26 January 2009

THE ADVENTURES OF GRAYING PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH: Attention to Orders

Earl Regis presented his Clerk’s Report. The Baptism request was quickly approved.

“OK. We’ve also got a letter from Henry and Madelyn Garntner asking use the sanctuary for their grand-daughter’s wedding.”

“Who are they,” asked Fred Jones? “I don’t recognize the names.”

“Madelyn is a Transfer. Her grand-parents, Bill and Mary Transfer, were members here when I was a boy. Madelyn and her folks stopped worshipping here back in the 60’s, but Madelyn is still a member.”

“Why here?”

“Oh, they like our picturesque old sanctuary, and the reception will fill the the Fellowship Hall.”

Marylou Sunstadt piped up. “Where do the parents worship?”

“The letter is a little unclear about that. I know that Madelyn sort of stopped attending after high school. She came back in the 1970s for a couple of months, just before her wedding. My Dad was clerk at the time. I remember that that was a really big deal—Pastor didn’t want to have the wedding here because Madelyn was a Bhuddist at the time. She’d sort of gone hippie, ya know? But Bill and Mary were real influential in the church—they gave the communion silver that we use today as a memorial to Mary’s folks. So the session finally agreed as a try at reconciliation.”

“How did we get this letter? I didn’t see it. Are the couple Christians,” asked the Pastor? “What about our counseling requirements?”

“Oh, they sent it via the Board of Trustees with a check to reserve the Fellowship Hall. I’m not sure if they are members of any church--the letter mentions that Judge Branson will marry them, so maybe our counseling requirements don’t apply. The Trustees recommend approval. It’s a pretty big check.”

The conversation continued for another 20 minutes, ending with a decision to table until the next meeting. Pastor Rex was asked to contact the couple to respond to his questions.

“The Trustees also sent us a letter from the local karate academy. They are hosting a regional tournament and want to use the Fellowship Hall next month for an awards banquet. I’ve checked the calendar, and it is available.”

Suzanne Tomlinson began waving her hand wildly. “Isn’t that karate an oriental pagan religion? Should we let pagans use our facilities?”

“It’s just an awards banquet,” Earl replied.

“My grand-daughter plays karate,” said Paul Peters. “It’s not a religion; it’s a sport.”

After another 15 minute discussion, the request was finally approved, much to Mrs. Tomlinson’s horror.

The Pastor reported that the presbytery nominating committee had approached him to request that he stand for election to the Ministry Committee. “I’ve prayed about it, and am led to understand that God is calling me to do this.”

“How much time will it take,” asked Annie Starr. “You’ve got an awful lot to do here. If we were to provide that Bible study to the shelter, wouldn’t that take a lot of your time? And we have a confirmation class coming up that you’ll have to teach, isn’t that right, Ellen?”

“That will be part of my report, yes,” Ellen Klass replied.

“We hired you to take care of our congregation, not to go off gallivanting around with the presbytery. Let them find someone who isn’t so busy.”

“But isn’t that committee an important one,” Red asked? “Aren’t they the ones who make sure that pastors called to the presbytery are Scripturally and theologically sound?”

“Oh, who cares if some other church wants to call some wacko? We need to take care of Graying. Let the presbytery worry about its pastors,” was Annie’s response.

The session went on record as being opposed to the pastor’s request.

Marylou Sunstadt read the Fellowship Committee report. “We can’t find anyone who is willing to stay after the first service or to come in early before the second service to assist with the coffee hour. The Brierson’s have been handling it for the past two years, but Chip is being transferred to Houston. I guess we’ll just have to cancel the coffee hour.”

“Will anyone be in the fellowship hall for that hour to at least greet visitors,” Red asked?

“Are you volunteering?”

“He is not,” Ellen Klass said. “You keep your hands off my teachers, Marylou Sunstatdt. I’m just kidding, dear, but I have a tough enough time finding teachers. We don’t want to waste them on being glorified ushers.”

The minutes noted the end of the coffee hour “for the time being.”

Ellen Klass gave the Discipleship report. “We’ve got enough teachers for now, but no substitutes or back-ups. We had hoped that there would be a new members class by now so we could recruit from there, but Rex says no one has responded to the new members class announcement.”

“The Senior High youth group is down to six kids and four of them are seniors. There were a couple of visitors during November, but Suzie Seeker tells me that they are now attending that Bible Fellowship Church out by the Turnpike. We may be able to do away with the Senior High youth group next year and just fold the remaining two back into the Middle School group. That will save us a couple of leaders who might take over a Sunday School class.”

“We have nine kids in Middle School who need a confirmation class. Sally Rae Jonas was talking to me about when she was confirmed back in the 1930s. They spent two years, concentrating on Bible Study and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. I think that is a really good idea, and if we do it, Rex, we think you would be a perfect teacher, ‘cause you probably studied that in Seminary, right?”

Rex was silet for as moment. “We can talk about that, but I have always thought that officers of the church--the elders, and even some of the deacons-- ought to be involved in confirmation classes. How many of you would like to assist. We could do it in five or six week shifts.”

