Was the Mount Clare UM Church the site of a Heavenly visit?

    I received a most interesting fax from Kathy Curry of 401 Washington Ave. in Clarksburg. We spoke for a short while about angels and miracles and such —the things that happen to some people when they’re able to believe without first seeing.
Kathy wrote, in her own words:
    “Thursday and Friday, March 4 and 5, was a World Day of Prayer (experience) where people all across the nation, across the world and across all time lines joined together for 24 hours to pray. The tendency is to kind of shrug a World Prayer circle off with a ‘what-can-that-do?’ attitude, but our tiny country church (Mount Clare United Methodist Church) committed to join with other millions of souls to pray fervently, and without ceasing for the whole time period. Our sanctuary was opened up, day and night. Parishioners committed to a certain time slot on a list; they came and went, while the rest of the church joined them at home.
“The prayers prayed for, and expected God to hear; even though in the worldly sense, we are an unimportant, extremely common congregation ... and He did hear us! (And He gave us miracles to tell — and to reassure others that He is listening, and cares what happens to each of us.)”
    “The vigil began late Thursday, at midnight. Pastor (Rod) Heckert and his wife, Marie, took the first time slot to pray together at the prayer rail, in the candle-lit sanctuary. The church building was silent. They were totally alone, with no distractions.
“Toward the end of their allotted time, the front door opened, someone came inside, and the door closed. Thinking it was the next couple signed up to pray (Steve and Becky Rogers), the Heckerts kept on praying — ‘hard.’ They both heard the old floorboards creak and the quiet footfalls. They both heard soft voices, as the new prayers paused to look at the many names on the list at the side of the altar. Before the pastor and his wife stopped, they both caught a glimpse of the forms standing near them. Then they heard the ancient pews creak as the visitors sat down behind them.
    “After they closed their time of petitioning God, the Heckerts stood up and looked around to greet the Rogers ... but no one was in the church.
    “It should be pointed ut that it’s an absolute certainty that anyone leaving would have been heard. (The door creaks.) And, it should be told that anyone walking away would also have made the floorboards squeak, not to mention (the fact that) the sanctuary holds nothing but pews, so there was no place to hide. Pastor Rod and Marie Heckert were halfway home before each asked the other, ‘Did you see them? Did you hear them speaking?’ They were awed and amazed to think it: could the church have had visitation from the messengers from God — angels?
    “So (of course), over the next week they asked everyone to make sure he had not actually witnessed pop-in pray-ers of the human sort. Not a soul had been there, they were assured. Then, this past week, they got ‘the rest of the story’ from Becky and Steve Rogers. (They were, you will recall, the couple who had signed on to pray after the Heckerts — and whom the Heckerts thought were in the sanctuary with them that first night.
    “It seems that when midnight came that Thursday, both Steve and Becky were under the weather. Steve had a virus and Becky was ‘not sick, but really exhausted.’ Neither felt they could physically make it out to the church to pray that night, so Becky asked God ‘to send His angels to keep their commitment for them and to pray in their place.’
    “And this isn’t the end of the story. Since the 24-hour prayer vigil, we have had reports of at least two physical healings of people brought before God’s throne on that Thursday and Friday. At this point, there may be more than that. We’ll probably know more later on. Also, it should be pointed out that everyone involved in this story is ‘normal’ — just like you.
    “I, too, have something to add to this story. While praying at the close of the 24 hours on Friday night, I witnessed something strange. At the prayer rail, there was — for an instant only — the overpowering sweet smell of roses. It surprised me so that I immediately got up to check the candles burning nearby; but no, the wonderful scent was not theirs. It came from nowhere, and disappeared as quickly as it came. I had never heard of such a thing, but a friend who goes to All Saints Catholic Church says their Christian literature is full of these events; and that these kinds of things happen when a heavenly visitation occurs.”
    Mrs. Curry concluded, “We hear all of the time of Heaven-sent things happening in Texas or Florida or in other countries. But it’s wonderful that these things are also happening right here in Harrison County to an extremely humble little Methodist church.”



Lawmakers find that haste makes waste

    It has become something of an annual tradition. The Legislature meets, the Legislature passes bills, the Legislature asks the governor to veto some of those bills because they have “technical flaws.”
    “As long as you have people involved in the process, you will have human error,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Bill Wooten.
“The Legislature is composed of human beings.”
Don’t we know it.
    Every year, lawmakers put off until virtually the last minute consideration of important legislation. This year was no different. Almost 100 bills passed the Legislature on the final day of the session. Six of them were so fatally flawed that they had to be vetoed and addressed again in special session.
    Six bills out of the 305 that passed during the session may seem like an acceptable margin of error. Maybe it is. But the bills that were flawed were important bills, including those dealing with child support, custody laws and the open meetings law.
Now, lawmakers will have to fix their mistakes in an expensive special session.
    There is no excuse for it, really. Legislators simply put off work on certain bills until the last minute instead of dealing with them earlier in the 60-day session. Try as they might to improve the system, there is still a stampede at 11:59 p.m.
Old habits die hard.



