GUERNEVILLE COMMUNITY CHURCH - UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST 12060 Highway 116, Guerneville, CA Mailing address: PO Box 765, Guerneville, CA 95446 Pam Tinnin, Pastor
Palm Sunday 2020 Home Altar
Guerneville Community Church-
United Church of Christ
We are currently having church at home during this difficult time. Pastor Pam is preaching in her kitchen and we are watching at home. You can find the video of her message from 4-5-2020 on her Facebook page. Below is the transcript
Brother Darrel’s Last Supper(preached on-line for Sunday April 5, 2020)Pamela J. Tinnin I never seen my daddy cry but once when we almost lost Mama to the fever and not agin til 1967 with all the union trouble. A few folks still blame it on Brother Darrel Gates, the preacher who come the summer before, fresh out ofa six-week Bible course, only education he had cept 2 years a high school. Brother Darrel had received the call to preach later in life. He was near 40 years old when he come to Blue Crick, his first church. For more ’n 20 years he had mined coal over in West Virginia where his people come from. It all started when Pennsylvania Steel bought out the Blue Crick mine and cut the wages. Hadn’t been a strike in Blue Crick for near 20 years and there might not a been one then cept the notice every miner got with his Friday paycheck. Said wages was gonna be cut by 25 cents an hour. Might not sound like much to you folks, but in Kentucky in 1967, $2 gone from every workin’ day was a lot. My husband Cecil wasn’t makin’ much to begin with, him bein’ on the payroll only a couple a years, and here we was with a one-year-old and a baby on the way. That night Daddy come and picked up Cecil and took him down to the Union Hall. When Cecil finally crawled into bed, I looked at the clock. It was after midnight, but tired as he was, Cecil just tossed and turned. He said pretty near ever man, old or young, in Blue Crick was at that meetin’. “Even Brother Gates.” Cecil said the meetin’ had ended with nothin’ more than decidin’ the union officers’d send a letter protestin’ the wage cut. I rested a little easier after that—we sure couldn’t live on nothin’. All that week folks waited to hear what the Company’d say. They had brought in a new manager a couple months back, one with a diploma from one a them fancy eastern colleges. Cecil said Mr. Drysdale was always spoutin’ ideas about “cooperative personnel management.” On Wednesday word come that the company was holdin’ a public meeting Thursday night at the high school. I hadn’t seen the gym that full since the year the Blue Crick Blue Devils went to state. The bleachers was crowded, wasn’t an empty chair to be had with folks standin’ in the back. At first, it seemed everthing was gonna be fine. That Drysdale was a smooth talker. Took off his suit coat and loosened his tie and give this fine speech about how we was all part of the Pennsylvania Steel family, how he was there to hear our concerns, how he was sure things could work out for all of us if we just pulled together. Then he stepped away from the microphone, invited folks to have their say. The meetin’ went on for a long time—one after another people got up to speak. Even Toad Mitulski ,who had to be 90 if he was a day and didn’t have a tooth in his head, told how he’d give his whole life to the mines. “I worked in that hole in the ground for over 50 years, since I was 14. The company made a lotta money off folks like me. It owes folks a decent livin’.” By then I guess Mr. Drysdale had run outta patience. His face was red and you could see sweat stains on the bright white shirt he wore. “We are trying to be fair here,” he said, with that eastern talk of his. “But the hard reality is, this mine has lost money for the last three years—we are doing a favor just to keep it operating. Now if you’d prefer not to work, there are plenty of men we can bring in to take your place.” It got real quiet then cause we all knew the sound of a threat. That’s when I heard a chair scrape in the back and Brother Gates stood up, and walked down the aisle, right to the microphone. I remember the light shone on his head where his hair was gettin’ thin, and his white socks showed cause the pants of his old blue serge suit rode up his ankles. “I ain’t got fancy words like Mr. Drysdale,” he said. “All I got are words said a long time ago, these words right here.” And Brother Darrel opened the cracked leather cover of the Bible he always carried and read: “He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you… to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” “I appreciate your presence, Reverend Gates,” Mr. Drysdale said with this little smile that made you think he wasn’t really smilin’ at all. “But perhaps it would be best if you limited yourself to God’s work.” Brother Darrel looked right at him and used his preachin’ voice, the one that rang all the way to the top rafters. “God’s work is wherever men try to keep other men down. Injustice is never acceptable to the Lord.” He turned then and walked back down the aisle. People started standin’ up and yellin’, takin’ off their hats and wavin’ ’em. One by one folks got up and followed the preacher out the door like a parade, people shoutin’ and wavin’ and whoopin’. Marched down to the Union Hall and that night every man there voted to strike. Course, my daddy and Cecil voted yes, and I was glad. Truth is, I was scared, too. I sure wished the excitement a that parade could a lasted. Over the years I sometimes wondered