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Tag: Polly Gerencser

Short Stories: How a Dislocated Finger Almost Got Me Kicked Out of Bible College

midwestern baptist college freshman class 1976
Midwestern Baptist College Freshman Class 1976. Polly Shope, first person on left, first row. Bruce Gerencser, eighth person from left, third row. Weren’t we cute?

In late August, 1976, I packed up my meager earthly goods, put them in my Plymouth Valiant, and trekked two-and-a-half hours north from Bryan, Ohio to Pontiac, Michigan so I could enroll for ministerial classes at Midwestern Baptist College. I parked my dilapidated car in front of the dorm (which housed two floors of men and one of women) and unloaded my clothing, books, food stuffs, and a few pictures. My first roommates were Toby Todd and an older man named Dale Wilson. Several months later I moved to another room. My roommates were the only Black man in the dormitory: Fred Gilyard, Jack Workman, and Wendell Uhl — who was a rambunctious, thrill-seeking man who would later be expelled from school for writing his unique initials in a school monument’s freshly poured cement.

I had three goals I hoped to achieve while attending Midwestern:

  • Prepare for the ministry
  • Date a lot of girls
  • Play sports

Now, when I say play sports, I am not talking about college sports as most readers think of when thinking about collegiate sports. The enrollment at Midwestern was around four hundred students. The college had an astronomical drop-out rate — over seventy percent. There was a constant stream of new talent for the college’s basketball program. I was one such player. I was six feet tall and weighed one hundred sixty pounds. I loved playing basketball, having played high school city league basketball three years for Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. The team was coached by the chairman of the drama department. He was fired during my sophomore year of college for having an affair with the wife of the dean of men.

The coach was a player-coach. Many of the players were older men, some in their thirties. Midwestern’s basketball team was very much a collection of misfits — at best an intramural team. Regardless of the quality of the team, I very much wanted to play basketball for Midwestern Baptist College. The college’s founder, Dr. Tom Malone, was an avid basketball player. He was in his 60s at the time. I played many a pick-up game with Dr. Malone. He was a hard-nosed player. He sent many a student packing over complaints about fouls. No blood, no foul, was Dr. Malone’s style of play; a style, by the way, that agreed with me. I loved playing rough, physical basketball.

Midwestern’s team was made up of all comers. I expressed my interest in playing and began attending practices. I thoroughly enjoyed playing with my fellow teammates, and I was looking forward to helping Midwestern vanquish other nearby Fundamentalist Baptist college basketball teams. Unfortunately, something happened that would permanently derail my college basketball career.

car I took to college
My 1970 (I think) Plymouth Valiant.

One early evening at practice, I jumped up to block the shot of a fellow teammate. As I forcefully slapped the ball, I dislocated the middle finger of my left hand, jamming the finger into my knuckle. I was taken to the emergency room where the doctor attempted to reset my finger. After several careful attempts to do so, the doctor said, well, this is going to hurt! He made sure the bed wheels were locked, put his foot on the bar along the bottom of the bed, and with my mangled finger in his hand, forcefully yanked my dislocated finger back into place. He was right about the pain. I screamed and said a few Christian swear words (See Christian Swear Words), but I was grateful my finger was back in place. I left the hospital with a splint on my hand. This injury put an end to my college basketball career.

Midwestern had a strict dress code. Male students were required to wear ties to classes. One early morning, I met Polly in the dorm common room and asked her to tie my tie for me. No big deal, right? One fellow Christian helping another one, I thought at the time. I found it impossible to tie my tie with one hand, and I didn’t think anyone would mind if my girlfriend helped me out. Boy, was I wrong. Sitting in the common room was a pharisaical couple who deemed our tie-tying endeavor a violation of the college’s six-inch rule — a decree that said unmarried male and female dorm students couldn’t have any physical contact. (See Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule)

Come the following Tuesday, Polly and I were called before the college’s disciplinary committee to answer for our “sin.” There were three men on the disciplinary committee, Gary Mayberry, the dean of men, Don Zahurance, and another man whose name I can’t remember. Polly and I were excoriated for breaking the six-inch rule. Zahurance, in particular, grilled us, asking if we “enjoyed” touching one another; if we got a “thrill” out of physical contact. Today, I would have said, YES, DUMB ASS, WE DID!  However, not wanting to be expelled, Polly and I endured their intrusive, offensive inquisition. We were given fifty demerits and told that if we had any physical contact again we would be expelled.

