Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Calling"--a story I

[Once again out of town for several days, I thought I'd get ahead by running an old story or two, this one chosen because, just yesterday, my wife and I sent in our absentee ballots. Our congregation is calling.  Be ye not mistaken:  this is not our church.  Besides, it's supposed to be a goofy story.  Mostly.  :)]

When Pastor Rog left Springvale Church, there was no weeping or gnashing of teeth. Not that he and the members of his congregation didn’t get along. Pastor Rog was easy to like, after all—everyone agreed on that. In addition, he followed the rules, even those left totally unstated. He wore the right clothes and sent his kids to the right schools. He held memberships in the local Lions club and the C of C, thus keeping an active and public life as a volunteer, and, thereby, did a great job keeping up a presence for Springvale in the community. His wife had a respectable part-time job at a local nursing home. Kids were well-behaved. You know.

That the people of Springvale Church weren’t sorry to see Pastor Rog leave had nothing to do with his sociability, his family, his personality, or his willingness to work. It had to do with his preaching--which was at best ho-hum. Pastor Rog pursuit of texts was, well, plodding, as was his general delivery. He rarely deviated from six or eight favorite gestures (a tightly clenched fist turned inward was his favorite), and he tended to repeat the phrase “in large part” so frequently that kids regularly tallied the numbers and compared notes afterward. His sermons, to many of the good Springvale souls, seemed irritatingly predictable--which was to say, well, boring.

However, Springvale congregation would not have been so eager to see him leave if they had been aware of the complex process of locating a suitable replacement. The church hadn’t been without a preacher since before the war—at least that’s what people claimed, but no one knew exactly which war people meant. Finding a new under-shepherd, the council noted in its July meeting, would be a challenge that would demand the best from all.

At that same meeting they decided that before selecting candidates for the new job, they would survey needs and wants by making specific inquiries to the church’s various groups and societies.

By the following Tuesday, Brother Morse (a computer repairman) prepared a fourteen-page questionnaire, which the council subsequently distributed, calling it an “assessment instrument,” then gave members a strict deadline for completing and returning the pages. So in August most of the congregation’s various interest groups spent quality time discussing the type of pastor the Springvale congregation needed. The council wanted results by September.

Meanwhile, the council devoted their entire August meeting to drawing a profile themselves, beginning with this note—“we don’t believe Springvale is ready for a woman pastor.” Thusly, the pronouns were masculine. He has to be charismatic, they said, and scriptural, capable of writing and speaking not only fluently but with requisite passion; he should have a strong pastoral heart, be a compassionate listener; and he must be committed to kingdom work, gifted with intelligence; a man who is wise with a gracious heart. A good place to begin, they thought.

[Tomorrow: the nominations begin.]


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