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Short Stories: Sunday Night Communion and STARS Dirt Track Racing

bob hartman midway speedway
Butch Hartman

In the late 1980s, I planned to take Polly and our four children at the time to a dirt track race at Midway Speedway in Crooksville, Ohio. The STARS (Short Track Auto Racing Series) were making a Saturday night appearance at the track — a one hundred-lap event. Scores of big-name racers planned to be at this event. On the scheduled night it rained, forcing the track to move to Sunday.

At the time, I was pastoring Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. We had two services on Sunday: 11:00 am and 7:00 pm. I was facing a dilemma. I had tickets for the race, but I had to be present and accounted for Sunday night at the church. I couldn’t tell the church that I couldn’t be there because I had tickets to a “worldly” racing event. Doing so would have been considered a sin. Yet, I really, really, really wanted to go to the race. My two oldest sons really wanted to go to the race. All our dirt track racing heroes would be there. And a hundred laps? Wow, most late model races were 25-50 laps.

scott peltz midway speedway
Scott Peltz

So, I went to the Lord in prayer, seeking his guidance and wisdom. Just kidding. I concocted a plan to hold a “special” communion service at 5:00 pm, one that would be finished in less than an hour. And it was. My family and I quickly said our goodbyes and out the door we went. I am sure some members wondered why we were in a hurry.

The race was everything I thought it would be. On our way home, the guilt set in. Instead of taking the night off or telling congregants why I couldn’t be there, I manipulated them so I could do what I wanted. The good news? I prayed for forgiveness, and Jesus magically forgave me. 🙂


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    Karuna Gal

    Ha! Weren’t you a rascal, skipping out of church early, and you were a fundy minister yet! 😄 But it was to go and enjoy some good clean fun with family. No sinning in that, by my lights.

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    Re:non-church attendance. In 1968, the mega-successful 26 episode Forsyte Saga was broadcast on UK TV on Sunday nights. Hubby and I were quite shocked that churches began moving the times of their evening services, as folk prioritised that programme over church attendance (pubs closed too and streets were empty). We were pretty smug and self-righteous back then that church always, always came first and twice every single Sunday for us. I’ve always thought that this TV scheduling probably contributed to the decline in regular evening services in many churches as members realised they didn’t get smitten by god for non-attendance on cold winter nights and there was now something good on the ‘tele’ to watch on a Sunday, for the first time instead.

  3. Avatar

    That’s awesome that you were able to change the schedule so that you and your family could enjoy a big event! Did anyone else from church go? Would they have admired you or judged you if they, being avid racing fans, had known?

  4. Avatar

    Rev up your engines for a 5:00 special communion spectacular! We’ve got bread! we’ve got wine! And we’ll be done in an hour’s time! Be there or go to Hell!

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Bruce Gerencser