Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Robert St. John: Feeding Methodists

Check out this week's recipe. 

This past Sunday was the first Easter Sunday in which I have missed attending a church service in a long time. My family and I were in New Orleans moving our daughter into her new apartment. We could have hit up a couple of Catholic churches near our apartment, but we spent time together and worshipped in a different way. 

I am a Methodist. More accurately, I am a Methodist because my grandfather owned a pair of shoes. Thomas St. John was born in 1888 and was the oldest of seven boys. My great-grandmother was Baptist, and my great-grandfather was Methodist.

The Methodist Church in Brooksville, Mississippi was located several blocks and across the railroad tracks from my grandfather’s childhood home. The Baptist Church was only two houses away. My great grandfather would take the oldest two boys to walk to the Methodist church on Sunday mornings because they had shoes and could endure the walk on the rocky road. My great grandmother took the five youngest boys to the Baptist Church which only required a barefooted walk across the grass of their neighbor’s yards.

I was born into the Methodist Church. My father was a Methodist. My grandfather was a Methodist, and my great grandfather was a Methodist. I don’t know any family lineage beyond that point— or at least as far as religious preferences and denominations go— but I would imagine that somebody somewhere in my bloodline hung out with John Wesley.

My friend Bill Dunlap explains the denominations this way: Baptists raise you out of the gutter, Methodist clothe you and feed you, Presbyterian to educate you, Episcopalians introduce you to all the right people, which sends you back into the gutter so the Baptist can pick you up again.

I am Methodist to the core. I once gave a speech in New Orleans in which I told Wesleyan-centric stories about growing up in the Methodist church and the crowd was staring at me as if I had a third eye. The stories weren’t connecting. It wasn’t until about halfway through my fourth story that I realized I was speaking to a room full of Catholics. One would think Catholics and Methodist are too far apart, but one would be wrong.

We Methodists aren’t easily identified. Catholics have the rosary, those in the Jewish faith have a Star of David, Muslims have prayer rugs. We Methodists can’t walk around with a casserole dish hanging from our necks, so we host covered-dish suppers.

Methodists are all about the food. Maybe that’s why I have always felt at home at the Methodist Church. There were always donuts in the fellowship hall before Sunday school. We may have changed to preachers every four years, but those donuts were always going to be on that table right by the coffee pot. They are still there— every Sunday for 60 years.

The covered dish suppers I experienced in my youth in the fellowship hall were some of the most impactful culinary highlights of my childhood. My church was filled with good cooks. We weren’t the type of church where the protein and dessert were provided, and everyone was instructed to bring a vegetable dish or casserole. We brought it all. No one ever considered bringing a store-bought cake or fast food fried chicken to covered dish supper night. The people who cooked in my church actually cooked, and they cooked well.

We Methodists love food. When I was a child, my family ate three Sunday lunches a month at my grandmother’s house. On the fourth Sunday we ate at the Hattiesburg Country Club where my grandmother was a member. The most memorable part of eating Sunday lunch at the country club was not the food, but the drive there.

Set just outside the city limits among tall pines and flowering azaleas, the country club was always a memorable destination for Sunday lunch. The only thing that marred the lunch tradition was the church traffic on the way. Sunday lunch at the country club was always a race to beat the Baptists to the buffet.

As soon as the organist hit the last note of the final hymn at Main Street United Methodist Church, my mother would scoop my brother and me up and say, “Let’s go boys, we’ve got to get to the club before the Baptists let out.”

While the choir was midway through the doxology, other families would begin inching their way toward the door. The legend of the Baptists and their Sunday lunch supremacy was so serious at our church we had Methodists trying to beat other Methodists who were trying to beat the Baptists to the buffet. My brother and I were never allowed to inch early. Though when the last note of the last hymn was hit on the church organ, the church doors would fly open and we— along with hundreds of other hungry Methodists— would rush down the steps and race out to Main Street as if there was a fire in the sanctuary.

In those days, Main Street United Methodist Church was flanked on three sides by Hattiesburg’s largest Baptist churches: First Baptist to the south, Temple Baptist to the west and Main Street Baptist to the north. It took great planning to plot the route to the club that would offer the least resistance.

My mother, brother, and I would race to the old yellow Plymouth— which was already strategically parked for a quick exit— and the race would begin. We usually made better time than the other Methodists, and even the Presbyterians (who had a two-block head start), as my mom typically executed the 7th-Street cut-off maneuver which shaved valuable seconds off of our travel time.

The Baptists might have had strength in numbers, but we Methodists could be very determined and quite clever when it came to eating.

At my church, we began our morning service five minutes earlier than other churches. We still do, 10:55 a.m., sharp. I always assumed we started early because, as Methodists, we just couldn’t wait to begin our worship service. I later came to believe later that it might have been the idea of one of the elders in our church who had missed the last piece of white meat on the buffet one too many times.

I had Baptist friends who began to get antsy if the preacher’s traditional post-sermon invitation went on too long. A good Sunday for the Baptist preacher, with a lot of converts coming down to the alter to be saved, after enduring the 37th consecutive chorus of “Just As I Am,” also meant getting out late and being at the back of the buffet line with the last pick on all of the desserts. 

Nowadays, all three of Hattiesburg’s big Baptist churches have moved out west with the gated communities and shopping centers. Unfortunately, there is no longer a traffic problem in downtown Hattiesburg on Sundays. But, for old times’ sake, I would like to get my mom behind the wheel— just one more time— and have her weave in and out of that Baptist traffic on our wild Sunday buffet dash.



Lemon Pie

 6 Tbl   Cornstarch

1 1 /2    cups Sugar

Zest and juice from 3 lemons

4           Egg yolks (reserve the whites for the meringue)

2 cups     Water, boiling

1             Pie crust


Combine the first four ingredients and beat together. Continue to stir and add the boiling water. Place mixture in a non-reactive saucepot and cook over low-medium heat until mixture thickens. Pour into the baked pie shell and set aside.


4              Egg whites

6 Tbl        Sugar

1 /2 tsp     Cream of tartar


Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer. When they start to increase in volume, add the sugar and cream of tartar. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. Spread over the pie and bake at 350 degrees until golden, about 8-10 minutes. Allow pie to cool completely before serving. Yield: eight




Anonymous said...

Well thanks to our Legislators who take on serious problems, we Baptist don't have to worry about running into our Methodist friends at the liquid store. Back door deliveries in unmarked vehicles preferred.

Anonymous said...

Nice article. I grew up in Gulfport and our Methodist church let out at 11:50 in order to get a 10 minute head start and beat the Presbyterians to the yacht club for lunch. Simpler times but what fun we had.

Anonymous said...

HCC was legit! Only thing as good is the Great Southern Club in Gulfport.

Anonymous said...

I loved this !

So true in many ways.
Reminds of Old Canton Road back in the 80's.

A few members of Colonial Heights Baptist would exit their parking-lot faster than a NASCAR driver leaving pit row with four laps remaining.

But it wasn't about lunch.
It was about buying a 12 pack and watching the Saints game.

(After all, the first quarter was already underway).

Anonymous said...

3:51 - Only an Episcopalian would leave church and rush to the convenience store for a 12 pack. Any self respecting Baptist Saints Fan already had his beer on ice at the house. With Rotel Dip ready to warm up.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS