"Wasn't she good? Wasn't she GOOD!" The smartly dressed matron Georgetown Presbyterian Church bubbled with enthusiasm over the the sermon she had just heard from yesterday's visiting preacher.
As if in agreement, the congregation, almost to a soul, waited patiently in a long queue after the service to greet the clergy guest at the front door, instead of bolting for the warm sunshine by the two side doors.
The preacher who had inspired such approbation was a smiling, self-assured Scottish woman, the Rev. Sheila Blount of Glasgow, who is also the daughter of Georgetown Presbyterian's regular minister, the Rev. Campbell Gillon. Assisting was Sheila's clergyman husband, the Rev. Graham Blount.
Gillon himself is a sort of Clergyman Who Came to Dinner. Three summers ago, the sandy-haired Glasgow native took part in a church-sponsored pulpit exchange that brought him to Georgetown for six weeks. Folks there liked him so much that a year ago they brought him back as their full-time minister. Since then, members say, the regulars at services have gotten used to both his accent and his irrepressible sense of humor, attendance has picked up noticeably and morale has zoomed.
When his daughter and son-in-law, who each serve churches in different parts of Glasgow, came for a visit, he promptly signed them up to preach: Sheila yesterday and Graham next Sunday.
While women ministers are nothing new to Presbyterian churches in the Washington area -- even though a couple of the more conservative congregations take a dim view of them -- the father/daughter/son-in-law clergy team at Georgetown yesterday is believed to be a first. Sheila's older sister is also an ordained minister and last year became the first active minister of the Church of Scotland to have a baby.
Sheila Blount acknowledged that "famlily influence played a part" in her decision to enter the ministry. In addition to her father, both her grandfathers and a number of other relatives were ministers. "But basically I felt called to the ministry," she said. "It was a way I could be of service."
Gillon recalled that when his daughters were small, his wife, Audrey, used to keep them occupied after Sunday services, while he tended to congregational chores, by sitting in the back of the empty church as the three girls took turns reading from the pulpit bible, loud enough that they could be heard in the back.
The Church of Scotland first ordained women in 1967. Sheila was ordained in 1978.
"We're fairly well accepted now," she said, but added that sometimes women candidates for ministers' positions have trouble getting a hearing from the vacancy committees of local churches. "But once you're in the parish, you're pretty well accepted," she said.
Yesterday, a proud Gillon, even under normal circumstances the antithesis of the stereotypical dour Scotsman, beamed as he introduced his daughter and her husband, "who sharing the pulpit with me for the first time."
Slowing down her normal speech pattern to accommodate ears unfamiliar with her rich Scottish accent, Sheila plunged into the children's sermon, welcoming the youngsters "and your mums and dads." She poked a little fun at herself, her confusion over different names for food here and in Scotland and her problems of learning American money. She had the kids eating out of her hand.
On Saturday morning, she went on, something fell from the sky, the same way it does in Scotland. "Snow!" the kids had the answer even before she asked. She pulled out a paper model of of a snow flake. "Every one is unique," she said, just like people.
But one snowflake by itself melts away, she went on. "The same thing happens to us when we try to be Christians on our own . . . When we gather together in church we can be more effective in our worship together."
For the adult sermon she dug deeper into theology and scripture. Taking off from St. Paul's admonitions to the church in Corinth, she warned both against un-Christian pride and the failure to rely on God. "As so often happens among church folk, the Christians of Corinth seemed to think themselves better, a cut above other folk," she said.
But, she reminded her listneners that St. Paul said Christians were only earthenware jars -- she pronounced it "airrthenware." "Yet the power of God is so overwhelming that God can use us in all our frailty. Our weaknesses are to be used by Him . . . We are in God's hands."