“Wait a minute there, Pastor,” said Paul Peters. “Most of us are retired or have real jobs. Maybe some of the moms could help—those that don’t work—but that’s really what we hired you to do. You’re the seminary graduate, not us.”

“I’ll lend a hand,” said Red. “The Book of Order says that one of our duties as elders is ‘to do whatever else may be necessary for the spread of the Gospel, the edification of the members, the well being of the church, the advancement of the Kingdom, and the growth in grace of all.’ How better to spread the Gospel, secure the foundation of the future congregation for the well being of the church and advance the Kingdom? These kids are the future. Isn’t this one of our responsibilities?”

“You’ve actually read the Book of Order,” asked Billie Jean? “Really? C’mon, Red, be realistic. If we did all the stuff it says elders are to do, who would run the affairs of the church? That’s why we hire a pastor. That religious stuff is his line of work. No offense, Rex. Besides, Westminster can be pretty harsh. Maybe we ought to temper that with the Confession of 1967. It’s nowhere near as mean-spirited as Westminster.”

“But the Confession of ’67 is a PC(USA) confession, Ellen.”

“Oh, sure, but it was my husband who wanted us to join this church. I was OK with the PC(USA) and shouldn’t we give our kids all sides of every issue? I mean, Westminster is so “right and wrong” oriented. We all know that times have changed since it was written, and we ought let our kids know that they can choose to be tolerant and inclusive.”

After another 20 minutes of give and take—mostly “give”—the issue was tabled with the understanding that as far as confessions go, Graying would stick with Westminster.

Annie Starr yawned and said, “The Outreach report is in your folder. I could talk about a lot of it, but I’m too tired.”

Fred Jones offered the Worship report. “I had four complaints about yesterday’s music. Two said that they would not attend any service that had guitars or banjos. The other two asked why we can’t have a blended service more often?”

“One member is really torqued about the contemporary service. She says that it has driven too many members out of the church, which was a surprise to me. I asked what she meant and she said, ‘Well, I never see children at worship anymore. I really like seeing the little ones when they go up for the children’s service. Now they are gone, and it makes me sad.’”

“I told her that the contemporary service has lots of kids in attendance. I said that the young families prefer the earlier service and are attending there. I suggested that, if she wants to see the kids, she can come to the 9:00 o’clock service.”

“She said, ‘I hate that service. I hate the music, I hate the clapping, and the raised hands, and all that other stuff that passes for worship these days. Worship is stately and has organ music with harmonies and words that mean something. That contemporary stuff might as well be led by dances around a campfire.’”

“I asked for her solution and she said, ‘Well that’s so simple, I’m surprised that you didn’t already think of it. Get rid of the early service and make them come back to the real worship at 11:00.’”

Paul Peters reported for the Mission Committee. “We’ve got three missionaries back on furlough between now and Easter. I move that we invite each of them to preach on a Sunday of their choosing. That will give Rex some time off to prepare for the Bible studies at the Shelter and the Confirmation Class.”

“But I’ve got a preaching schedule that we discussed last Fall. It is designed for the pre-Lenten and Lenten Season. Putting in visitors will have the Easter Sermon delivered on Mother’s Day.”

“Ah, don’t worry about it Rex. No one will notice anyway.”

“Wait a minute,” Red interjected. “According to the Book of Order, we oversee the worship of the congregation -- the time and place of worship, special services, the music program, and the celebration of the sacraments – but Rex is responsible for selection of hymns, Scriptures, sermons, and administration of the sacraments. How can we tell him he can’t preach on a particular Sunday?”

“There you go with that Book of Order stuff again,” laughed Paul. “Look, we get a dose of Rex every Sunday. He’s our employee and if we want to give him a day off, who’s to complain? But these missionaries are out there on foreign shores doing the real work of the church. We need to fire up the congregation so they give more so we can send out more missionaries.”

“Look,” Rex said, “it is almost midnight. Red is right, but Paul, why don’t you and I get together later this week to set up schedules for ‘Minutes for Mission’ for each of these folks?”

“Well, if you insist. But we are missing a great opportunity to hear some real preaching, no offense, Rex.”

The meeting closed with a very short prayer by Annie Starr, the gist of which was “Thank God this meeting is over.”

Red walked away stunned. Where was the Bible study? Where was the time of prayer? Something has to give!

Well, will Red’s questions be answered? Will pastor Rex ever take offense at the slaps at his heart? Will the Session hold a military formation for the folks at the 9:00 o’clock service and “order” them to report at 11:00? Tune in tomorrow for some answers to those and other questions as we continue to watch the adventures at Graying Pres.

3 comments:

Quotidian Grace said...

You could have titled this episode "Session Gone Wild". Truly we are going to have to get you to publish this satire when it's finished.

Aside to Pastor Rex-- get a spine! We're all rooting for you! Quit allowing the session to act as a committee of the whole.

~sound of teeth grinding~

Rev Kim said...

Another great installment! Rooting for Pastor Rex here, too.

Reformed Catholic said...

There's more truth to this satire than fiction ... to be sure !!