MANCHESTER — Mixing his usual humor with a serious message, Commissioner Elmer Lippy made his debut as a lay preacher at Trinity United Church of Christ on Sunday, speaking on "Love and Taxes."
"I feel a little unworthy because I've never particularly been associated with spirituality," the commissioner began. "But in the immortal words of Flip Wilson,what you see is what you get."
Lippy, who delivered the annual lay sermon while the Rev. RichardWinters was on vacation, spoke to the congregation about how his work as a public official is not separate from his faith as a Christian.
"An infusion of love in the actions of elected officials is not only wanted, but necessary," he said. "The Constitution allows us to mix love with government when it says that it will 'promote the general welfare.' "
Lippy then went on to explain how many laws and other government activities -- such as the Emancipation Proclamation, laws ending segregation and giving all people the right to vote -- had been motivated by compassion.
He also pointed to the "Miracle of the Barrel House" here in Carroll, where government workers and volunteers created a shelter for homeless women and children on the third floor of the Sherwood distillery in Westminster in 16 days.
"I thought that maybe we should emphasize that there is a place for love in our government," Lippy said later, recalling his inspiration for the sermon. "I thought that if there was more love in government, there would be less backbiting, less viciousness and politics being played."
Lippy also commented that the first call for separation between church and state came from Jesus, when he said that paying taxes to thegovernment did not preclude honoring God.
"Our Lord recognized that there was a need for government," Lippy said, referring to the passage in Matthew 22.
Members of the congregation said they never doubted that Lippy could step in as lay preacher Sunday.
"I have heard Elmer speak before since he was mayor of our town, and I knew he was capable of doing it," said member Georgia Rhoten. "Everyone I talked to enjoyed (the sermon). He's very compassionate and caring for people and a good commissioner."
And Lippy, who said he loves everybody, said love helps him serve the people.
"Because I love you, I am a better public official," Lippy told the congregation. "Because Ilove you, I am more sensitive and compassionate and can be more empathetic to your problem.
"And because I love you and the church, I can be more attentive to the teachings of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ."