A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 146

A smidgeon of religion

A goodly and godly crowd, especially for a Saturday night, sat expectantly in the pews of Farmington's Baptist Church, awaiting the arrival of Bill Alexson, chaplain to the Boston Celtics, who was scheduled to come at 7 p.m. and show a video of N.B.A. greats finding both the hoop and Jesus.

At 7:15 p.m., Deacon Bob Schulte explained that Bill's plane had been late arriving in Logan Airport, but that he was now expected in Farmington at any minute. Meanwhile, he said, everybody could sing hymns. Up came soon-to-be-married Uel Gardner, himself a former minister, to lead the throng in song, while Pastor Harold Richards performed on the ivories.

No one seemed to mind the delay. Baptists, Congregationalists, Catholics, and plain old ball fans called out their favorite hymns and the minutes ticked away, 7:30, 7:45, 8:00, as voices were raised in praise. Then heads turned around as Donny Cameron, chauffeur, entered the church with Bill, apologizing for the delay that was compounded by Boston traffic.

After a quick introduction was made, the lights were dimmed, Bill's video was inserted into the machine, and all eyes fixed on the large T.V. screen up front. Disappointment. Good sound but lousy picture. All fuzz and white lines. Donny, Bob and Bill were joined by other electronically minded members of the assembly, and a period of knob twiddling ensued.

Young John Hodgdon thought his dad could fix the errant T.V.

"Yuh! You call for Royce Hodgdon and he wouldn't come for three weeks," said John's mom, Roxanne. "And you wouln't get it back for four years," she added.

"Yeah," said John reflectively, "He's had our so long, we had to go out and buy another one."

Contacted later Royce, whom many people will recall is the reincarnation of beloved Henry Wilson, agreed. "That's probably true. We don't do T.V.'s any more. Send 'em down to Johnson," said the acknowledged stove and freezer repair whiz. While on the phone, Royce was pleased to give the estimated times for a stove repair (45-120 minutes), and a freezer fix-up (3-4 hours). Compared to T.V. repairs, stoves and freez...(Get back into church! - Ed.)

And verily, the congregation bowed their heads while Bill Alexson said a quick prayer for the T.V. to stop acting up. Accordingly, it did, and the audience were treated to interviews with and action clips of M.L. Carr, Gerald Henderson, Kevin McHale and Davidson Rubber.

Then, after the lights went back on, the audience were canvassed to make sure that everyone present was a Celtics fan. Two deviants were unmasked at this stage - Tim Lee who supported Chicago Bulls, and his brother Josh who rooted for the Lakers. Their father, coach Mike Lee, gave a helpless shrug.

Bill Alexson, after admonishing Josh in particular, gave an interesting account of how he had gone from playing pro basketball in Greece, to founding a chaplaincy that now extended into 22 clubs of the N.B.A. league. He explained that despite being rich and famous, many top basketball players experienced every day human problems like a lack of fulfillment, an emptiness and domestic strife. They benefited from taking God back into their lives, said Bill, who then opened the meeting up to questions.

"How's Larry Bird's ankle?" asked a fan. Bill said that he had prayed with Larry about his ankle the previous week, an ankle that had turned Bird's attention to the Lord.

"Larry is really looking to God. But he's not quite ready to come back. When he does, he'll be a better player," said the Celtics chaplain, going on to field another question concerning Kevin McHale's feet.

There followed a discussion about the league's MVP, with Bill suggesting Karl Malone, Tim Lee going for Michael Jordan, and Josh plumping for Magic Johnson. Finally, the guest speaker informed the congregation that copies of his video were available, along with editions of "Reaching for the Rim," a compilation of ballplayers' journeys back to the path of righteousness.

The meeting closed with a prayer, and a feeling that ringing Bill Alexson to Farmington had been a Good Idea.

May 1, 1989

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