In each of the last few years, Ryan Gillikan, junior warden of Immanuel Church, Bay Minette, and the local representative of Episcopal Relief and Development, has come up with a new, fun-filled, and productive way for parishioners to support ERD in Lent. Sometimes, she and the vicar, the Rev. Albert Kennington, do some friendly sparring about the goal. All is well, because ERD always wins. Perhaps only southern gentlemen in our politically correct Episcopal Church could have done this year's project successfully and with such fun, when Ryan announced on the first Sunday of Lent that there would be an Old Goat Race – the old goats being the men of the congregation. She had a race tract prepared on a parish hall table with small cut-outs of goats, each named for one of Immanuel's men – minus the vicar. For him, Ryan had decreed that when the race was won by all of the old goats, the vicar would kiss a goat in front of the church. The vicar learned this during her announcement.
So, the race was on. During Lent, money was placed on each old goat. The race went on until all old goats crossed the finish line. By the third Sunday of Easter, all had won, especially Episcopal Relief and Development. For Immanuel, a vigorous congregation of some 36 members – 20% up from last year – the old goats had won $839.17 for Episcopal Relief and Development. The first to cross the finish line was Ron Harrison, our newest member, confirmed by Bishop Russell in February.
The morning of kissing day came on May 5. Most in the congregation knew that their vicar was a farm boy from nearby Atmore, but not that in his boyhood he had a pet goat. Kissing a goat was no challenge for him. So, when Ryan placed in his arms a precious six-week old kid named Dip Stick (he deserved better) there was a reunion of kindred spirits with affectionate whispers, cuddling, and several kisses.
There are two happy endings to this little story. Episcopal Relief and Development won again, just as last year, when Immanuel folks gave to a Lenten/Easter project, then again to the cause of Hurricane Florence, and then more to our own Hurricane Michael.
In the other happy ending: Ryan said that when she delivered Dip Stick back to his home, just north of Bay Minette, he ran across the pasture bleating his story to his mother until they met and nuzzled, and then he helped himself to a good milky snack until he plopped down in the grass for a good rest. All was well. No harm done to any animal or person, and much good done for others.
By the way, Ryan reminds us constantly that ERD means Episcopal Relief and Development.
Photo top: The Old Goats. Credit: Sherri Killam-Albee
Photo bottom: Ryan and Dip Stick. Credit: Sherri Killam-Albee