“Have you ever had an affair?”
“Ever been tempted?”
“Yeah, sure. I mean like, who hasn’t?” The candidate’s embarrassment was expected. In fact the committee saw it as a positive sign of his sincerity. A liar would have come up with some platitude designed to paper over a crucial weakness.
“That’s fine,” said the chairman reassuringly. “It’s just one of the questions we have to ask.”
“Any alcohol or drug issues we need to know about?” This question from the far end of the table.
“None at all, ma’am. The only time I ever touched the devil’s brew was a flask of cider when I was eleven years old. I was sick as a hog afterwards and I’ve never been interested since. As far as drugs go, aspirin’s the strongest thing I take. Even then it’s normally my wife’s suggestion once she gets tired of all my whining.”
“Any financial problems? Loans, credit card debts, that sort of thing?” This question, predictably, from the church treasurer.
“No, sir. Things were pretty tight there at seminary. But the Lord proved faithful and I graduated debt-free. I’m not into any of that prosperity mumbo-jumbo but I believe in Jehovah-Jireh, that the Lord is no man’s debtor.”
There was an unexpected silence, a sudden tension in the air, causing the candidate to look round with a growing sense of consternation. The chairman’s poker face would have served him well in any card school – except of course that their denomination frowned on all forms of gambling. The members of the panel liked the young man – this was his second interview after all – and he would clearly make an outstanding pastor. His preaching was orthodox but inspirational, only lacking in the polish that comes with years of experience. He was an able worship leader and his administrative skills would prove a great asset to the church. Moreover his wife possessed that rare blend of charm and beauty that won round the older and the younger women alike.
The only fly in the ointment was an odd comment from one of the referees. The candidate had served a four-month placement in the minister’s church and the experience had been positive for everyone concerned. The minister’s reference had been full of admiration, but a follow-up phone call from the chairman had left the committee feeling uneasy about the appointment. Yes, the minister agreed, the young man was a little conceited – a bit too full of himself. But that was to be expected of a man straight out of seminary; a couple of years in the cut and thrust of pastoral ministry would soon knock him into shape.
It was the minister’s final throwaway comment that that most worried the chairman. “Just keep an eye on his expenses claims.” That’s all he would say. When pressed further, the minister dodged the question and ended the call. But what had he meant? Was he hinting that the candidate was dishonest? Or reckless in his spending? Maybe he was just shy to claim for legitimate expenses, preferring to cover them from his own pocket. Whatever the truth, the committee needed to know…
“Thanks again. You should receive a letter from us in a week or two.” The interview had gone on an extra ten minutes, before concluding with a word of prayer and handshakes all round. The chairman walked to the window and looked down into the staff car park. The glass was tinted, rendering any observer effectively invisible to those down below. He watched as the candidate approached his car and unlocked the driver’s door. It was only then that the young man noticed the calf-skin wallet that lay on the tarmac just to one side. He picked it up, popped the catch, and inspected the wad of bank notes inside. Then, with a glance round the car park, he slipped it into his coat pocket, opened the door and proceeded to drive off.
The wallet contained a name, address and phone number for a Mr Enoch Bloomsbury. He was the father-in-law of the church treasurer and would let his son-in-law know the instant it was returned. Of course it was entirely possible that the wallet would simply disappear, emptied of its contents, and chucked over a convenient bridge. In that case, the treasurer of Charlesville Holiness Church would have lost himself a couple of hundred bucks. But it would be money well spent: this way the committee would know if they could trust their new pastor.
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