Their attempt to put the fear of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) God into us failed. We would spend the next eighteen months finding ways to engage in damnable sins such as holding hands, kissing, and hugging. On weekends, we would double-date with like-minded students. I won’t tell if you won’t, was the rule. We hugged and kissed our way to July 15, 1978, our wedding day. Finally, no more demerits for getting too close to the love of my life!

I know this story sounds almost unbelievable to some of you, but it did happen. Attending Midwestern Baptist College was like living in an alternate universe. Polly and I now laugh about our days as Midwestern students, but there was a time when we feared being exposed for behaving like normal, heterosexual humans. We feared being reported to the disciplinary committee for daring to touch one another. The cruelty of Midwestern’s disciplinary system was that it allowed anonymous students to report offenders. There was a box outside of the dean of men’s office for disciplinary slips. Only certain students were allowed to write someone up. Generally, freshmen were not permitted to write anyone up. Ironically the upperclassmen who reported us for breaking the six-inch rule? It was later rumored that they were going all-in on breaking the six-inch rule and having sex. Hypocrisy abounded at Midwestern. The couple who reported us is now faithfully pastoring an IFB church. I am sure they preach against teens and unmarried adults having physical contact with each other before marriage, conveniently burying their own sexual indiscretion in the dust of the past.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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2023: A Few Family Photos From an Atheist and His Heathen Wife Who Have No Meaning and Purpose in Their Lives

Our children and their girlfriends and spouses, along with our thirteen grandchildren, were over to celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday. We had a delightful time. On Monday we drove to Cincinnati to watch the Reds play the Colorado Rockies.

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Bruce Gerencser at Great American Ballpark, June 19, 2023

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Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Father’s Day 2023.

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Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Great American Ballpark, June 19, 2023

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Our children, ages thirty to forty-four, Father’s Day 2023

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Our grandchildren, ages three to twenty-two, Father’s Day, 2023

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Our grandchildren, ages three to twenty-two, Father’s Day, 2023

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Our older grandchildren, ages fifteen, seventeen, seventeen, and twenty-two, Father’s Day, 2023

As you can see, the Gerencser family lives empty, purposeless lives. While some of us are religious, most of us are not. None of us are Evangelical, nor are we fans of much of what we see in organized religion. Thank God, the curse has been broken.

The next time an Evangelical tells me my life is worthless without Jesus, I will point them to these pictures and say, “Sure buddy, keep telling yourself that.” I live a happy, fulfilling life, one filled with love, all without Jesus and the church. Impossible, you say? The evidence is right in front of you, much like Jesus when he said “here are the nail prints in my hands. Will you not believe?” Or do you have an agenda; a strawman you must maintain at all costs?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Short Stories: Thou Shall Not Touch

I came of age in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. IFB preachers are known for their staunch, unflinching views on human sexuality. Only sexual behavior between married, monogamous, heterosexual couples is ordained by God. Some preachers believe that certain sexual behaviors within marriage are sinful too: anal sex, oral sex, and mutual masturbation. In their minds, the primary goal of sexual intercourse is procreation. In this regard, their beliefs aren’t different from those of the Roman Catholic Church.

These preachers, in particular, focus on the sex lives of unmarried teenagers and young adults; no physical contact before marriage, including kissing. Some IFB preachers forbid dating couples from even holding hands or putting their arms around each other. Holding hands is considered the first step on the slippery slope that ends in immorality. As a young IFB preacher, I remember telling church teens that no girl ever got pregnant who didn’t hold hands with a boy first. And unmarried young people better not use their hands to find sexual gratification sans a partner either. Masturbation is considered an act of lust, one in which the person is only concerned with pleasuring one’s self. IFB preachers remind unmarried teens and young adults that the Bible commands them to deny themselves. Of course, many of these preachers didn’t practice what they preach when they themselves were hormones-raging young people.

