The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By David Stevens
Publisher 

Opinion: Thanks for view under the pew

Gary Mitchell and his churchmouse gave us good words.

 

Last updated 10/5/2021 at 3:13pm

Staff photo

Collections of Amos the Churchmouse columns were published in 2008 and 2012.

it s bad news boss

amos is gone

If you knew Amos or Gary Mitchell -- the mind behind the philosophical churchmouse -- that introduction makes sense to you. And your heart is probably breaking.

For those who never had the privilege, Mitchell wrote a newspaper column from the perspective of Amos for about half a dozen decades. Amos, according to Mitchell, typed his columns by hopping on a keyboard, which is why he didn't use capital letters or punctuate anything.

Amos addressed his reports to Mitchell, whom he called boss.

Cancer took Mitchell and Amos from us on Friday. Mitchell was 73. Funeral services are tentatively set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Clovis' First Baptist Church.

Their column was called the "view from under the pew." There's a pretty good summary of what it was about on the back of their first book, a compilation of the columns, which was published in 2008:

"From his headquarters under a stark wooden pew, Amos holds court as chief critic of all things Christian. His status as a furry fly on the wall give him ample opportunity to tsk his whiskers over lame sermons, lack of vision, greed, and the general sense of malaise that has taken over the church pew underworld. ..." But ultimately, "Readers ages 8 to 88 will be encouraged and amused by Amos' discoveries about God's love for us."

Mitchell claimed he was a junior at Clovis High School when he met Amos. The mouse went to college and to seminary with him, writing hundreds of free-verse poems about faith that were published mostly in the Clovis News Journal where Mitchell was a reporter when he wasn't serving as a minister.

It's hard to say who was more famous, the mouse or the man. But they both made a big impact.

Tributes on Facebook over the weekend included, "Gary was such a kind, thoughtful man," "Gary was one of the nicest people I ever met," and "You will never meet a better person."

Deb Whitecotton wrote, "(Mitchell) was a wonderful teacher of the Word. He will be missed, as will Amos."

Mara Flores said her dad had so many friends because "He always saw the good in people."

Mitchell often received requests from readers to republish some of Amos' more popular columns.

One of the most requested stories was headlined "amos meets an agnostic"

It told the story of Harry the Hamster, who was a popular entertainer in the church pew underworld's kitchen because he could balance donuts on his nose. But Harry stunned his friends one day when he confessed he wasn't sure if God was real.

Amos and Thelma the Terrapin tried to convince Harry with logic and Scripture, but Harry was a hard sell, forcing Amos to examine his own basis for his faith.

"it was a real stumper," Amos admitted.

But Harry's search helped Amos in the end.

"faith isn t an intellectual

"process it s a heart matter

"an exercise – not of the mind –

"but of the will," Amos concluded.

"faith without action is dead

"faith in the mind is stillborn

"but faith in the heart moves

"mountains – and saves souls."

There's no doubt Mitchell's beliefs mirrored those of Amos. But he was not just a keyboard warrior; he didn't hide behind his mouse in sharing his heart.

In 2002, Mitchell found himself on the receiving end of a reporter's questions.

He mostly talked about family – he and Judy Mitchell were married 51 years – and was happy to report his father, WY Mitchell, was his hero.

"He hardly ever talks about his World War II experiences in Germany, but one day I saw an old photo of a youthful version of Dad receiving a Silver Star medal in a battlefield ceremony on June 5, 1945," Mitchell said.

"The citation reads: 'For gallantry in action (near Belgium), on Jan. 8, 1945. Sgt. Mitchell (who was 20 years old at the time) and his squad were occupying an outpost in a building that was heavily shelled by mortars.

"'After the intense concentration, the enemy attacked the building, their forces greatly outnumbering Sgt. Mitchell and his squad.

"'He immediately went to the top floor, and despite his exposed and dangerous position delivered rapid fire on the enemy with his automatic rifle. His effective fire broke up the attack and saved the outpost. His skill and courage emulates the finest traditions of the fighting infantry.'"

Mitchell said his father fought in the Battle of the Bulge under Gen. George Patton and also received two Purple Heart awards during the war.

More from that 2002 Q&A:

Q: What is your theme song?

Mitchell: I have two: "It's Only Words" by the BeeGees and "It Is Well with My Soul."

Q: What would you be doing if you weren't preaching and reporting in Clovis?

Mitchell: One of two things - either playing Indiana Jones, excavating archaeological sites in Israel, or typing up book manuscripts on a manual typewriter underneath a palm tree on a South Pacific island and mailing those manuscripts off to publishers in large root beer bottles.

Q: When you were a kid, what did you think you'd be doing as an adult?

Mitchell: Being a missionary in China.

Q: If money were no object, what would you do to make the world a better place?

Mitchell: Give everybody a Gideon Bible and a root beer float.

Q: If you could do anything ...

Mitchell: I would ... grow hair.

Judy Mitchell said Monday the love of her life was still doing what he loved in his final days – still teaching and spreading the Gospel last week in an online class for Wayland Baptist University. "That was a blessing," she said.

A blessing he would have wished for all of us.

With faith in our hearts, we'll see you again soon, Gary Mitchell. You too, Amos.

David Stevens writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him:

[email protected]

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