ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. -- Rev. Ray Amos Sr. always regretted not taking his high-school sweetheart to the prom. He mentioned that recently in the young adult Bible study at First United Methodist Church of Elizabethton.
Three weeks later, the pastor was able to retire that regret when his congregation created a prom night experience for him and his wife on their 42nd wedding anniversary.
“I believe waiting more than 42 years made it more special, something we couldn’t have appreciated in high school,” said Rev. Amos, age 61.
Amos and his wife, Pat, met each other in the 7th grade. He asked her to the high school prom two years in a row and “reneged” two years in a row, she said, laughing.
“All of these years of marriage, I reminded him of that,” said Pat Amos, 62, who shares four children and seven grandchildren with her husband.
Ray Amos felt a call to ministry since childhood – but in high school he was involved in a denomination that didn’t approve of dancing. The church leaders “cornered me and talked me out of going” to the prom, he said.
When the Elizabethton congregation discovered their pastor’s missed opportunity, they started making plans to throw a unique party.
“When a group of United Methodist women get a hold of something like this, you know it’s going to take off,” said Carrie Lee.
Church members told the couple what they were planning and didn't give them the option of “saying no.” They rented a tuxedo for Amos and took his prom date shopping for a dress and shoes. They also took her to get her first-ever manicure and pedicure. A church member donated a limousine to deliver the couple to the gussied-up fellowship hall.
When the high-school sweethearts arrived at the church, 80 church members greeted them, all dressed up. Soloist Loretta Bowers sang, “At Last” as the couple (who would later be voted “prom king and queen”) walked in.
Included in the admiring throng were two of the Amos’ children: the Rev. Ray Amos Jr., pastor of Elm Tree Parish in Kingsport, Tenn., and Amy Duncan, wife of Westley Duncan, lay pastor at Logan’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Kingsport.
Later in the evening, a DJ played hits from 1969, including “Love is Blue," "Stand by Me," and "Under the Boardwalk," under a disco ball.
“It was the older people in the church who were the really good dancers,” said Pat Amos. “We even had a Congo line.”
Ray Amos said he was happy the congregation had so much fun. “A lot of people told me this was their first prom, too.” One of his favorite memories was watching a grandfather dance joyfully with his grandchildren.
“We’ve been through a lot of grief this past year, a lot of death and sickness,” the pastor said. “It was time for us to get together to laugh a little and do something fun. It was amazing.”
The event was perfectly timed to celebrate the Amos’ wedding anniversary on June 19 and to welcome the pastor back for his third year at First United Methodist Church, said Lee.
“It was a wonderful time of joy and fellowship for our church as we all came together out of pure love for our pastor and his wife.”
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.