If you're going to be in a huge box of a building bathed in florescent lights for a week, you might as well bring some bow ties, meet some awesome people, and renew friendships with Cordial Churchman enthusiasts.
That's exactly what I did at the TD Exposition Center in Greenville, SC for the 41st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America.
It's actually hard to believe how fast the days and the week flew by. It was soul food to be with such good folks. As usually happens when we show up at an event like this, I got to teach a bunch of folks how to tie bow ties, I got to sell a good 8-10 people their first bow tie ever, and I got to meet people who have been buying our bow ties exclusively since we first started back in 2009.
[caption id="attachment_3347" align="alignnone" width="492"] Matthew is a young man with some mature style. His father is a prominent pastor in Greenville, and his whole family is swell.[/caption]
Presbyterians love bow ties.
In fact, it was my very first Presbyterian pastor who introduced me to bow ties back in Ohio. When we moved to Columbia, SC, he sent us to First Presbyterian Church, where I probably saw 50 gents rocking bow ties upon our first visit. It was great to get to see him again at this event, and to put a new bow tie into his wardrobe.
Being as The Cordial Churchman does perhaps 90% of its business online, we work hard to add the personal touch to our customers with handwritten notes and handcrafted custom bow ties. And yet, there's nothing quite like meeting the people who appreciate the work we do.
[caption id="attachment_3349" align="alignnone" width="492"] Long-time customer David gets his wife's opinion on a new acquisition via FaceTime.[/caption]
I enjoyed the face-to-face cultivation of these friendships with our dapper Presbyterian customers so much that we've been kicking around a new idea. We're considering coming to see some of you. What if The Cordial Churchman came to the 3 cities where we have the most customers and we all had ourselves a get-together? We could get a jazz band, some champagne, and get all gussied up. We could have a Cordial Churchman pop-up shop and perhaps an official bow tie for the event.
It could be a blast.
Chew on it. Let us know what you think. We'll let the idea percolate for a bit, and then make a proposal or two.
[caption id="attachment_3351" align="alignnone" width="492"] The assembly hall[/caption]
On a sad note, I met a pastor at this event named John Appleton, from near Charleston, WV. We talked about his congregation. We talked about how he was involved in starting a farmers' market in his town to bring the community together. We talked about getting together when our family did our usual drive through his neck of the woods on our regular trips to Ohio. And after pondering it for a day, John selected his first ever bow tie.
I got a call from another pastor friend just a few days later telling me that a pastor-firefighter had been killed at a fire. My friend attended the funeral, and saw that the gentleman was being interred wearing a bow tie. He asked the widow about it, and she said that her husband had come home from the General Assembly with his first ever bow tie, and was really excited about it. So she decided to have him wear it one last time. Her husband was my new friend John Appleton.
[caption id="attachment_3352" align="alignnone" width="492"] John and Lisa. John introduced me to Presbyterianism and bow ties. So he's kind of responsible for both of our careers.[/caption]
You know, here's the thing: What made this event so special was not bow ties or Presbyterians. Bow ties and Presbyterians were just the occasion. What made this event so special was the people. The friends. Young high school gents who were trying to figure out how to make their lives count. Old men who've been wearing bow ties and preaching for twice as long as I've been alive. Ladies who wanted to treat their husbands to a piece of fine neckwear. Fellow church planters who know exactly what it's like to be me. People serving in the military all over the world. Pastors serving in France, Japan, Germany, and everywhere else.
As C.S. Lewis once said, you and I have never met a mere mortal. The people we come into contact with may very soon be departing this life and on to the next. This was the case for my new friend John Appleton. I'm saying a prayer for his wife, his family, and his church tonight. And I'm going to remember that it's all about people.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you, and of getting to know you.