continued from yesterday. . .
But sadly, someone leaked the results to the Phoebe Society, who, as requested, spent their August meeting drawing up their own agenda. King David certainly has much to commend him, they maintained in a twenty-page document filed less than two weeks after the instrument had been distributed. However, because of “the Bathsheba incident,” his “credulity with women” suffered tremendously. Therefore, said the members of the Phoebe Society, “We’re opposed to nominating David as our new pastor.” Such a nomination, they insisted, revealed a rather “obvious disregard” for women’s issues.
Instead, the Phoebe Society recommended that, if a woman pastor wasn’t going to be possible at this point in time, the congregation should call Jacob’s son, Joseph, a man who clearly had not stumbled as David had—even when proffered the possibility. Furthermore, he had shown great compassion in distributing foodstuffs to the needy during his tenure as Egypt’s Secretary of Agriculture. What’s more, he’d willingly bared his emotions—his tears fell easily—when finally opening himself up to his supplicant brothers. “We believe that Joseph is the best candidate to replace Pastor Rog,” they offered in their own summary conclusions.
The Men’s Society, the organization with the highest median age in the congregation, brawled over which of the Old Testament prophet showed greatest promise. After six ballots, they nominated Jeremiah, even though there was much discussion about whether or not the man too frequently repeated himself. The Society’s second choice was Isaiah who, they claimed, despite some really beautiful verse, lacked the requisite tenacity. They liked Hosea, but claimed there were some lingering questions about his ability to keep his house in order. Theirs was, by the way, the only instrument completed in longhand.
The youth pastor’s response came on his own personal stationery, festooned with unicorns. He claimed calling any one of the woe-speaking prophets would be the kind of move that would be sure to alienate the teens. The candidate most likely to find a place in the hearts of his kids, he maintained, would be the father of the prodigal son--although he wasn’t sure anymore whether a rancher could make it with city kids. If it had to be someone prophet-like, the youth pastor said, Balaam and his talking ass were the kind of act that would keep everyone’s attention. “What a hoot that would be,” he wrote, adding three exclamation points. “You’d never know what he was going to say. They’d love it.” And then a smiley face.
The Circle, a support group composed mainly of single individuals, made a rather convincing case for calling the Samaritan woman. However, because a woman pastor was not a possibility, they recommended the apostle Paul, who, despite his sometimes virulent sexism, understood very well the dignity of the single life.
Support for Jonah came from post-highs who rarely came to church, except when dragged along by their parents. Although quite unorganized (they submitted no formal document), they were unofficially polled by one of the elders while standing out on the sidewalk after the morning service. “Jonah?” Elder Dominick said, non-plussed, “--because of the whale business?”
“Yah, that too,” one of them said. “But mostly, that vine thing—I love that. You know—‘been there, don’t that.’”
The apostle Paul was the second choice of the men of the Breakfast Club, the business leaders who met biweekly at the health club, where--in addition to playing racquetball doubles--they ate thickly granola-ed yogurt and studied the greatest hits of C. S. Lewis. The apostle Paul had some appeal—“running the race and all of that,” but John the disciple got the nod because, not only was he was the finest athlete of the twelve, he found a gracious way to make his athleticism clear in the story of the resurrection.
The club’s other vote went to Daniel, who, they claimed, was the most intelligent of all the prophets, well-educated in the ways of the world, and obviously committed to the faith. And, good night, what endurance, they said.
The small-groups got together to discuss their needs, but claimed they didn’t feel up to naming a specific candidate. They’d be likely to approve of anyone, they said, as long as he or she was there at Pentecost.
The Reach-out Committee threw in a strong vote for Elijah, assuming he could pull of a stunt like the one on Mt. Carmel, for the 800 prophets of Baal.
The Christianity Today Discussion Group thought maybe they could get John the Baptist; but they said they’d work on the clothing thing if it all worked out. The Christian Century group were sure the only fit candidate was the Ethiopian since Springvale was so disturbingly monochrome. Like the Men’s Society, the Dobson-ites wanted Jeremiah, but claimed they could settle for any of his immediate Old Testament neighbors.
Al-Anon wasn’t giving to naming names but claimed they could live with any of Noah’s sons.
The Liturgy Committee felt Moses would be a good man to decide once and for all the laws governing good music and proper worship styles, but they’d consider Solomon, too, they said, if he’d promise to shed some of the darkness of Ecclesiastes. But then someone brought up the concubines, and they determined he wouldn’t be a good choice, not in the present ecclesiastical climate. Finally, they settled on Noah, even though they claimed to know very little about his worship preferences. “Anyone who could keep order on the ark has great potential,” they said.
The senior choir liked King David a lot too but felt anything less than J. S. Bach would be a disappointment. The junior choir, who didn’t read the instructions, voted en masse for some Christian rock group the committee didn't know.
The Sunday school wanted Noah too, as long as the ark were part of the deal.
The janitor, incredibly, voted for Mr. Clean—if you can believe it.
At its October meeting the consistory read through all the documents and recommendations. They wrote the names of the candidates on the chalkboard, listing some of the attributes each would bring to the job. Then they started calling. They called and called and called again, but for the most part--aside from a brief, unenthusiastic conversation with a strange man named J. S. Bach in Belvedere, Illinois, they got absolutely nowhere. Couldn’t even talk to a machine.
Finally one of the elders wiped his forehead in the late summer heat and recommended giving a man named Verdean Sands a call.
No one moved.
Brummel explained that when he was on vacation in a little resort town up state he had heard the man preach. Better than passable, Brummel said.
The idea seemed preposterous.
“Nice family. Good smile. Warm.” Brummel hunched his shoulders.
The entire room sat in grave silence.
“Well, I don’t know,” Brummel said. “I guess I just found him really nice—you know, a good heart—human?”
“Human?” they said in chorus.
“Told a joke once or twice—the people liked him,” he said. “Yeah, human.”
There were misgivings, but that night, fearful of paralysis, the consistory extended the call. Some members chose to reserve their approval, but a few months later Sands arrived in Springvale—encouragingly nervous, but eager.
But, alas, all is not well in Springvale. Some people don’t believe Verdean Sands has the qualities they wanted in a minister. In fact, after hearing three sermons, the support group for reformed, ex-lottery players has already made book on his tenure. They’re giving him two years, at 3 to 1 odds.