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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK Jim Johnston (left) reads scripture during the men’s breakfast. The group meets at 6:30 a.m. every Wednesday.

Dee McCarthy hovered around the table like a ghost. She surreptitiously took the breakfast orders and replaced coffee pots as nearly 20 men gathered at the Village Inn in Fayetteville.

The job was made easy because these men meet each Wednesday morning and usually order the same things. And also because this men's breakfast group, part of First United Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, has met 905 times -- all at the Village Inn, except for the week it was closed for remodeling, said Ron Denn.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK Al Hanna, a member of First United Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, bows in prayer Wednesday at the Village Inn restaurant in Fayetteville. A group of 15 to 20 men meet each Wednesday morning for a devotional time and fellowship. The group recently celebrated its 900th meeting.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK The hand of Jim Harter are visible as he reads scripture during the men’s breakfast. The connection between the men is strong. Harter said if he misses a breakfast, he feels a void in his life.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK Cyril Sturm (left) and Phil Wilson (right) begin eating their breakfast Wednesday at the Village Inn. The waitress Dee McCarthy and manager Carol Gray know the men so well, that the men merely need to nod to place their orders.

"She doesn't need a pen or paper," Al Hanna said, impressed by McCarthy's talent.

"I know what almost everyone wants for breakfast," McCarthy said. "If they want the usual, they nod. If they want something different, they get my attention."

The inaugural men's breakfast met in July 1999, said Ken Mays, who was there for the first one. "We had just five or six people in a corner booth. We asked how often we'd like to meet, and they said they'd like to do it weekly. And we invite anybody."

At 6:30 a.m., Mays tapped his spoon on the side of his mug to begin the program, but men arrive as early at 6 a.m. Conversation this morning ran from activities of the men's children, to new homes in Butterfield Trail Village, to traffic tickets, to Searcy County.

The men don't talk about politics or sports -- except for the Razorbacks, said Ron Talbert. "But about half the time, the properties committee has an informal meeting," he said, explaining many members of the committee come to the breakfast. "We do a lot of church business here."

And what are their wives doing while the men are meeting? "They're still asleep," said Jim Johnston with good humor.

"The group meeting on Wednesday morning is just like another gathering of our church -- a very important one," Harter said. "It gives a feeling of connection with these men, and like many phases of Christian worship, it becomes ritualistic that would leave a void in your life should you miss."

"To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame, who are treacherous without excuse," Harter read from Psalms 25 during the devotional time.

Harter passed the Bible to Johnston, who read from Ephesians 2. "[God through Jesus] came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near."

Mays then read a devotion from The One-Year Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. And the group bowed for prayer. "Let that peace begin with me," Mays said.

Mays finished the short session with items of interest about the week: the fact that the annual Sturgis, S.D., motorcycle rally opens this week; that the first national income tax was instituted in 1861 to pay for the Civil War; that Jesse Owens won four gold medals in one day for the United States at the 1935 Olympic Games and Adolph Hitler walked out of the stadium, refusing to shake hands with a black man.

After the men bowed in prayer, Harter placed the Bible on the table behind him, and their breakfast plates were served by McCarthy. Most plates included combinations of eggs, bacon, biscuits and jelly.

But Hanna ordered a slice of pie. "[The Village Inn] is known for their pie," he said. "And pie works miracles."

On the occasion of the 900th meeting June 28, Carol Gray, manager of the restaurant, presented the men with two cakes. "I've been with them every Wednesday morning for 14 years," she said. "If one misses, I have to know why. They have to bring a note. These guys are family to us."

NAN Religion on 08/05/2017

Print Headline: Breakfast club

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