“Thursday Mornings are the Best Mornings.”

More often than not, the men linger to chat for a few minutes before going their separate ways for the day.

By Susan Shinn Turner

Each Thursday morning for the last seven years, a group of 20-25 men gathers for food, fellowship, and the opportunity to dive deep into the scripture lesson for the upcoming Sunday worship service.  Pastor Rhodes leads the study.

Since May 2017, the group has been meeting in the dining room at Trinity Oaks. It’s a great central location, and super convenient for those in the group who just happen to live at Trinity Oaks. Residents who aren’t members of St. John’s are also welcome to participate.

Before digging into scripture, the men first dig into a hearty buffet breakfast. The staff opens a few minutes early to accommodate the group, and the men have this part of the dining room to themselves. Breakfast begins at 7:30 am, with the Bible study beginning around 7:45 — depending on how long the men want to talk about recent trips, health concerns, and other news and current events. And to be sure, there’s always time for good-natured ribbing among the friends.

“We got started at The Palms,” says longtime member Mike Jacobsen. “That room got tight — and hot!”

The men then tried several places around town before settling on Trinity Oaks after Bill Johnson, its executive director, offered the space.

“I learn a lot,” Bill says. “There are lots of different perspectives.”

So does Ted Goins, executive director of Lutheran Services Carolinas, who on this morning has to eat and run.

“It’s just family,” Ted says of the group. “I love having guys from church and our residents together.”

Not only that, but it’s a chance for men who attend different worship times to get to know one another better.

Pastor Rhodes, who leads the weekly study, has a reserved spot in the middle of the U-shaped table. It’s set up for 25, and this morning is nearly full.

“Don’t tell anyone,” Pastor Rhodes quips, “but these guys are responsible for my sermons.”

“It’s the highlight of my week, no doubt,” he continues. “The camaraderie, humor, and mutual upbuilding are things I look forward to every week.”

Besides Mike, Bill, Ted, and the pastor, also on hand are Bill Safrit, Geof Hoy, Dennis Rogers, Norman Sloop, Larry Cesario, Randy Overcash, Mike Agee, Don Duggan, Jack Connery, Fred Krusemark, Bob Loeblein, Chuck Moll, Acey Worthy, Larry Breitwieser, David Phillips, and Gary Rhodes.

Gary Taylor is a regular but is recovering from recent outpatient shoulder surgery. Others in the group are traveling.

Pastor Rhodes, right, talks with longtime Bible study member, Norman Sloop, after the session has concluded.

Randy says he just drove a group of 150 Mormons to Illinois with Crossroads Tours.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” he says. “I shared with the other driver about Lutheranism. We all need to understand other faiths.”

Dennis and Norman sit near one another in Chancel Choir and at breakfast, and are longtime members of both groups. Norman shares news of a recent family reunion at Crossnore. More often than not, he also leads the closing prayer. Jack is new to the group and asks to be put on the weekly email reminder list.

Pastor Rhodes leads a discussion with the men about the upcoming scripture from Luke, the story of Jesus cleansing the 10 lepers. He encourages the men to spend time with God in gratitude, and not to forget to say thanks.

“See you in church,” he says, as the group dismisses around 8:45 am. They linger in groups of two or three, chatting a bit longer before going their separate ways for the day.

If you’d like to be a part of the Men’s Bible Study, send an email to Joy Chaffin at joy@stjohns-salisbury.org.