sofas and mattresses…the parsonage furnishings were so outdated that the fuse box in the basement had a decal that announced “Bulbs by Edison.”
The varying thresholds of human cleanliness and orderliness guarantee a system ripe for rich storytelling, some of which will contain seeds of truth. But if you’re receiving a new Methodist pastor you likely won’t hear these whoppers because most pastors and families leave the house very clean, most pastors do not want to be ungracious to their predecessor and in honesty each pastor knows that try as hard as possible, the home he or she left behind that morning could probably have used a bit more soap and water.
Creede Hinshaw is a retired Methodist minister living in Macon.