The Observer got a summons last week: Time for jury duty. We duly reported for the orientation and got the skinny on what our citizenship required of us. Then the judge came in, and injected a little humor into the proceedings. He asked how many folks had never been in the Pulaski County Courthouse before and a smattering of hands went up. "I'll bet you were surprised to see Elvis Presley's bust" in the lobby, he said. He was referring, of course, to the bust of Count Pulaski, and it's probably a joke he tells every jury, but we've never been called and we thought it was pretty funny. Elvis would have loved the count's outfit. Then the judge assured us that it was extremely unlikely we'd be sequestered for any trial. There's only been one sequestered jury in the past 30 years, he said, during the celebrated murder trial of Mary Lee Orsini. "We had a state police guard out there" to protect the jury, the judge — who was deputy prosecutor at the time — said, "because we had a crazy sheriff." Guffaws from the older future members of the jury.
Our man in Hot Springs was musing last week about the number of churches in his town and their unusual names. "The Church of Philadelphia seems to be missing the mark by about a thousand miles. Harvey's Chapel begs the question: Who is Harvey? Do the Living Water and River of Life Churches have some connection? Will the Clean Heart Ministry interfere with a pacemaker? The Holy Ghost Headquarters is on West Hobson Avenue. It seems a bit odd to me that an entity that knows all and sees all would choose that particular stretch of Hobson for a corporate HQ.
"Upon hearing the name of the Gospel Light Church I mistook it to be Gospel Lite. My comment that a church that delivers its sermons with a little less fire and brimstone might be refreshing was not received as the compliment it was intended to be.
"It is against this backdrop of hundreds of churches with complex and confusing names that this next story should be viewed.
"One afternoon I was driving slowly down a side street here in town, doing my best to avoid potholes and pit bulls, when I noticed a sign that said 'Church of Christ Parking.' While not a student of religion I am familiar with Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, Church of Christ in Science and even Church of Christ on the Mount, but this Church of Christ Parking was a new one on me.
"Now even a Sunday school dropout knows that Jesus had a proclivity for performing miracles, and churches were sometimes built on the miracle's site. But I have no recollection of any that involve parking. An image of an event that may have lead to the formation of the Church of Christ Parking began to form in my mind's eye.
"It was a bright, sunny morning in a major city of the Holy Land when Jesus and his disciples came upon a multitude. (Although crowds and gangs are the way people prefer to gather today, multitudes were a common sight in Biblical times.)
"It soon became apparent that this multitude had assembled for the purpose of ridiculing an elderly lady who was trying to parallel park her Mercury Grand Marquis. The Mercury was 16 cubits long and the parking space a mere 17.5 cubits in length and it was easy to see that granny was over-matched. Her failures were delighting the crowd to no end. People were hooting, cat-calling and blowing raspberries in the direction of the frustrated senior citizen behind the wheel.
"Jesus stepped into the street and, holding up his hand, quelled the multitude. He opened the door to the Mercury and helped the old lady out. He then slid in behind the wheel and adjusted the seat and mirrors. What happened next was beyond belief. Jesus threw the gear selector into reverse, gunned the engine and, with one finger, spun the steering wheel.
"The big car slid into the parking space as slick as if it had been anointed. There was much cheering from the crowd and more than a few hosannas were offered up.
"At this point I turned the corner and reality struck; my internal narrative stopped. I was in front of the Church of Christ; parking was incidental."