In the homey back room at Grandma Hattie's restaurant, they went around the room introducing themselves and talking a little about what they were working on and what was coming up. They were about a dozen.
One talked about the governor's prayer team and its weekly meetings. One talked up a car- and music-themed rally this weekend on the south end of town. Another mentioned a weekly peace vigil on Carson Street right outside the Capitol. There was a structure, but it was loose. They addressed each other by first names, teased and interrupted with asides. Some ate breakfast; some just had coffee. All were dressed casually and comfortably, reflecting their ease with themselves and one another.
To a newcomer, it could have been a gathering of colleagues or friendly competitors - insurance agents or car salesmen, perhaps, or dentists or high school coaches or general contractors. But make no mistake: They were here for a purpose.
These, the members of the Carson City Ministerial Association, came together Thursday at Grandma Hattie's, as they do every month, to join forces and do this town's spiritual heavy lifting. They're not choosy; they'll work for anyone who'll let them.
On the agenda this day was, among other things, listening to me talk a little about the Nevada Appeal.
Here I was, still fairly new to town, addressing a room full of preachers and pastors - folks who earn their daily bread by formulating the words and ideas that enlighten and educate and inspire others. Words that change lives.
And I was the one doing the talking? Yikes!
Fortunately, I already knew or had met a couple of these folks. And as one would expect from a room of spiritual leaders, even those who were strangers didn't stay strangers for long. Each welcomed me warmly with a smile, a handshake and some small talk. Really, the only thing that could have put me more at ease might have been to see one of them wearing the familiar Roman collar of my Catholic upbringing. But no such luck. In fact, aside from the Bibles that a couple of them had on the table in front of them, there were no outward signs that anyone in the group made his or her living by answering to a higher calling.
But make no mistake: Members of the association are Nevadans who take their vocations seriously. They speak with accuracy and authority and passion about the economic ups and downs of Carson - not in an economic sense, but in terms of how those things affect residents' lives. They talk about the schools. They refer to Sheriff Ken Furlong and Mayor Bob Crowell familiarly and by name as they discuss civic issues and ways to keep our youth from falling by the wayside. They talk about kids and teen pregnancy and stoking their congregations' faith and helping needy families and protecting human life in all its forms, born and unborn.
These shepherds of souls even counsel one another, sharing personal anecdotes and revealing the backstories behind some of the more meaningful sermons they've delivered.
And then, with a short closing prayer and without any artifice or showy ceremony, they thank their guest, pay their breakfast tabs, and head out to continue their work. Even I, a somewhat jaded journalist (if that's not redundant), felt a certain lightness in my heart as I drove back to the office.
They had asked me to come and talk to them about the newspaper, but I'm confident that I learned far more than anyone else in the room that morning. Having been up close and personal with the ministerial association, I learned that the people in this town who seek succor in any of our churches are in good hands.
I realized that in a community like ours, the newspaper and the churches both play roles in the key passages of many people's lives: You generally get your name in the paper when you're born, when you get married and when you die - all events that, for people of faith, also have religious underpinnings. We try to add a little to that by publishing the ministers' rotating weekly Faith & Insight columns in every Saturday's Appeal.
I'm happy to have had the opportunity to talk to the ministers group - but I'm even happier that I had a chance to listen in.
They asked me for one thing: Please send a reporter to our monthly meetings. Please report on what we're doing and how much we need public awareness and support. And to that, I can only say, "Amen."
• Editor Dennis Noone can be reached at email@example.com.