Open meetings bill isn’t perfect but it’s a step forward

    It took four tries but the West Virginia Legislature finally voted for a bill aimed at improving the state’s open meetings law. Legislators are to be congratulated. Unfortunately, due to a technicality, it will all have to be done over again.
In the rush of the final hours of the session, the Legislature voted on the wrong draft of the bill.
    Leading lawmakers are asking Gov. Cecil Underwood to veto the measure so that the problem can be corrected, the bill re-voted and resent to the governor. It seems the correct version of the Senate and House compromise on the new open meetings law was put in the legislative computer system. However, a staff person grabbed a paper copy of an older draft and gave it to clerks.
    This is just one more bump in a 10-year long trip by proponents of more open government. Media organizations in the state have worked to get improvement in the law during that period but various factions in the past had out-lobbied the press. Publishers and editors from newspapers around the state spent many hours this year educating legislators about how the current law was being used to deprive the public of information about its schools, cities and counties.
    It must be noted that the Legislature didn’t vote for a perfect open meetings law. But the new law has provisions which closed loopholes for secret closed-door meetings and tightened key language defining public meetings. It is without a doubt an improvement from the previous law that let school boards and other public bodies charge all too easily behind closed doors when a sticky issue reared its head.
    Del. Jon Amores, D-Kanawha, has long been a supporter of open government and once again this year helped push this bill through the House. It should be noted that House Minority Leader Charles Trump, R-Berkeley, and Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, were important players in getting this bill through the House and Senate, respectively.
    Similar but more comprehensive bills had passed the House of Delegates the three previous sessions only to fail to get out of committee in the Senate. So the effort to reconstruct the law was scaled back to a version that was an improvement but also had a chance to get Senate approval.
    While it was clearly not the law that most media people might have written themselves — which undoubtedly would have called for open government at all times — it was seen as a move forward.
    That is the reality of how government sometimes works. You can aim high and fail repeatedly (which proponents of more open government had done for a number of years) or you can lower the sights a bit and at least hit some part of the target.
We hope the Legislature moves quickly to fix its error. And we hope Gov. Underwood finally gets a chance to sign the bill into law.

Terry Horne
 Telegram editorial board member



Finding talent in unexpected places

    Picture yourself standing in front of a large group of people. Not a couple of dozen but three or four hundred or maybe a thousand people. Imagine you are the total focus of all of their eyes and that they hang on every word that you utter.
    Now throw in the fact that you must sing and dance for these people. And you must wear funny clothes that you would never pick out for yourself. And there are these bright lights shining in your eyes. And, oh, yes, you are on a stage.
    Does the thought make you a nervous wreck? The people who can gather up the courage to do this should be admired. Those who do it well can connect with an audience and take them almost anywhere — to places in the heart and soul that many of us rarely go.
    I was reminded of this at a most surprising place this week. The Friday night performance of “Peter Pan” at Bridgeport High School was supposed to be a treat for my 2-year-old. And she was enthralled. But so was I.
    Congratulations to Gregg Brown, the director, Mary Frances Smith, the vocal director, and Annabel Timms and Cindy Pulice, choreographers. You took a talented group of young people to very near a professional-level performance. Christina Grisso was a joy as Peter Pan. Kyle Sheldon as Captain Hook was exceptional.
    It bordered on magical because it was unexpected at a high school production. Admittedly, I don't have a lot to compare it to because this is the one and only high school production I've seen since I graduated from high school 30 years ago.
I expected halting and fearful performances. Instead, the entire cast was obviously having fun.
    They seemed to be winking an eye at the audience in a way that said, “if you think you are having fun you should be up here on the stage.”
    Maybe we shouldn't have been surprised. By now my wife and I should have learned that some of the best theater experiences come in surprising places. Often when we travel for business or pleasure we make a point to seek out theater in other cities.
    We've taken in big-time theater in Chicago and New York. Great stuff obviously. But some of the most special performances have been in less expected venues.
    Once while in St. Petersburg, Fla., we saw a tiny newspaper ad for a dinner theater production of the musical “Annie Get Your Gun.” We were set for disappointment after a cardboard roast beef dinner in a tiny run-down facility that obviously operated on a shoestring budget. But we forgot all that once the lights went down and the actors grabbed our senses and whisked us away. It was absolutely memorable.
    In Atlanta we saw another tiny ad (yes, small newspaper ads do work) for dinner theater. We had never heard of the play but it had a couple of nice quotes in the ad from the local paper’s reviewer so we gave it a shot.
It turns out to be a small theater company that writes three or four original productions annually with only two or three actors who play numerous roles in each production. Each audience member is given a portion of the script and a role when they are seated. If you don't get a speaking role you are placed in a chorus whose members are asked to write the lyrics to a song during dinner that they will sing in the show later.
    You don't think that creates a little bit of an unsettled feeling just before dinner? But it is great fun. The scripts are full of belly laughs and the professional actors are first rate. We've gone back virtually every time we've visited Atlanta. Wouldn't it be great if there were more good live theater performances in West Virginia?
    One solution for theater-hungry West Virginians is provided by the Charleston Daily Mail. For years it has promoted the “Daily Mail Show Plane.” The newspaper joins with a Charleston travel agency to arrange great seats for four nights of theater productions in New York in April or London in November. The publisher, editor or a well-known staff writer joins up to 50 to 100 people who buy a package for air travel, hotel and theater.
    We only took advantage of this perk once during my five years as publisher of the Daily Mail. I truly regret a dedication to work over play. But I've been thinking about making it up to myself.
    How does “The Exponent and Telegram Show Plane” sound?

Terry Horne is the publisher of The Exponent and Telegram. His column appears weekly in the Sunday Exponent-Telegram.



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Copyright Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999