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The day the squirrel went berserk in church

POSTED: June 11, 2009 4:07 p.m.

About 20 years after Ray Stevens wrote “Mississippi Squirrel Revival,” something very similar actually happened.
The famous song told about visiting Mississippi and experiencing “the day the squirrel went berserk in the First Self-Righteous Church in that sleepy little town of Pascagoula.”

Ironically, a squirrel really did go berserk in the First Baptist Church in the sleepy little town of Poplarville. Although it does not rhyme with “hallelujah,” Poplarville and Pascagoula are both in south Mississippi, and since Poplarville, with 2,500 residents, is about 10 times smaller than Pascagoula, it well qualifies as a sleepy town. And what happened there made Ray Stevens sound like a prophet.

I was pastor of First Baptist Church of Poplarville from 1991-99. A few months before I moved to Georgia, we were having problems with squirrels around the Poplarville church. One day a deacon and I chased one into the choir room, where he purchased his freedom by flying out of the window and landing on the street two stories below. On another occasion, a squirrel got in a transformer and sacrificed its life to put the church in the dark.

After I moved to Georgia, Butch Knight became pastor of the church in Poplarville.

During Brother Butch’s ministry, Poplarville had “The Great Squirrel Incident.” He says that it all began on a Sunday morning in January 2002, about three minutes before the beginning of the worship service. The pastor noticed several choir members standing up and looking at something. Then he heard a scream, and he saw a squirrel leap up on top of the grand piano. His bushy tail waved, and he held his little hands in front of himself, as if he was greeting the congregation.

The men of the church went after him, taking off their suit coats and sport coats and throwing them at the squirrel, with no thought that if they captured the squirrel, he might shred their expensive coats to pieces.

The squirrel started making laps in front of the choir loft, trying to escape. One man in the choir aimed the deadliest missile he could find at the squirrel: a hymnal. As it missed the creature with a loud thud, the pastor wondered how he was going to tell his children’s sermon on the sacredness of life by explaining why they killed a squirrel in church.

I’ll tell you whether or not the squirrel survived in next Friday’s column.

Copyright 2009 by Bob Rogers. E-mail Read this column each Friday for a mix of religion and humor. For more “Holy Humor,” go to the Web site


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