Their weekly bread

Pres­by­te­rian men cel­e­brate 900th meet­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - RELIGION - LAURINDA JOENKS

Dee McCarthy hov­ered around the ta­ble like a ghost. She sur­rep­ti­tiously took the break­fast or­ders and re­placed cof­fee pots as nearly 20 men gath­ered at the Vil­lage Inn in Fayetteville.

The job was made easy be­cause th­ese men meet each Wed­nes­day morn­ing and usu­ally or­der the same things. And also be­cause this men’s break­fast group, part of First United Pres­by­te­rian Church in Fayetteville, has met 905 times — all at the Vil­lage Inn, ex­cept for the week it was closed for re­mod­el­ing, said Ron Denn.

“She doesn’t need a pen or pa­per,” Al Hanna said, im­pressed by McCarthy’s tal­ent.

“I know what al­most ev­ery­one wants for break­fast,” McCarthy said. “If they want the usual, they nod. If they want some­thing dif­fer­ent, they get my at­ten­tion.”

The in­au­gu­ral men’s break­fast met in July 1999, said Ken Mays, who was there for the first one. “We had just five or six peo­ple in a cor­ner booth. We asked how of­ten we’d like to meet, and they said they’d like to do it weekly. And we in­vite any­body.”

At 6:30 a.m., Mays tapped his spoon on the side of his mug to be­gin the pro­gram, but men ar­rive as early at 6 a.m. Con­ver­sa­tion this morn­ing ran from ac­tiv­i­ties of the men’s chil­dren, to new homes in But­ter­field Trail Vil­lage, to traf­fic tick­ets, to Searcy County.

The men don’t talk about pol­i­tics or sports — ex­cept for the Ra­zor­backs, said Ron Tal­bert. “But about half the time, the prop­er­ties com­mit­tee has an in­for­mal meet­ing,” he said, ex­plain­ing many mem­bers of the com­mit­tee come to the break­fast. “We do a lot of church busi­ness here.”

And what are their wives do­ing while the men are meet­ing? “They’re still asleep,” said Jim John­ston with good hu­mor.

“The group meet­ing on Wed­nes­day morn­ing is just like an­other gath­er­ing of our church — a very im­por­tant one,” Jim Harter said. “It gives a feel­ing of con­nec­tion with th­ese men, and like many phases of Chris­tian wor­ship, it be­comes rit­u­al­is­tic that would leave a void in your life should you miss.”

“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my en­e­mies tri­umph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame, who are treach­er­ous with­out ex­cuse,” Harter read from Psalms 25 dur­ing the de­vo­tional time.

Harter passed the Bi­ble to John­ston, who read from Eph­e­sians 2. “[God through Je­sus] came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.”

Mays then read a devo­tion from The One-Year De­vo­tions for Men by Stu­art Briscoe. And the group bowed for prayer. “Let that peace be­gin with me,” Mays said.

Mays fin­ished the short ses­sion with items of in­ter­est about the week: the fact that the an­nual Sturgis, S.D., mo­tor­cy­cle rally opens this week; that the first na­tional in­come tax was in­sti­tuted in 1861 to pay for the Civil War; that Jesse Owens won four gold medals in one day for the United States at the 1936 Olympic Games and Adolph Hitler walked out of the sta­dium, re­fus­ing to shake hands with a black man.

Af­ter the men bowed in prayer, Harter placed the Bi­ble on the ta­ble be­hind him, and their break­fast plates were served by McCarthy. Most plates in­cluded com­bi­na­tions of eggs, ba­con, bis­cuits and jelly.

But Hanna or­dered a slice of pie. “[The Vil­lage Inn] is known for their pie,” he said. “And pie works mir­a­cles.”

On the oc­ca­sion of the 900th meet­ing June 28, Carol Gray, man­ager of the restau­rant, pre­sented the men with two cakes. “I’ve been with them ev­ery Wed­nes­day morn­ing for 14 years,” she said. “If one misses, I have to know why. They have to bring a note. Th­ese guys are fam­ily to us.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

Al Hanna, a mem­ber of First United Pres­by­te­rian Church in Fayetteville, bows in prayer Wed­nes­day at the Vil­lage Inn restau­rant in Fayetteville. A group of 15 to 20 men meet each Wed­nes­day morn­ing for a de­vo­tional time and fel­low­ship. The group re­cently cel­e­brated its 900th meet­ing.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

The hand of Jim Harter are vis­i­ble as he reads scrip­ture dur­ing the men’s break­fast. The con­nec­tion be­tween the men is strong. Harter said if he misses a break­fast, he feels a void in his life.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

Cyril Sturm (left) and Phil Wil­son (right) be­gin eat­ing their break­fast Wed­nes­day at the Vil­lage Inn. The wait­ress Dee McCarthy and man­ager Carol Gray know the men so well, that the men merely need to nod to place their or­ders.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

Jim John­ston (left) reads scrip­ture dur­ing the men’s break­fast. The group meets at 6:30 a.m. ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

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