The Church of the Exceptional

       The elderly pianist played much like a child, and halted at the difficult passages. “Jesus Loves Me This I Know…” She missed a few notes, but it still was rendered with a simple beauty. It brought memories of childhood when I’d skip piano lessons to play baseball instead.

       In fact, other than a few volunteers, the entire congregation had some form of mental handicap. They were child-like, though many of them were now into middle age. Most sang off-key, but no one fussed.

       The songs were like Vacation Bible School; “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Amazing Grace,” “This Land is Your Land;” that sort of thing. On “This Little Light of Mine” they held up imaginary lights and let ’em shine. They sent out simple prayers for friends to get over heart trouble or belly aches. They had a penny offering; they didn’t ask for or need much.

        It was me and Marfar, the Banjo Diva, the girl singer, guitar lady and her urologist husband who has taken up mandolin. His voice-over for the animals on “Creatures Great and Small” was the ticket, though. The moo cow was the hit of the day. They loved him.

        Every single one of them thanked us for coming, and bid us a safe trip home. “Where are yous’uns from?” one asked.

        “Harvey County.”

         “Never heered of hit.” He shook my hand with great vigor. “You come back?”


        “Good!” The man skipped down the ramp and called out to a friend. “They gonna come back.”     

        We loaded up our equipment, stood out on the parking lot for a moment and ate some peanuts the Banjo Diva brought from the Fair. I’m near an old man now, but these folks reminded me of childhood days at my grandmother’s country church so many years ago. I can’t describe why, but they always make me feel young. I never fail to be appreciative of my immense good fortune in life.

       Those of us who God gave some degree of raw intelligence can learn something from the mentally handicapped. They have the heart and minds of children. If we were granted enough brain to negotiate our way through the world with relative ease, we should never forget the blessing we have. All of us “sophisticated” people would do well to keep the heart of a child like the folks at The Church of the Exceptional. They were never quite smart enough to learn how to be mean-spirited, and they can help us forget it for a while.

Dr. B

Explore posts in the same categories: Guitar-ed and Feathered, memorable gigs, Writing


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7 Comments on “The Church of the Exceptional”

  1. newt221 Says:

    I know you have mentioned this group before. I am always amazed at the love for God people have. And, how they can make a joyful noise…no matter what.

  2. newt221 Says:

    Dr.B. I know you have written about this group before. It always amazes me how people desire to make a joyful noise…

  3. drtombibey Says:


    You’re right; I have played there before. I am humbled at every visit.

    Dr. B

  4. “They were never quite smart enough to learn how to be mean-spirited, and they can help us forget it for a while.” – Doc B, this made me want to cry… It’s true, isn’t it, that meanness is a quality we learn when we grow up a bit. Children don’t have spite the same way grown-ups do. I hope that we all can keep something of the child in us alive forever.

    • drtombibey Says:


      When I see the folks at The Chuch of the Exceptional I always thank God for a decent grown-up doctor brain, but also pray I can keep the heart of a child. The world can beat the child-like caring out of us if we let it.

      Here’s to me and you both staying young’uns till the end.

      Dr. B

  5. Lisa Husted Says:

    Glad I tuned in for this one Dr B … once again vivid, healing and magical. Just when I SIGNOFF the “L” for drivel I revisit your prose and give thanks.

    • drtombibey Says:


      Just the other day I was sorting thru some early notes about what I hoped to accomplish with “The Mandolin Case.” (I began to write around 2000 and got serious in 2004 or so.)

      I had recorded that I hoped to show how music can heal. I had forgotten I had written that down. That’s why your words in 2010 meant so much and why your quote had to get in the revised version. I realized right there on the spot I had done what I set out to do.

      Y’all keep the faith and the Grey Fox music going up there in N.Y.

      All the best,

      Dr. B

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