if we would’ve voted yes if we’d knowed it’d drag on for eleven months or if we’d knowed they’d bring in strikebreakers from Arkansas and Tennessee—oh, they wasn’t bad men, just desperate for work. And a lot of folks give up—my best friend Luanne Perkins moved up to Cincinnatti with her husband and his people, and cousin Albert took his bunch down to Louisiana where he got a job on a drillin’ rig. Next thing, word come from the denomination office in Louisville that Brother Darrel was suspended and couldn’t preach. Someone from Blue Crick Primitive Baptist had sent word he was “mixin’ in politics” and “endangerin’ the welfare of his congregation.” Everyone was talkin’, tryin’ to figure out who coulda done it. The Sunday he stepped down from the pulpit, I remember how Brother Darrel told us not to seek revenge and to forgive. Then he served communion for the last time. I couldn’t help but watch each one come forward, wonderin’ who could look him in the face after betrayin’ him. Thing is, Brother Darrel didn’t leave. He told us, “God called me here and I ain’t leavin’ til He calls me somewhere else.” Got himself a tent and made a little camp up behind my daddy’s place. Things kept gettin’ worse. The Toller twins were out drinkin’ one night and set fire to a truck with Tennessee plates parked out in front a Jerry’s Tavern. Two days later the Tollers got beat near to death on the road to their place. Brother Darrel called a meetin’ and told the men, “Tomorrow mornin’ I think we oughta go up to the mine, stand across the road, and stop the day shift from comin’ in.” I guess people was gettin’ tired of eatin’ government commodities and worryin’ what they’d do if their babies got sick with no money for medicine. The hall was only half full and a lot of ’em there said maybe it was time to call it quits. Cecil said Brother Darrel tried his best to turn things around—told the folks that whenever we fight against injustice that God stands with us. How we had to hold tight, and keep on, not lose heart. How he was gonna be at the mine gates next mornin’ and hoped ever man would join him. But there wasn’t any cheerin’ that night, nobody wavin’ their hats or followin’ him outta there. They just turned away, not lookin’ at each other. Next mornin’ Cecil and me got up fore sunup and took the babies over to Mama’s. Daddy got in carryin’ one a grandma’s quilts to keep us warm with no heat in the truck. When we got to that big front gate, Brother Darrel was there with the Toller twins, still carryin’ the marks a their beatin’. Five or six trucks and cars were parked across the road, bumper to bumper, and ten or so men and a couple a women stood there stompin’ their feet in the cold, their breath comin’ out in clouds. The company musta had word we was gonna be there cause the first vehicle was a Kentucky Highway Patrol van. Six troopers got out. The skinny one in front with a grey mustache and big stetson hat seemed to be the man in charge. He ordered us to move the cars or, “By the laws of the state of Kentucky, you will be liable for arrest.” That’s when things went south. I couldn’t rightly say what happened. One of the Toller boys let out a rebel yell and one a the troopers shouted, “Look out—he’s got a gun.” I remember the sound of shootin’ but I felt strange, so calm. I heard Brother Darrel yell, “No, no…” and he stepped in front of us and spread his arms, tryin’ to stop it all. Then I saw bright red like a flower right in the middle of his back. He fell, and the noise of the guns stopped. My daddy got to him first, tearin’ off his jacket to try and stop the blood already spreadin’ cross the asphalt, but it was no use. Brother Darrel spoke just once, lookin’ right at Daddy. “Don’t you hate, Euell Thomas. Don’t you hate.” Then the only sounds was my daddy cryin’ and far off a coal truck driver grindin’ his gears comin’ down the grade. I went to the pickup and brought grandma’s quilt back. Daddy and Cecil and the Tollers lifted Brother Darrel onto it, his blood soakin’ the yellow and blue patches. We wrapped him up, my daddy tuckin’ the quilt gentle around his face. The blood never did wash out, though it’s brown now and faded with the years. Daddy climbed in the back a the truck with Brother Darrel and Cecil drove us to town, slow and careful. That night my daddy set his mind to finish what the preacher had started. The very next mornin’ we was back at the gates in the cold and dark. I was pourin’ some a the coffee Mama sent along when I looked up the road and saw headlights far as I could see. Before dawn more’n a thousand miners blocked the road. We heard they come from as far as Pittsfield and Henson and Turkey Holler. “Sure wish Brother Darrel was here with us,” I whispered. Daddy watched the line a cars and smiled, though his eyes was still sad as could be. “He is, Elsie Ann,” Daddy said, “He surely is.” More’n fifty years and every communion Sunday, I can’t help rememberin’ the last one Brother Darrel Gates served, how his words that mornin’ was so different. He had took the bread and broke it and said, “This is my body broken for you. When you sit at the table together, do it in remembrance of me.” Then he poured the cup and held it up, sayin’, “This is my blood shed for you—give yourself to the people in remembrance of me.” Course, you can say they wasn’t the words Jesus said at his own Last Supper…but thinkin’ on it, I reckon they are as true as any I’ve ever heard.
Below are audio recordings of our last few services. at the church. Thanks for listening.