Valentine's Day made holy in Augusta
AUGUSTA, Mich. (WMC) – He doesn’t carry a bow and arrow and he doesn’t have wings, but the Rev. Nelson Hall played Cupid in a most grace-filled way on Valentine’s Day 2012. “I like to call it the ‘surprise wedding,’” Nelson says.
It all started when the pastor and the members of Augusta United Methodist Church were planning their annual Valentine’s Dinner a year ago. “Every time I lined up entertainment,” Nelson recalls, “it kept falling through.” Nelson was still asking God what to do as he cleaned the sidewalk in front of the church the Sunday before Valentine’s Day (Tuesday). That’s when a woman came running from the gas station across the street.
The following conversation ensued:
Woman: “What would it cost to use your fellowship hall for a reception?”
Nelson: “Where are you getting married?”
Woman: “The Justice of the Peace.”
Woman: “We can’t afford a church wedding.”
Nelson: “How do you know? How about you and your fiancé coming to see me tomorrow morning?”
The couple left Nelson’s office before Monday noon with this promise. “This church will give you a wedding and a reception. All you have to do is invite your friends and family and it won’t cost a thing.”
That’s when Nelson really got busy. He contacted the Girl Scout leader in the church. Yes. The girls were interested in lighting candles during the service and working at the reception. They would even earn a badge doing so. Women were enlisted to decorate. Someone brought a big wire heart out of her basement. “We put red lights on it,” Nelson notes, “and another woman used white ribbons to make arrows. A couple of candelabras added charm.”
When the men came to fix the Valentine’s dinner on Tuesday, one looked around and said, “Who in our church is young enough to be having a wedding??” Nelson remembers that moment and laughs, “This event was a huge surprise for all of us! It was a lot of fun!”
When people came expecting to sit down to dinner, they were ushered into the sanctuary. The couple was expecting 6-8 people for the wedding. They had about 30 as the congregation surrounded them with love and support. Nelson remarks, “When the bride walked in and saw everything, she just about crumbled it was so overwhelming to her.” The groom later said, “I’ve never known a pastor like you.” To which Nelson replied, “I don’t know how many United Methodist pastors you’ve known. Most of them are pretty awesome.”
As the ceremony got started, the first thing the pastor did was reassure everyone. “This is not pretend. This is an actual wedding. They will be united in matrimony when we’re done here.”
The newlyweds have been coming to church regularly ever since. “It’s been wonderful getting to know each other,” Nelson says. “The people in the church are still talking about that party.”
While the party is but a memory, the love keeps flowing. By year’s end, a baby was on the way. The family’s home needed some remodeling. Pastor Hall and an uncle gutted the whole upstairs. And then Nelson dry walled the new bedroom. There’s still a little finish work to be done but they’ve already settled up. When he was asked, “What do we owe you for your labor?” Nelson’s answer was simply, “Merry Christmas.”
What does The United Methodist tagline, “Open Minds. Open Hearts. Open Doors,” mean? It means putting the holy back in holidays like Valentine’s Day and Christmas by sharing extraordinary hospitality. In retrospect, Nelson believes it was no coincidence that the original entertainment for the dinner fell through. “God doesn’t always tell you what he’s got planned,” Pastor Hall smiles. God planned a Valentine’s Day to remember.
~reported by Kay DeMoss, Weekly News Senior Writer