"Private" read the gold-colored plaque affixed to the large, walnut-stained, wooden door. Strategically placed in front of the door was a large, oak desk behind which sat a young, modestly dressed secretary.
“Good morning,” I greeted. “I’m Bill Michaels.”
“Good morning, Reverend Michaels,” chirped the secretary cheerfully. “Mr. Blanchard is expecting you. Please have a seat and I’ll let him know you’ve arrived.”
“Thank you,” I said, and took a seat on the plush sofa across from the desk. The ground-floor outer office was larger than necessary and well-appointed – expensive paintings, a few sculptures, potted plants everywhere, and apparently large windows covered by floor-to-ceiling heavy curtains which gave the room a closed-in, almost gloomy air.
“Mr. Blanchard will see you, now,” sang out the secretary, rising from her seat.
I got up and walked toward her as she stepped ahead and knocked on the "private" door. I heard a distinct click. She opened the door and allowed me to step inside. I entered a very large, dimly lit inner office appointed much the same as the outer office. The secretary closed the door behind me.
“Reverend Michaels, nice of you to come in,” resonated a low, gravelly voice. It came from far across the room, spoken through a slight smile from a clean-shaven but deeply lined face under a thinning crop of mostly gray hair. The stocky, elegantly dressed man didn’t rise from his oversized chair behind the long glass and wood desk, but motioned me toward one of the large leather chairs in front of the desk.
I sat down and sunk deep into the material, uncomfortably low to the floor. From this position, I could see only the desk owner’s head, and virtually nothing that might be lying on the desk. The angle allowed the desk-lamp bulbs on either side of the head to peer beneath their shades and shine brightly into my eyes, darkening my view. Behind the head hung curtains similar to those in the outer office, stretching nearly the length of the wall, presumably covering a bank of windows.
“Call me Bill,” I offered cheerfully. “Everybody does.”
“Fine, Bill,” rattled the voice.
“I wonder whether we might let in some of the morning sunlight, Mr. Blanchard. It’s a beautiful day out.”
“And have everybody gawking at us?” protested the voice. “Open these curtains and the whole world will look in. Might as well live in a glass house.”
“Doesn’t God see us anyway?” I asked.
“I’d like to talk to you about this upcoming ceremony,” the voice growled, ignoring the question.
Mr. Blanchard’s daughter, her husband, and their 11-year old daughter were scheduled to be received into membership in our church the following Sunday. Their daughter would also receive a believer’s baptism. They had been attending worship with us for some time, having moved into our neighborhood recently. Mr. Blanchard had attended a couple of times, but always left right after worship, so I hadn’t really spoken with him before now. His daughter had mentioned that her father may want to “talk” with me.
“I’d like to make it a little more…private,” the voice continued.
“Well, it’s actually not a private affair, Mr. Blanchard,” I responded. “It’s a celebration…a celebration of profession before God and God’s people. It’s for all to enjoy.”
“Well, I don’t enjoy crowds,” the voice gruffed. “Maybe you could do it sometime during the week. Just name a day, and I’ll have my secretary clear my calendar.
“It must be in front of the congregation, Mr. Blanchard. So that all can witness God’s calling of a family and become involved in the new family’s nurturing and care. Sunday’s the best day.”
“I don’t mean to impede ‘nurturing and care’,” rattled the voice. “It’s crowd control I’m after.”
“You’ve attended our worship, Mr. Blanchard,” I reminded. “While the congregation is rather large, wouldn’t you agree it’s not really crowd-like?”
“Nevertheless,” countered the voice, “it’s no different than opening these curtains. The whole world will be watching.”
“Well, maybe not the ‘whole world’, but certainly God and his people. You can’t shut out God, Mr. Blanchard – even with curtains.
We received Mr. Blanchard’s daughter and family into membership Sunday morning, and I administered a believer’s baptism to his granddaughter. The occasion was filled with joy, praise, and welcoming. Warm fellowship followed worship, accompanied by a strong sense of belonging in the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, Mr. Blanchard did not attend.
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