These are difficult days. Whether it’s the economy or widespread shootings or
ecclesiastical battles that leave many demoralized, these are difficult days. There’s not
much laughter or joy going around.
Occasionally, we encounter someone who, while others see the cynical side of
life, can see the humorous side, someone who insists on the truth and joy of the gospel
when all visible evidence suggests the contrary. It’s not so much a naive perspective as
it is the profound faith that, in the end, God is a God of the resurrection and we are
called to be a resurrection people.
Lamar Williamson was an attorney in Monticello, Arkansas. For 41 years he
served as clerk of session of First Presbyterian Church there. Eschewing the dry,
straightforward method of keeping session minutes, Williamson spiced up the record
with his own honest, humorous, and often self-deprecating observations. In 1966 the
pastor of that church, Rev. Jerry Tompkins, collected and published excerpts from the
session minutes and published them under the title ...And a Time to Laugh: Notes
from the Pen of an Untamed Iconoclast.
In his Introduction to this book Tompkins writes of Williamson’s unusual -- and
humorous -- style of keeping the session minutes: “The language penetrates, it rises like
November wind in the piney woods of southeast Arkansas. It is robust to the point of
being powerful. The words suggest expansiveness, a great uninhibited guffaw for the
sheer joy of being alive and in the hand of God. Its rudeness is caught up and mitigated
by its appeal to honesty, and one is left with the conviction that to require any elder to
have a sense of humor, even if it is wild is not to ask for too much.”
In the minutes of September 1, 1940 we find the following entry: “The Session
was rudely awakened from its month of summer hibernation, hypnotic sleep, complete
inactivity, suspended animation, and general joy by the return of the Pastor from his
month of vacation. The Pastor expressed his appreciation for a profitable and pleasant
vacation.... The Pastor was obviously full of vim, vigor and vitality, eager for work. The
Session admired this evidence of youth, but was able to ward off any visible contagion
from the Pastor’s spirit” (p. 22).
As we make history today, may we not lose our sense of loyalty to the church of
Jesus Christ nor the ability to laugh at our own foibles, shortcomings, and sense of selfimportance. While there is a time to weep, there is also a time to laugh (Eccles. 3:4).