'The Great Mustache Conspiracy' at St. Mark's UMC in Memphis takes Rev. Brad Gabriel by surprise


Rev. Brad Gabriel, top right, of St. Mark's UMC in Memphis, Tenn., was surprised by members of the congregation who pulled off "The Great Mustache Conspiracy." Submitted photos

Rev. Brad Gabriel, pastor of St. Mark's UMC in Memphis, Tenn., experienced a birthday surprise during Sunday worship on June 22. Here is his account of the "The Great Mustache Conspiracy," written only at the request of the Memphis Conference communications office.

By Rev. Brad Gabriel, St. Mark’s UMC, Memphis, TN

Holy humor is alive and well at St. Mark’s UMC in Memphis, TN. 

Recently, I had a birthday coming on a Wednesday, but with no Wednesday dinner and Bible Study in the summer and with the first VBS in seven years taking everyone’s attention, the question was how to wish me a “Happy Birthday.”

Someone had a thought that was, in the words of Groucho Marx, a favorite comedian of mine, “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”   

First of all, you have to know I wear a mustache and have for more than 40 years.

With that in mind, false mustaches, the type that would do Groucho proud, were collected. Notes were written, explaining what to do and why. The notes and mustaches were secretly distributed to worshipers on Sunday, June 22. 

While I led the congregation in morning prayers, people attached the mustaches and waited…  Prayers ended… I looked out… The pianist began playing as a room full of faux-mustachioed Christians stood and sang “Happy Birthday!”

Laughter rocked the sanctuary of St. Mark’s UMC as I stood dumbfounded, mouth agape and eyes glistening. (See top right photo above.)

After worship, birthday wishes and hugs were exchanged. People left -- smiling, laughing and proud of the gift they had given me, and saying they couldn't wait to tell their friends.  

The affair has been dubbed "The Great Mustache Conspiracy.”

The person or persons responsible for the treat have yet to be identified.