Seventeen-year-old Kent Harson enjoyed attending church services. Not that he was particularly religious; he wasn’t. It was, rather, because his family faithfully attended, and also that he was a member of the church youth choir, in which the girls were decked out in colorful, multi-hued skirts, while the boys wore hang-bottom pants that, like the girls’ skirts, were secured by red suspenders. Kent wasn’t even musically inclined. Oh, he could carry a tune all right, but so could his family’s parrot when it heard one, yet, that didn’t qualify the parrot to sing in the choir.
Some of the church members - especially the younger element who couldn’t qualify for the choir - claimed the Red Suspenders were a laughable group. They began referring to the youth choir as, “The Red Suspenders Gang,” as though the singers were mobsters. Moreover, while the choir sang, distractions were instigated by the some of the more arrogant young people, with the apparent intent of disconcerting the singers into making mistakes in their recitals. When the senior pastor, together with his assistants, mildly rebuked those who ridiculed, the derision subsided, but only temporarily. After a brief period of time the derogatory term resurfaced, threatening the continuation of the choir. It also endangered the unity of the super-size congregation, when the families of the choir members speculated that possibly the Seventh Avenue Community Church no longer was for them. Perhaps, several confided to Pastor Greenson, it was time to search out another church.
Mrs. Harson spoke for the others. “We certainly love you, pastor, yet it’s hard for us families who have children in the youth choir to endure the animosity against our children, simply because they’re choir members. Our children devote a great deal of their time to choir practice. One would think the congregation appreciates this.”
“Apparently, the other members of our church have joined the silent majority. Please don’t leave the church. As you know, our church board meets this Wednesday. I’ll make time for all of you to voice your concerns regarding this matter.”
The large percentage does appreciate the dedication of the choir members,” the pastor assured the parents, “It’s just the jealous few who do not and who are so vocal in their ridicule.
“We certainly appreciate that, pastor,” another father, who was a well-known city attorney, stated, “However, some of those very board members are among the ones who derogatorily refer to our kids as, ‘The Red Suspenders Gang.’ With all due respect to you and your office, pastor, do you seriously think they would hear us out without prejudice? I certainly do not. I’m fearful the meeting would degrade into mayhem.” Several of the others concurred.
“Arthur, that will occur only if we permit it,” Pastor Greenson responded, “Let’s each make the meeting a matter of special prayer between now and Wednesday night. And let’s kneel in prayer now regarding the matter.”
The group complied and Pastor Greenson led in prayer.
Several days after the prayer session, Amelia and two other members of The Red Suspenders Choir, approached Greenson. “You know, pastor,” she began, “We’ve been thinking about our choir being called, ‘The Red Suspenders Gang’. Why don’t we informally refer to ourselves by that name? Now wouldn’t that heap coals of fire on the heads of those who ridicule us!! For a while, when we sing, we could advertise ourselves as, ‘The Red Suspenders Musical Gang’. The other choir members agree with us on this. We also spoke to the youth pastor and the choir director about it.”
“And, what was their response?” Greenson inquired.
“Well, at first both of them thought we were kidding, so they laughed; but when we told them we were serious, they thought about it for a while and said it’s worth a try. They also told us to speak to you about it before we do it. What do you think, pastor?”
“Well, it’s worth a try,” Greenson affirmed.
The next Sunday morning, just before The Red Suspenders sang, Amelia stepped behind the pulpit. “I’ve been chosen to speak for the choir,” she began, “We wish to thank those young people and the families who inspired a novel new name for our choir. We’ve decided to go by the name ‘The Red Suspenders Musical Gang,’ at least for awhile. Should it prove more popular than our original one, we’ll keep using it. Either way, we appreciate those who thought so much of the choir that they came up with such a unique name. From now we are, ‘The Red Suspenders Musical Gang’. Thank you all so very, very much.”
A hush descended and, as the Red Suspenders scanned the faces of the congregants, embarrassment was obvious on several of them, especially among those in the youth group. At the conclusion of the service, a good number of the parents and young people who were the most culpable for the problems came up to members of the choir to apologize for their actions.
“Wow!” Kent afterward remarked, “Coals of fire really do work on those who give us problems, don’t they pastor? I’ll have to use that technique more often, myself.”
“But with love, Kent, only with Christian love,” Pastor Greenson replied with a smile.