By Fred Anderson
Christmas is a good season for remembering your pastor. Perhaps his coat is a little brown and rusty, maybe his buggy rattles too much, almost surely his bank account is thin and meager.
It is so simple and easy a thing for loving hearts to find a way to do good. Can anyone measure the joy which may flow into the toiling pastor’s heart when his people bestow on him these tokens of love? Let us hope that not a pastor will be forgotten or neglected.”
With those broad hints, Robert H. Pitt, editor of the Religious Herald, reminded his readers that Christmas 1906 should not slip by without some remembrance of pastors. At the beginning of the 20th century, the old-fashioned Christmas “pounding” already was a long-standing tradition among Baptists.
Of course, the womenfolks remembered their “Christmas Offering for China.” In 1906 Fannie E.S. Heck, president of WMU, SBC, urged the women to “put Christ first on our list of Christmas giving”; and for the WMU members the message was plain – a gift for Christ was the gift of God’s Word throughout China. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering – named for a native Virginian – became a standard on every Baptist’s gift list.
Of course church members gave to each other, to family and friends; and certainly high on the Christmas list in years past was the minister and the minister’s family. Consider the bounty given a century and more ago, in December 1895, to Milton R. Grimsley, who served a field of country churches in Central Virginia.
From Jeffersonton Baptist Church he received “a handsome clock, carving knife and fork and money.” From Remington Baptist Church, he got “coffee, sugar, flour, cakes, fruit, turkey, chicken, wearing apparel and money” while Orlean Baptist Church sent “solid silver spoons, an Oxford Bible and many other things.”
At Christmas 1892, Andrew Broaddus II received gifts from several churches in and around Caroline County, Virginia. He resided at White Plains, the old Broaddus homeplace near the village of Sparta in Caroline and was pastor of the nearby Salem Baptist Church. “Mister Andrew the Second” followed his father as pastor and was succeeded by his son – all three named Andrew Broaddus!
Of course Salem folks bestowed tokens of affection; but Broaddus was surprised to receive a gift of $40 from Upper King and Queen Baptist Church. Why shouldn’t they have remembered and cared? After all, he had served as their pastor for 43 years until ill health decided the question of continuing.
Broaddus son, “Mister Andrew the Third,” was pastor of Upper Zion Baptist Church; and when the son became ill, the father temporarily supplied the pulpit. He certainly did not expect to receive Christmas gifts from Upper Zion.
“Knowing that the church had to pay the pastor’s salary, I was willing to furnish such services as I could render free of charge,” explained the elder Broaddus. “But the members generously made a handsome contribution in money; and during Christmas gave me six splendid hams, a fine turkey and numerous supplies.”
The next Christmas the same kindness was shown by Salem Church. “During all the 45 years I have been their pastor,” recalled Broaddus, “I have received from its members continued and uninterrupted kindnesses and confidence; and now that from age and disease I am capable of but little service, they have shown by a liberal and generous present that their affection for me in unabated; and this, too, while their pecuniary ability is very small and their numbers greatly reduced by deaths and removals.”
In 1893 Judson Reamy claimed that “the Eastern Shore saints are as good as the best” and “know how to pound.” Speaking of the generosity of Onancock Baptist Church, he explained: “They came, took possession of the parsonage and requested the preacher and family to tarry awhile in the parlor. Presently we were escorted into the dining room. Lo, what a great change had taken place! Behind the table, heavily ladened, and the floor filled with the luxuries of life. Our pounding closed with a delightful evening of music and social chat. God bless the dear people! I shall strive to feed my flock on the bread of life – praise God from whom all blessings flow!”
At nearby Mappsville on the Shore, J.L. King reported: “Just before Christmas my people gave the inmates of the parsonage a severe pounding. Not the kind that hurts the head but the kind that makes the inner man wonderfully comfortable. May the Lord make us worthy of such tokens of kindness and enable the pastor to feed them on spiritual food!”
The old-fashioned pounding is a thing of the past. But thoughtfulness and kindness need never go out of style. There are few pastors who would be offended by spontaneous gifts of love – Christmas cards with enclosures, fruit, candy, books, a meal at a nice restaurant, the offer of babysitting the children, a pint of oysters, the proverbial necktie and handkerchief.
When love is shown, only the imagination limits the ideas for gifts; and even poundings are still appropriate.