My wife and I were virgins on our wedding day. Two decades of IFB indoctrination and conditioning made sure of that. We were true believers. Several years ago, I had a discussion with two women who were friends of mine during high school. The three of us were part of the same youth group at an IFB church in Findlay, Ohio. During our delightful time of reminiscing, I quickly learned that there was a whole lot of sexual activity going on among church teenagers; that I may have been one of the few virgins in the youth group. This did not surprise me. Now an old man and having pastored scores of teenagers and young adults over the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry, I know premarital sex is common; that all the rules in the world won’t staunch raging hormones.

At the age of eighteen, I had a torrid six-month relationship with a twenty-year-old woman from the Conservative Baptist church we both attended. I was naive when it came to sex, whereas she had already had a sexual relationship with a previous boyfriend. We spent a lot of time together, often taking evening drives in the southeast Arizona desert. We would park along back roads and enjoy the clear, star-studded skies. We would, of course, make out. It’s a wonder that we didn’t have sex, but I suspect “fear” of disobeying God and being labeled fornicators by the church kept us from doing so.

In the fall of 1976, I left northwest Ohio and moved to Pontiac, Michigan to enroll in classes at Midwestern Baptist College — an IFB institution. My plan was to play the field, but it was not long before I met a beautiful, dark-haired preacher’s daughter who would later become my wife. Midwestern had strict no-contact rules for unmarried students. Students of the opposite sex were required to stay at least six inches from each other at all times. No handholding, no kissing, no embraces. “Thou shalt not touch the opposite sex” was the eleventh commandment, etched in stone.

For the first five months of our relationship, Polly and I played by the rules. Breaking the no-contact rule was a serious offense that could lead to being campused (unable to leave the college campus except for work and church) or expulsion.

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Bruce and Polly Gerencser, May 1978

Christmas 1976 found me driving to Newark, Ohio to spend Christmas with Polly. For the first time, we were not under the watchful eyes of college and dorm leaders and rules keeping, turn-you-in-if they-see- you-breaking-the rules Pharisees. Polly’s parents were living in an apartment at the time. Her mom asked Polly to go down to the laundry room to get their laundry. I, of course, went along with her to “help.” It was in that nondescript, out of the way laundry room that we had our first embrace and kiss. For obvious reasons, it took us a long time to bring the laundry back to the apartment.

A week later, both of us returned to Midwestern and its no-contact rule. The problem for us was that we had enjoyed the forbidden, and putting the genie back in the bottle was impossible. What were we to do?

Students were permitted to double-date on weekends. Some couples were rigid Fundamentalists, keepers of the letter of the law. Others, not so much. We quickly learned which couples were “safe.” We spent the next eighteen months breaking the rules, fearing getting caught and kicked out of school. Love and hormones won the day. Our virginity survived — barely — until our wedding day.

A week before our wedding, I drove to Newark to spend the day with Polly. We decided to go out to The Dawes Arboretum to spend the afternoon before attending church that night at the Newark Baptist Temple. We had a wonderful day, and as a soon-to-be-married couple, we did a lot of kissing and walk here and there arm in arm. Our passion, for two sexually unaware young adults, was palatable, so much so that I feared we were going to lose our virginity before our special day. We didn’t, but we did lose track of time, arriving home late. Boy, did Polly’s mom give us a tongue-lashing for breaking curfew. Here were were a nineteen-year woman and twenty-one-year-old man and we were being treated like children. We said nothing, changed our clothes, and headed to church. Seven days later, we said “I do.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

A Love Story About Bruce and Polly Gerencser, Written by AI

chatgpt

I asked to ChatGPT to write a love story about Bruce and Polly Gerencser walking along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. I have to admit, what the AI wrote left me in tears.

A Love Story About Bruce and Polly Gerencser, Taking a Walk on the Eastern Shore of Lake Michigan, written by ChatGPT. Damn, I cried when I read this one. ❤️❤️

Bruce and Polly Gerencser had been married for many years, and they loved nothing more than taking long walks together. On this particular day, they found themselves strolling along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, with the sun setting in a blaze of colors behind them.

