Hometown connection ‘ripples’ long after departure

The Brittaney and Brian Doyle

Newlyweds! “The Brittany” with husband Brian Doyle
Photo by Becky Galli

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at Herald-Dispatch.com.

My mother called them “ripples.” She thought the impact a person has lasts far beyond the present, touching and connecting to others beyond a given point in time.

After my father’s death, she became even more aware of ripples and delighted in re-experiencing his touch through others.

Last weekend, I experienced the joy of a ripple that began in Huntington, in 1978, the year my father met Mike Queen. Mike, a top executive in his family’s supermarket business in the Tri-State, had felt the call to ministry, moved his family to North Carolina and enrolled in Southeastern Seminary at Wake Forest.

At the time, Mike was a member of Fifth Avenue’s pastoral search committee. He asked then-president Randall Lolley of Southeastern for recommendations of prospective pastors. Randall gave Mike my father’s name.

The Fifth Avenue committee was to hear Dad preach at Statesville’s First Baptist Church, but bad weather canceled their flight. Only Mike, who drove up from Wake Forest, was present for the so-called “trial sermon.” He took our family to lunch, and we spent several hours talking about Fifth Avenue.

Apparently, Mike’s report was positive. A few months later, Dad began his 21-year pastorate in Huntington.

Upon graduation from seminary, Mike was ordained at Fifth Avenue in 1981. He became associate pastor at First Baptist (Greensboro, N.C.), and later began his own 25-year pastorate at First Baptist (Wilmington, N.C.).

In 2007, my daughter, Brittany, called from college with an interesting question.

“Mom, do you know Mike Queen?”

“Why, sure — from Huntington, right?” I replied.

Brittany, or “The Brittany” as her “Andad” grandfather had renamed her, was a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“I think he’s Laura’s pastor!”

Laura, Brittany’s first college friend and soon-to-be apartment roommate, had gone home to Wilmington, where she heard her pastor reference a column written by his Baltimore friend, Becky, a mother of four who was paralyzed.

“Really?” I replied, trying to piece it all together. Then I recalled a recent email from Mike asking permission to share my story. Although we hadn’t seen each other in years, we’d kept in touch via email where he regularly received my columns.

“Laura attends his church?”

“Since birth, Mom!”

I, too, became fast friends with Laura and her family and was included in her wedding plans. Brittany was a bridesmaid. Her boyfriend, Brian, escorted her. Mike officiated.

When Brittany became engaged a year ago, I thought of Mike and how special it would be if he could marry my daughter. But, I knew the demands of the pastorate and had experienced first-hand routine refusal of out-of-town weddings.

Still, I had to ask.

Fully prepared to be turned down, I called Mike.

“Becky, your timing is amazing. I’ve just announced my retirement. I am available that summer and would be honored to do Brittany’s wedding.”

Words of gratitude stuck in my throat. The man who touched and changed my family’s life would again touch and bless us.

Last Saturday, Mike Queen married “The Brittany,” now Mrs. Brian Doyle.

Ripples. Joyous ripples.