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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The United Kingdom (01/22/09)

TITLE: Perfectly United
By Carol Sprock


Reverend Smythe’s face froze midway between a smile of encouragement and a frown of concern, his brown eyes wide open with shock. What on earth was going on here? he wondered to himself, breathing shallowly and forcing himself to lean slightly forward. Everything in this church’s prospectus pointed toward potential dissension over the speed and type of changes needed to develop a more evangelistic-minded body. Yet after a simple question about the way worship services were developed, he felt he’d flung open the door of Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace. He wasn’t sure if he should toss into the refining fire both the current Worship Director and the former Worship Director or throw himself into the flames and forget about candidating as this church’s next pastor.

Heat from the tense silence flushed his face as he swallowed and prayed for wisdom. He had resigned from his previous church six months ago when his elder board failed to support changes on which they had all agreed and, instead of coming to him directly when the congregation murmured in discontent, had gone to the district superintendent to complain. At the time, he had felt like a British Protestant dragged by Catholic extremists into the back alleys of Belfast to be pummeled near to death. Was the friction he felt here indicating a similar turmoil, good Christians both but each enslaved to a different doctrinal application that had little to do with unity in Christ?

The former director, Lynn, was gazing with a tortured expression at her lap where her hands worried each in tight twinings. Her countenance led him to believe she regretted describing as haphazard the way the current director, Jackie, chose music and ordered the service. Jackie was blandly and blankly looking at him as if nothing untoward had happened, as if she didn’t notice Lynn grinding her teeth in regret and frustration over how her words had birthed this reverberating quiet.

He opened his mouth, though he had no idea what to say, when the pianist spoke up to assure them that she knew Jackie put great thought and care into her choices. Lynn’s head shot up as she stuttered, “I didn’t mean to…,” her voice trailing off as the pianist continued with her analysis of the services. Lynn visibly shrunk in despair. After the pianist finished, she softly offered, “I meant to say that the services always seem to be the same every Sunday with little variety. The songs are fine. I just think we’ve fallen into a bit of a rut and could do more to help people engage the Spirit in fresh ways.”

“Thank you for explaining, Lynn,” Reverend Smythe said. Seeing that Jackie sat complacently waiting on him to continue, he wrapped up the discussion and rose to invite the members of the Fellowship Committee into the office. Lynn looked at no one as she escaped from the room. Jackie thanked him genially for his time, reminding him she would be leading worship the next day.

Once he concluded his meetings with the various leaders and church groups, he gathered his notes and stepped into the hallway where he found Lynn leaning against the far wall. She straightened as she apologized for the harsh way she had criticized Jackie. Nodding in understanding, he gently suggested, “I think that this may be something you need to say to someone else, Lynn, not me.”

“Oh, yes, you’re right and I’d been meaning to talk to Jackie even before we called you to candidate. I just…well, I haven’t done it.”

Encouraged at her response, he continued, “I see how both you and Jackie seek the same purpose even though you disagree about the methods. Paul told the Philippians that unity with Christ required being like-minded in love.”

“And Matthew 18 tells us to talk directly to anyone we disagree with so the church isn’t divided,” Lynn added thoughtfully. “The Spirit just kicked me in the rear while you spoke. I guess I have a phone call to make, one I’ve been avoiding far too long.”

We were both grinning as we said our farewells, victoriously stepping from the furnace in hand with Jesus.

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This article has been read 435 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 01/31/09
You've put into words a struggle that many congregations go through.

I wasn't sure who the "we" was at the end.

I like the caring attitudes portrayed here.
Karlene Jacobsen02/03/09
The pastor was a very wise man. You portrayed the scene very well.