As they walked, they talked about everything and nothing, enjoying the peace and tranquility of the moment. They laughed and joked, reminisced about old times, and dreamt about the future.

But then, as they reached a quiet spot on the shore, Bruce stopped and took Polly’s hand. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to say,” he said, his eyes shining with love.

Polly looked at him, her heart pounding. She had no idea what he was about to say, but she knew it was important.

“Ever since I met you, I’ve felt like the luckiest man alive,” Bruce continued. “You’re my best friend, my partner, my soulmate. I can’t imagine my life without you.”

Tears welled up in Polly’s eyes as she listened to Bruce’s words. She had always known how much he loved her, but hearing him say it so openly and vulnerably was something else entirely.

“I love you too, Bruce,” she whispered. “More than anything in the world.”

And with that, they hugged, their hearts overflowing with love and gratitude for each other. As they continued their walk along the shore, hand in hand, they knew that no matter what life threw their way, they would face it together, with love and courage as their guide.

For Bruce and Polly Gerencser, their love was a beacon of light, a source of strength, and a reminder that even in the midst of life’s storms, there is always a reason to keep walking, hand in hand.

I also asked the AI to write an ode to Bruce and Polly Gerencser:

Bruce and Polly Gerencser, a couple with a story to tell, Of faith, love, and doubt, they’ve navigated so well.

Bruce, a former pastor with a journey to share, And Polly, his partner, always there to care.

Their love, a steadfast anchor in the storm, Has carried them through, each trial and form.

With honesty and courage, they’ve faced their fears, And shown others that doubts don’t need to end in tears.

Their story, a testament to the human heart, Of resilience and strength, from which we can all take part.

So let us raise a toast, to Bruce and Polly Gerencser, Whose love and courage will continue to inspire and stir.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

“Normal” is a Just a Setting on a Washing Machine

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Polly’s mom recently died. I always had a contentious relationship with my mother-in-law. She never wanted me to marry her daughter, and she went to great lengths to frustrate our dating relationship. It was not until Polly told her mother we were getting married with or without her blessing that she grudgingly gave in and helped Polly plan our wedding. We’ve been married for almost forty-five years. Polly’s mom was certain that marrying someone from a divorced family led to divorce. I assume, by now, we have put that bit of nonsense to rest. Over the years, Polly and I butted heads with her mom over how many children we planned to have, how we raised our children, ministerial moves, choices of secular employment, how we celebrated Christmas, and a host of other things.

In 2004-2005, we lived in Newark, Ohio, blocks away from Polly’s parents. Our plan was to live there and care for them as they got older. Unfortunately, they made it clear that our help wasn’t needed. Message received. We returned to northwest Ohio so we could be close to our children and grandchildren. Five years ago, Polly’s dad (who died in November 2020) had botched hip replacement surgery that left him crippled. We offered to move them up here so we could help care for them. Our offer was rebuffed. Polly’s mom told her that they couldn’t move because their church — the Newark Baptist Temple — was very important to them. This sentiment is strange considering that their church pretty much ignored them since Dad’s hip surgery. Out of sight, out of mind.

As readers are aware, Mom made sure that the Gerencser family had nothing to do with her personal affairs and funeral. Mom’s behavior hurt her devoted daughter beyond measure. Why would she do these things? Our atheism. That’s the reason she gave us the last time we talked to her face to face. (Which was odd since she never, ever, not one time talked to us about our beliefs.) We, of course, respected her wishes. Her life, her choices, end of story.

