McMillan Moody. The Old Man and the Tea. OBT Bookz, 2013. E-book.
A few months ago we reviewed another book by Mr. Moody that featured a church intern named Elmo Jenkins. Elmo narrates The Old Man and the Tea as well. This novel takes place about five years later. Jenkins has been installed as an associate pastor of the First Church, a megachurch set in a state that resembles Georgia. Again, he has a number of funny stories and encounters to share.
This time Rev. Jorgenson, the magisterial senior pastor of the church, has planned a major building project. Much of the church structure is over a century old, and it looks like time to do some serious renovation. He has hired a consulting firm to help raise the big bucks needed for such a project.
Meanwhile, now-Rev. Jenkins has made friends with a wise and salty old Christian at a popular doughnut shop. Elijah Enoch always orders tea and reads his Bible there. Elmo finds Eli’s advice very helpful, but when Eli suggests that the church pray about the fundraising before starting the project, Elmo is not sure if anyone will pay attention to what he has to say.
There are a number of other things going on, as always. A respected deacon has started acting like a prophet, interrupting the services and especially speaking against the building program. Elmo is trying to wangle a trip in the sailboat owned by another staff member. (“For some odd reason, a sailboat is a ‘must-have’ for rich white people.” ) And a new secretary hired by the church seems to be disrupting most of the people who work there.
As was true with Ordained Irreverence, there is a lot of humor in The Old Man and the Tea. A flyer printed to promote prayer has a misprint because Elmo’s ones look like sevens, so instead of Acts 1:8, it says Acts 7:8. (If the verse flag here does not work, check it out yourself.) Oh, while Elmo gets a certain amount of teasing because of the Sesame Street figure of the same name, in this installment we meet a character whose name is Burton Earney. Also Fran Bruker’s name sounds a lot like Frau Blucher of Car Talk fame. And it is hard to talk about evangelical Christianity in the United States too long without mentioning Chick Tracts.
Elmo spends a little time in New York City because a publisher there is coming out with a book he wrote. What we remember about his trip there, though, is Sergio, his ex-con chauffeur. At one point Sergio relates how he was in an elevator alone with Frank Sinatra. He asks Sinatra, “Is there any truth to those mafia rumors I keep hearing ’bout you?” Sinatra’s responds the way he actually did respond when he met Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather.
Some readers might receive a little surprise at the end, though a careful reader would have picked up on a number of hints about who Mr. Enoch really is. Elmo, read your Bible.
This is the third of at least six Elmo Jenkins novels. While they are not for everyone, they have a tone similar to that of Garrison Keillor in many of his Lake Wobegon monologues. They do have fun at the expense of the church, but it is humor based on affection.