Video: A picture of Rev Peale with the words 'The story of Rev. Norman Vincent Peale’
It all began a few years ago when I was assigned to my first church, Kings Highway Methodist.
Video: a small church.
I arrived – an eager, skinny young man, ready to do my best.
Video: Rev Peale striding along the road.
Video: Shot of congregation with two factions on either side of the aisle.
But on my first morning, when I entered the church, I knew something was wrong. My small congregation was split right down the middle. And week after week it went on the same way …
Video: Scene inside the church. Congregation are seated and Rev Peale is in the pulpit preaching. Camera on Peale then pans over the congregation as he speaks.)
Peale: Dearly Beloved. Love one another. For love comes from God . See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God …
(As he talks the congregation glare at each other except Hamish Rowbottom who sits on his own at the back. Fade to congregation singing final song:)
All: (singing while glaring at each other)
Like a mighty army, moves the church of God
Brothers we are standing, where the saints have trod
We are not divided, All one body we.
One in hope and doctrine. One in charity.
Onward Christian soldiers…
(Fades to scene at the door with Rev Peale shaking hands and Hamish Rowbottom collecting hymnbooks.)
Agnes: (shaking Peale’s hand) Good morning, Reverend Peale.
Peale: Good morning, Mrs Follett.
Agnes: That was a fine sermon, Reverend and one I know some of your new flock very much needed to hear (glares back at Peggy Lloyd)
Peale: (awkwardly) Errr … thank you, Mrs Follett.
Agnes: Come, children. (her children follow her as she sweeps out, poking their tongues out at the Lloyd children, who do likewise)
Peggy: (approaching the door) How typical of Agnes Follett to try and beat me to the door. (shaking Peale’s hand) Morning, Reverend Peale.
Peale: Good morning, Mrs Lloyd.
Peggy: You’ll soon get to know there are two types of people in this church – the righteous folk and then there’s the other ones. Good to hear you putting them in their place this morning, Reverend.
Peale: (put on the spot) I wasn’t … that is to say … I didn’t quite mean …
Peggy: Good day, Reverend. I hope you’re very happy here.
(rest file past leaving Peale alone with Hamish Rowbottom)
Hamish: Well, Reverend. Welcome to the Battle of Kings Highway – Follett V Lloyd.
Peale: It’s a sad state of affairs, Hamish. Tell, me. How long have these women been behaving this way?
Hamish: Well … I reckon, ever since we was all in primary school together. Agnes and Peggy – two bright young things but always competing. I tell you, Reverend, those women are born leaders. Why they just lead half of the church each. (pointing) There’s Peggy’s army on this side of the aisle and over here we’ve got Agnes and her legion.
Peale: And how about you, Hamish?
Hamish: I don’t go in for all this faction nonsense, Reverend. Hamish Rowbottom, I says to myself. You just keep out of all this warring and hand out them hymnbooks and take up that old collection. I’m the only one who can do it. None of them would ever do anything for the other side.
Peale: But why has no one ever talked to these women? A church should be a place of peace!
Hamish: Well I reckon the last minister tried. Blessed are the peacemakers was his favourite text. But it was lost on those two ladies. Aye, the old Reverend Peters, he passed on but Agnes and Peggy are still battling away, hating each other good and proper and all their followers along with them.
Peale: Hamish, I’ve been watching this congregation week after week, as I preach the love and the peace of God. I think it’s high time I called on Agnes Follett and Peggy Lloyd and confronted them. It’s their Christian duty to love one another.
Hamish: It will never work, Reverend. It will just make things worse.
A conductor of good will – that’s what a minister of a church should be.
Peale: But Hamish, tell me, how does one transmit good will when there is none in the first place?
Hamish: (tapping a hymn book) Ah … Create some, boy. Create some …
(he walks out leaving Peale looking bemused)
(End of Video clip)
(Lights up on Peale on stage)
Peale: The strangest advice I’ve ever received. How was I, Norman Vincent Peale, a 24 year old, 60 kg young man to bring peace between two embittered middle-aged women? Hostility leads to hostility. Anger breeds anger. There was no doubt the church was caught up in a vicious cycle. As I pondered Rowbottom’s words, it occurred to me that the reverse could also be true.
Peale: (knocking on cottage door) Good morning, Mrs Lloyd.
Peggy: (surprised, delighted, taking off her apron) Reverend Peale. What a pleasure. Come in. Come in. I’ve just this moment taken a batch of biscuits out of the oven.
(Fade to scene in sitting room)
Peggy: Now, here’s a nice glass of milk and a plate of my oatmeal cookies. That’ll keep you from blowing away.
Peale: (helping himself) You’re a marvellous cook, Mrs Lloyd. These biscuits are superb. (Deep breath) I enjoyed a nice chat and a slice of apple pie with Mrs Follett yesterday afternoon. She’s a good cook, isn’t she?
Peggy: (choking) Agnes Follett? Humph! She’s a good cook all right but there isn’t much else to recommend her. I could tell you a thing or two about Agnes. Why she’s the most awful …
(Scene fades as words come on the screen ‘ That afternoon ...’ And comes up in the sitting room of Agnes Follett)
Agnes: Well, I must say it’s delightful to have you here, Reverend Peale. Have another cup of tea. And you must have another muffin. You really do need feeding up.
Peale: Thank you, Mrs Follett. Don’t mind if I do. You know, this morning, I heard Mrs Lloyd say something nice about you.
Peale: Mrs Lloyd. She said you were a good (waves his muffin) cook. And I must say, I think she’s right. (puts the muffin in his mouth)
Agnes: Well … Well, I never. Well, I suppose if it comes to that (as if she can’t quite believe what she hears herself saying)Peggy Lloyd has a light hand with pastry herself.
(Scene fades. Words on screen. ‘The next afternoon …’ Scene comes up in Peggy Lloyd’s sitting room.)
Peale: You really are too kind, Mrs Lloyd. Well, yes maybe one more slice of your excellent pie. But really it’s no surprise to find it’s so good. Why – only yesterday, Mrs Follett was commenting on your expertise as a pastry cook.
Peggy: She did? Well I never.
Peale: I heard the other day, that Agnes Follett was quite a singer in her day.
Peggy: I have to admit she was . Probably the best soprano our
church has ever had.
(Video clip ends)
(Lights up on Peale on stage)
Peale: Create some good will. That’s what Hamish Rowbottom said. And that’s what I did. And feeble as this little flicker of good will was, it was the beginning of the end of the church feud.
Video clip: The church foyer
Peggy: Agnes, my dear. You are looking well today.
Agnes: Why, thank you, Peggy. And how nice your hat is.
Together they move, arm in arm to the door, take a book from Hamish and sweep past Rev. Peale
Together: Morning Reverend Peale.
(They sit down together cheerfully)
Hamish: Ah, you’re a right one, Reverend Peale. Blessed are the peacemakers.
(Shot of Peale in pulpit with his hand raised) Aye … Blessed are the peacemakers
(Final shot of congregation all looking friendly with Agnes and Peggy sitting together at the front)
© Erina Caradus (Dunedin City Baptist) June 2001
All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged. In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. Our drama group can be contacted at the following address: Caradii@xtra.co.nz