One by one members of the congregation filed into the sanctuary. Each averted his or her eyes, not desiring to greet those already seated.
Yvonne shifted in the pew and tugged at her skirt in an attempt to cover more of her legs. She felt rather than saw accusatory glares directed toward her. To her left, someone coughed, then mumbled an apology for shattering the somber mood in the room.
“I guess we’ll see who’re sheep and who’re goats pretty soon.”
Yvonne winced. Someone shushed the speaker and silence descended once more.
The door to the pastor’s study opened and the three men and two women who composed the church board of elders came out. Yvonne stared at each of their faces for a sign of what had just been discussed in the office. None of them returned her gaze. Their mouths firm-lipped, their countenances flinty, they took seats in the first pew. A bad omen of what might ensue.
Pastor Simon followed, slowly removing his glasses and rubbing at his eyes with his free hand. He glanced at Yvonne as he passed on his way to the podium.
Was that a faint smile or a grimace on his face? She couldn’t be certain.
“You have been called to this assembly tonight to come to a decision as members of this body.” The pastor cleared his throat and hesitated. Gripping the edge of the podium with white knuckles, he opened his mouth, then closed it again. His eyes rose to meet Yvonne’s.
She blinked away her tears and gave him what she hoped was an encouraging smile. Someone had to smile in this dark hour.
“The men and women of the board have brought to my attention a list of grievances they have. Upon their recommendation, I did not lead the service today.”
Yvonne remembered the confusion that morning as the worship team led the congregation in song after song. Some congregants stared at the study door, wondering when Pastor Simon would appear to give the message. He never did. Those assembled were invited to return that evening when all things would be “brought to light”, as Jon, the worship leader and chairman of the board, said in icy overtones.
Jon stepped to the microphone and clapped his hand on the pastor’s shoulder. He whispered something in Pastor Simon’s ear and motioned toward the front pew across the aisle from the elders.
As Yvonne prayed quietly, she half-listened to the list of charges Jon read from what seemed like a ream of pages. Congregants, mostly board members, who felt slighted, an elderly widow who wanted more hymns in the service. Petty irritations that had become exaggerated. Yvonne’s name was mentioned, and embarrassment crept up her neck and into her cheeks.
From the rear of the sanctuary came a snort of derision as Yvonne’s pending marriage to the pastor was mentioned. Jon concluded the list, saying, “Our bylaws state that once the charges have been publicly read aloud, the congregation must cast anonymous ballots to decide whether he may remain the shepherd of this flock . . .”
Yvonne gasped involuntarily. She had never dreamed that their relationship would threaten to rip Simon from the calling she knew was his “first love”.
Slips of white memo paper were being distributed to each member. She had not received one and for that she was thankful. Many in the congregation viewed her a fallen woman, a temptress who had seduced their pastor. Anger rose within her when she thought about their false accusations. How could they think those things about this man who had sacrificed his all for the cause of Christ?
The air was charged with electric anticipation as Jon received the tally from the vote counters. His brow furrowed.
“The ballot count reads fifteen for Pastor Simon remaining, seven against.”
Yvonne heard several sighs of relief and she herself let out a shaky breath. The board members sat as if frozen in their pew. Then Pastor Simon stood and faced the congregation, unhappiness etched on his face.
“I thank those of you who have supported me through my years here at New Joy Assembly but I must resign my position, effective immediately. I do this, not through guilt, but because a house divided against itself cannot stand. The vote tonight has revealed that division. May the Lord Himself bless and keep you. Good evening.”
Stunned and painful silence accompanied Yvonne and Simon as they left the church never to return.
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