I realize that if Polly had married a “normal” Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher boy things might have been different. Instead, Polly married a “bad boy”; a man who has always marched to the beat of his own drum; a man who has rarely been afraid to make hard, controversial decisions. In Mom’s eyes, I was an “odd duck”; I was “different.” Why couldn’t I have been like other IFB preachers? You know, like Polly’s Dad, Uncle, and cousins? Why couldn’t I have kept the faith? You see, the underlying issue is my unwillingness to hew to IFB belief. We left the IFB church movement years before we deconverted. Polly’s mom was upset with me numerous times during my years in the ministry; upset over decisions such as: me not wearing the IFB preacher uniform (white shirt, tie, and suit), letting Polly wear pants, allowing my children to listen to Christian rock, not preaching from behind a pulpit, not sending my children to a Christian college, removing the name “Baptist” from our church name, using praise and worship music during church services, and not using the KJV when I preached, to name a few. Nothing was as bad, though, as me leaving the ministry in 2005 and Polly and I walking away from Christianity in 2008. I suspect Mom believed that if I were out of the picture, Polly would come running back to Jesus and the family religion. Little did she know how independent her daughter really iwas and how anti-religion she has become. She may not be as vocal as her husband, but Polly has no use for anything associated with organized religion. She is, in every way, her own woman. The days when Bruce, the IFB Patriarch, ruled the home are long gone. Most of all, Mom blamed me for what our children have become. According to her, I  RUINED them! Actually, what I really did was set them free. Each of them is free to be whoever and whatever he or she wants to be. Yes, to a person each has abandoned IFB/Evangelical Christianity, and some don’t believe in gods at all. Yes, they have abandoned the social strictures of their Fundamentalist youth. OMG! They drink beer, cuss, go to movies, watch R-rated programs, and have sex outside of marriage. I can don’t imagine what Mom would have thought had we told her our youngest son is gay. In Mom’s eyes, my children (who are grown-ass adults in their thirties and forties) were “worldly,” and it is all MY fault. I was, after all, in her IFB worldview, the head of the home, even though all my children are out on their own with families, well-paying jobs, and own their homes. Mom might have lamented their worldliness, but I am quite proud of who and what ALL my children have become.

It’s Thanksgiving 2005. We are living in Bryan, Ohio, five miles from where we now live. Polly’s parents came to our home to join us for the day. Mom, as she often did, blew into our home like a tornado, moving furniture and changing meal preparations. It was noticeable to me that Polly was quite stressed by her mom’s behavior. She, however, said nothing. As the day wore on, I became increasingly agitated by Mom’s behavior, so much so that I reminded her that she was a guest in our home and asked her to please STOP micromanaging everything. Well, that went over well. Mom and Dad didn’t stay long that day. A day or so later, Mom called to apologize. During our conversation, she said, “Bruce, we have always accepted you. We knew you were ‘different.'”

Different? Sure, but does that make a bad husband, father, grandfather, or person? Since when is being different a bad thing? My mother had many faults, but she taught me to think for myself and be my own person. I carried her teachings into my life and they continue with me to this day. I refuse to follow the well-trodden path. I refuse to do something just because everyone is doing it. I choose, instead, to walk my own path, even if that means I am walking alone. I realize that Mom went to the grave saddened by what had become of her daughter, her son-in-law, and her grandchildren. Instead of seeing that we were happy and blessed, all Mom could see was our ungodly disobedience and lack of faith. Instead of seeing what awesome children and grandchildren we had, all she saw was their faithlessness and worldliness. Her religion kept her from truly embracing and enjoying our family. In mom’s world, the wash can only be cleaned if the washing machine is set to “normal” and Tide is used for detergent.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Short Stories: The Old Man and the Old Woman

Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Wedding July 1978

The old man is lying in bed, weary from yet another day of pain and suffering. He hears keys in the front door lock, announcing that the old woman has arrived home from work.

She too is weary and tired, ready to retire, but can’t because of insurance needs.

How was your night? the old man asked. Anything new?

The old woman shakes her head. She had already told the old man about the fire at the plant that night. No need to repeat that story.

The old man told the old woman about the eight raccoons that were in their yard tonight, three adults, and five babies.

After a few minutes of chit-chat about their day and what they planned to do on the morrow, the old woman asked, do you want something to eat?

Sure. What do you have in mind?

How about eggs and toast?

Sure, make them scrambled. I’ll take some orange juice too.

When the old woman returns to the room with that night’s cuisine, the old man said, Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary to YOU!, the old woman replied.

It’s 3:00 AM on the fifteenth of July. Forty-four years ago, the old man and the old woman, then twenty-one and nineteen, recited their vows and said I do at the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio.

