My grandfather, the Reverend Dr. Marshall C. Dendy, Sr. served the Presbyterian Church for over sixty years. He was the pastor of numerous churches in the deep South and from 1952 to 1968 served as the Secretary to the Board of Christian Education for the Presbyterian Church U.S in Richmond, Virginia.
One of the hallmarks of his leading the Board of Christian Education was the publication of the “Covenant Life Curriculum.” A curriculum that was used by five different Christian Church denominations.
Over twenty books were written for the curriculum. The books which stuck out in my mind the most were:
The Christian Life by Waldo Beach
The Mighty Acts of God by Arnold B. Rhodes
The Study of the Catechism: The Westminster Shorter Catechism for Families by Marshall C. Dendy, Sr. (My grandfather!!)
Through the Ages: A History of the Christian Church by Ernest T. Thompson
But the book par excellence for me over the past forty years of my life from the Covenant Life Curriculum was the gold standard:
Christian Doctrine by Shirley C. Guthrie, Jr.
I am not sure of the origin of why Shirley’s parents named their son Shirley, but nonetheless he served as the J.B. Green Professor of Systematic Theology at Columbia Seminary (Decatur, Georgia) for over forty years. Shirley passed away in 2004, leaving a lasting legacy of Christian faith, discipleship and love for the Church.
If you are a pastor or seminary student or a lifelong Presbyterian, Shirley Guthrie’s book, Christian Doctrine is surely on your shelf in your library.
Last weekend, I was back at my Alma Mater of Davidson College officiating the wedding of two Davidson College graduates, Sarah Satterwhite (’11) and Dean Williams (’11) at the historic Davidson College Presbyterian Church. I went to college with Sarah’s mom and dad, Katie (’84) and Bill Satterwhite (’84). I have watched Sarah grow up her entire life. I was so honored and humbled to be asked to officiate her wedding.
It was a beautiful wedding with nine gorgeous bridesmaids and eight handsome groomsmen. Great hymns were sung and thoughtful, inspiring scriptures were read. We officially “tied the knot” around 5:37 pm on Saturday, July 25th. Thousands of photos were taken after the wedding and then we were off to the reception, held in Charlotte, NC, about a thirty minute jaunt down I-77.
At the reception the time came for the bride and groom to be officially introduced in order to begin their official dance together. The dance floor cleared and adoring friends and family members watched these two love birds dance.
As they were dancing, a striking, elegant older lady in her early 80’s in a gorgeous sky blue evening dress approached me, held me by the arm and said in the most perfect southern Georgia drawl, “Daaaavid, my name is Vivian Guthrie.” I looked down into her dancing, sparkling eyes and asked, “Are you Shirley Guthrie’s wife?” She gave pause, her lips parted into a wide smile and she said, “Yes, I was.”
Now it was time for my eyes to light up! I said, “My grandfather was Marshall Dendy.” I didn’t think her smile could get any bigger. “Oh Daaaavid! When I saw your name in the wedding program I just knew it had to be so.” She reached up and wrapped her arms around my neck as if I was kin.
The evening progressed with lots of dancing and conversation and the rekindling of some friendships that had been dormant for the past thirty years.
The nine man band announced that the last song was going to be played and then the bride and groom would be off to enjoy their honeymoon. The band started in on the oldie but goodie, “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry. The people went crazy and the dancing turned into a frenzied mob…
I stood patiently at the back of the dance floor talking with my dear friend Bill (the Father of the Bride). All of a sudden I noticed dancing in front of me was Vivian Guthrie…all by herself.
I could not help myself. I ran forward, grabbed her by the hand and started twirling her around and we looked like two “swingers” from the 1920’s. Around and around we were dancing a jig like nobody’s business. This lady could dance! She still had some major moves and was dancing in step to the rhythm of the beat. She was not going to be denied!
This went on for a few minutes and I thought to myself, “Well, surely Vivian will need to stop very shortly. I mean, for goodness sake, she’s in her 80’s and how long can she keep up this pace?”
We kept dancing and twirling and swinging and dancing and then it finally hit me like a ton of Covenant Life Curriculum books, “Vivian is not going to stop dancing with me until the music stops…”
As a pastor, one of my responsibilities and privileges is to officiate funerals.
I cannot even begin to tell you how many people I have buried that figuratively died at 55, but we didn’t bury them until they were in their 80’s.
Read the above paragraph one more time, just to let it sink in…
I have seen it…
You have seen it…
Someone, for some reason, some of them legitimate reasons, walk off the dance floor of life while the music is still playing. Their dancing comes to an end. Their love of swing has swung, and they’re done while the band plays on…
I am wondering if God doesn’t have you by the hand swaying and dancing with you right now to whatever rhythms of life you are going through at the moment and is looking you in the eye and pleading with you, “Please dance with me until the music stops. Don’t stop now. Whatever you do, don’t stop before the music stops! There’s so much more of life in store for you, please (insert your name here) don’t stop dancing with Me, until the music stops…”
Laugh often and Fear not!
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10: 10)
ps – What a small world we live in…Vivian Guthrie was roommates with Sarah’s (the bride) grandmother at Agnes Scott College back in the early 1950’s. And there they were together, roommates from long ago still celebrating life together, still dancing until the music stops…