Outhouse Theology

My sister gave me Outhouse Theology for Christmas, and I read it last night before going to sleep. It’s a book by Macklyn Hubbell who was our preacher when we were growing up. He has written a collection of funny stories that have happened over the years to him, as he has interacted with people in his congregations. “The minister, handler of the holy, will experience the humorously unholy in pursuit of the holy.”

Dr. Hubbell, who was also a professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, served six churches in all as pastor. Some of the book’s stories happened in my hometown Baptist church. Some of them I remember from the 1960s, like the earthquake that shook the sanctuary during the Sunday morning service when he was preaching about the Second Coming, and like the man who came forward during a Sunday evening invitation hymn and asked to deliver a word to the congregation. He told us when the world would end … around 1970, I think.

My favorite story in the book involves Brother Hubbell, as we called him back then in the Sixties, and Brother Burd, the Minister of Music and Education, who is still involved in the work of the church after forty-five years. The two were agitated because someone was messing with the Coke machine every Monday during afternoon and evening children and youth activities: choirs, Sunbeams, GA’s, RA’s, and Boy Scouts. The pranksters were puncturing a hole in the caps of the bottles that lay sideways in the machine and drinking all the liquid out of those bottles available for purchase. To catch the Coke thief, Brother Hubbell and Brother Burd decided to play detective and hide in the tiny ladies’ restroom that had a good view of the machine. Hubbell sat in a chair and Burd peeked through a crack in the door.

You’ve got to get this image right for the story to be funny — two respected and dignified holy men of the cloth, leaders of the biggest church in town, pillars of the community … hiding in a small women’s bathroom — together — with the lights off, in a pitch black church.

Someone appeared with a flashlight. They thought they’d caught him.

“To our surprise,” Hubbell says, “the thief was not the thief — it was [science] Professor Henry Lutrick of Delta State University looking for his daughters’ school day pictures. His daughters had participated in the church choir program on Monday and had left their pictures somewhere in the building — Henry thought.”

The two Coke detectives thought their cover was safe, as surely Henry would not check the bathroom … but he did, shining the flashlight first in Burd’s face, then in Hubbell’s. “Startled, he backed out of the restroom and disappeared.”

I would give a chunk of money, a gold Krugerrand, and an old diamond engagement ring to know the thoughts that went through Henry Lutrick’s head at that moment. Two ministers. After hours in a dark church. Together, in the ladies’ restroom, lights off. No excuses offered when the light hit them.

Come to find out — as Hubbell found out ten years later at a dinner party — that it was Franklin Nored who punctured the Coke caps and sucked out the Coke with a straw. Franklin was two years younger than I, and we went on many of the same church outings … and if memory serves correctly, I was in on pranks with and to him.

After the visual of the faces of these two holy men shining in the beam of a flashlight, it took an episode of “Andy Griffith” and two episodes of “I Love Lucy” before I could go to sleep.


3 Comments on “Outhouse Theology”

  1. inktarsia says:

    Great story about the night the churchmen came out of the (water) closet. Did you help punch holes in the caps? 😉 Or maybe you should come clean about a few more of those pranks.

  2. John says:

    I remember when the cokes went from 6 cents to a dime on that machine. Great story! I saw Mr Lutrick at the DSU cafeteria back in the fall.

  3. We chuckled as this story of my Dad finding Brother Byrd and Brother Hubbell huddled together in the girl’s room was retold one more time at my father’s funeral (Henry G. Lutrick, Sept 5, 1925 – July 21, 2009). I love this story too; thanks for remembering him. We had the most loving parents and extended family at First Baptist Church, Cleveland, MS… we still do.

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