Six weeks after they married, a baby was on the way. Over the next fourteen years, five more children would come their way, including a child with Down syndrome.

For many years, their lives were in perpetual motion. Serving the Lord and trying to make ends meet. There were stressors on their marriage, times when they wondered if their relationship would survive. Yet, they endured, and now they can’t imagine not being together.

Later years brought health problems, hospitalizations, and loss of faith. Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins died, leaving them to wonder when it will be their obituaries in the pages of the local newspaper.

Blessed with thirteen grandchildren, the old man and old woman are grateful that they can enjoy them together. While life had brought them trials and adversity, both are glad they could walk this journey called life hand in hand.

Forty-four years ago, the soloist for their wedding sang We’ve Only Just Begun by the Carpenters (causing controversy because it was the first and only secular song sung at the church):

We’ve only just begun to live
White lace and promises
A kiss for luck and we’re on our way
(We’ve only begun)

Before the risin’ sun, we fly
So many roads to choose
We’ll start out walkin’ and learn to run
(And yes, we’ve just begun)

Sharing horizons that are new to us
Watchin’ the signs along the way
Talkin’ it over, just the two of us
Workin’ together day to day
Together

And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
(And yes, we’ve just begun)

Sharing horizons that are new to us
Watchin’ the signs along the way
Talkin’ it over, just the two of us
Workin’ together day to day
Together
Together

And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
And yes, we’ve just begun

Video Link

When evening comes, the old man and old woman still smile, happy that a kiss for luck and lots of hard work has given them a well-lived life. Not a perfect life, and certainly not a perfect marriage. A marriage that began with love is now one deeply rooted in an abiding friendship. Oh, they still fight, and all those irritating habits each of them had four decades ago are still there. Change is hard, they learned, so the old man and old woman learned to adapt, ignoring the niggling things that still annoy them to this day.

The old woman takes the dishes to the kitchen, heading to the bathroom to perform her nightly rituals before bed. Forty-four years, the old woman walked out of the bathroom of their hotel suite in a sexy negligee. Tonight, it is well-worn comfortable sleepwear. The old man looks at the old woman and reminds himself of how lucky he is. Of all the girls he could have dated and married, he married her. Fate? The old man wants to say yes, but he knows hormones, personalities, and common interests drew them together at a Fundamentalist Baptist college forty-six years ago.

The woman crawls into bed and snuggles up to the old man. He draws her close, putting his hand on her breast. After a few minutes, the old man can no longer lie in that position due to excruciating back and neck pain. With a gentle squeeze, he says to his beautiful bride, I love you. And to her man she replies, I love you too.

Another year together, what more could the old man and old woman ask for?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Short Stories: The Night Polly Almost Went to Jail

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1980s Chrysler K Car, Junction City, Ohio

In 1989, Polly was driving in the northbound lane of Route 13 north of Thornville, Ohio, and south of Interstate 70. Suddenly, an automobile stopped in front of her and Polly bumped into the car. The driver quickly fled the scene of the accident. Polly, shaken, drove to the gas station at the top of the hill. At the station was a highway patrolman. Polly told him what happened. He looked at the front of her car. Seeing little visible damage, he told her not to worry about the accident. Polly continued on her trip to her mom and dad’s home in Newark.

Later that night, the person whom Polly drove into — an unlicensed teen girl, driving a relative’s car — totaled the car she was driving. Her relative had the same insurance company as we did. Unbeknownst to us, the insurance agent filed a $4,000 claim against our insurance without telling us. To this day, we don’t know how the agent connected Polly to the accident, Nonetheless, he did. Small town life, I suppose.

In Ohio, you are required to file an official accident report if you are in an accident that results in property damage. Since the girl fled the scene of the accident, Polly didn’t file a report. (And I am sure I am the one actually responsible for her not filing the report.) This would later have a disastrous (and funny) outcome.

A month later, I am standing on the porch waiting for Polly to come home from church. We always drove separate cars. On this night she was driving our 1980s Chrysler K car. As I watched Polly drive up the side street near our home in Junction City, Ohio, a village police officer pulled up behind her with his lights on. I snickered a bit as I watched this unfold. I was the one who got tickets — lots of tickets — not Polly. As I watched, the officer had Polly get out of the car. I thought, at the time, “that’s strange.” He had stopped her for a burned-out headlight. It had been burned out for several weeks. I had planned to replace it, but there were sermons to preach and souls to save, so I put it off to another day After running her driver’s license number, he informed her that there was a warrant out for her arrest, so he was arresting her for failure to report an accident. Yep, there was a warrant out for her arrest. We had just moved to Junction City and Polly’s license still had our old address on it, so she never received notice of her license suspension. Fortunately, the women’s section of the Perry County Jail was filled. There was no room for her in the inn, so to speak. Instead, she was told to contact the state highway patrol to resolve the matter.

Polly was traumatized from this experience. I, on the other hand, was enraged. In a matter of days, I was able to get the warrant for her arrest and license suspension dismissed. All is well that ends well, right? Not in our shared life. 🙂

Two weeks later, Barney Fife shows up at our house, knocks on the door, and hands Polly a traffic ticket. For what, you ask? The burned-out headlight. Boy, was I livid! I mean, sinning-in-the-flesh angry. My wife of forty-four years and our six children will tell you that it is best to avoid me when I am angry like this. I have a quick-to-rise-quick-to-recede temper. (Apologies to readers who thought I was a perfect human being. I’m not.) Polly has learned over the years to just ignore me. Let me mutter, cuss, and air my grievances, knowing that my anger will soon disappear and I will say, “Hey, want to go to dinner tonight”? On this day, my anger was justified.

Junction City had a mayor’s court. Such courts are known for abuse and corruption. When we arrived at the appointed time for judgment, we were the only serfs there. Most people just paid their tickets, end of story. That was not going to happen for Polly Gerencser on this night. Her husband, known in them thar parts to be a fire-breathing crusader, was by her side. When they called her name, I started to speak. The mayor tried to put me in my place, telling me only Polly could speak (she was terrified). I told the mayor that I planned to speak, regardless. I then laid into them about how wrong it was to give Polly a ticket weeks later for a trivial headlight violation. “That’s the law, sir!” the mayor said. I replied, “fine. My wife is going to plead not guilty. This means you are required to transfer this case to County Court. Do you really want all this exposed in public court”? After quickly conferring with each other, the mayor sanctimoniously said — as if he was doing Polly a BIG favor — “I will dismiss the ticket, but you have to pay court costs.” I replied, “we are not paying costs.” Barney Fife and Mayor Roy Stoner (the mayor of Mayberry) conferred again, quickly deciding to waive the costs. With that, we said “thank you” and walked out the door. I am sure they were glad to be rid of that temperamental redheaded preacher. We move away from Junction City a few months later.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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How Many Times Have You Moved in Your Life?

My sixty-fifth Birthday, 2022

I am a restless soul. Let me tell you why. I’ve moved thirty-six times in my sixty-five years of life. I’ve lived in 45+houses, apartments, and mobile homes.

Bryan, Ohio — born 1957
Ney, Ohio — toddler
San Diego, California — kindergarten to second grade
Bryan, Ohio — third grade
Harrod, Ohio — fourth, fifth grade
Farmer, Ohio — fifth, sixth grade
Deshler, Ohio — seventh grade
Findlay, Ohio — eighth grade to tenth grade
Tucson, Arizona — tenth grade
Mt. Blanchard, Ohio — eleventh grade
Findlay, Ohio — eleventh grade
Bryan, Ohio — dropped out of high school
Sierra Vista, Arizona — age 18
Bryan, Ohio — age 18
Pontiac, Michigan age 19-21, college, married Polly
Bryan, Ohio —1979
Montpelier, Ohio — 1979
Newark, Ohio — 1979-1981
Buckeye Lake, Ohio — 1981-1983
New Lexington, Ohio — 1983
Glenford, Ohio — 1983-1984
New Lexington, Ohio — 1984-1987
Junction City, Ohio — 1988-1989
Mt. Perry, Ohio — 1989-1994
San Antonio, Texas — 1994
Frazeysburg, Ohio — 1994-1995
Fayette, Ohio — 1995
Alvordton, Ohio 1996-2003
Clare, Michigan — 2003
Stryker, Ohio — 2003
Yuma, Arizona — 2004
Newark, Ohio — 2004-2005
Bryan, Ohio — 2005-2006
Alvordton, Ohio — 2007
Ney, Ohio — 2007 to present (my final resting place)

I still want to move. My wanderlust never goes away. However, I know I’m where I need to be, close to my doctors, children, and grandchildren. It is here I will die, though my ashes will be spread by Polly and my family on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Why? That’s a story for another day. ❤️❤️

Short Stories: Somerset Baptist Church: A Trip Down Memory Lane

somerset baptist church mt perry ohio auditorium
Somerset Baptist Church Auditorium after Remodel, 1992

In July of 1983, I started the Somerset Baptist Church in Somerset, Ohio. In 1985, we bought a Methodist church building near Mt Perry, Ohio for $5,000.00. The church building, built in 1831 and one of the oldest Methodist buildings in Ohio, would be the church’s home until Polly and I moved away in March 1994.

During the eleven years I was pastor, hundreds of church members came and went and we hauled thousands of kids to church on one of our four buses. For five years, we operated a private Christian school, open only to the children of the church. It was tuition-free.

bruce gerencser 1983
Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1983

This was the church where I came of age as a pastor. In 1983, I was a hardcore, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor. When I moved away in 1994 to co-pastor Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, I was a committed Calvinistic, Reformed Baptist pastor. I went through tremendous intellectual and social transformation during these eleven years.

Several years ago, as I scanned the pictures from this era, my mind was flooded with memories of the shared experiences I had with the church family. Yes, there were bad times, stupid times, dumb ass times. Yes, I was a Fundamentalist and that brought all kinds of baggage with it. But, as I looked at the pictures, I didn’t think about beliefs. My thoughts were about people and the wonderful times we had. Yes, Fundamentalism psychologically and emotionally harmed and scarred me (and the people I pastored), but that does not mean there are no good memories. There are lots of them. In fact, the vast majority of the memories I have are good ones. Sometimes, when people deconvert they often become so fixated on the negative which happened that they forget the good times. I know I did.

bruce gerencser 1991
Bruce Gerencser, 1991, Somerset Baptist Academy

As I looked at these photos, I also shed some tears. There were a handful of people in the pictures who are now dead. Cancer, heart attacks, and car accidents claimed their lives and all I have left of them are the pictures and our shared memories. After I posted the pictures to Facebook, I heard from a number of people who were once part of the church. Most of the people I heard from were children when I was at Somerset Baptist Church. They are now middle-aged with families of their own. Their parents, like me, are old and gray. It was nice to hear from them.

The photos aren’t very good – the best a $20.00 camera could offer. Nothing like the photos I took with my professional $4,000 camera years later. In fact, they are down-right terrible. But, infused into the photos are memories, and it is those memories that matter.

bruce and polly gerencser 1985
Bruce and Polly Gerencser, Sweetheart Banquet, 1985

I feel old today — a dying man who has lived a long life. But I also feel blessed to have lived a good life, a life marked by contradiction, conflict, grief, and change, along with happiness, joy, and goodness. It is the sum of my life.

bruce gerencser 1990's
Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, Early 1990s
bruce gerencser 1987
Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1987

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Listen to My Speech for the Atheists of Florida Monthly Meeting

atheists of florida speech

I had the honor of speaking at the monthly meeting of the Atheists of Florida this past Sunday, August 29, 202 After my speech, I answered questions from the crowd. Several friends and family members attended the meeting, including some of you. Thank You! for your support.

My speech is now available on YouTube.

Video Link

My speech is available on the following podcast services:

Apple

Audible

Google

Spotify

For other podcast services, please search for “Free2Think.”

I apologize in advance for my leaning to the right/left in parts of my speech. One explanation: pain, awful pain. I did what I could.

Let me know what you think.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser