Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Remnant: Church shopping


The light was fading fast as Bruce walked past the Lutheran church. He was a half mile from home.

On a whim, he walked up to the door of the house next door and knocked. Somewhere he had heard that the house was the pastor's”

A spritely woman answered the door.

Bruce asked if the Pastor was in.

He was. He was on the back deck smoking a cigar.

Bruce joined him on the deck.

The pastor, a burly man of late-middle age squinted at him. “Do I know you?” he asked in a rumbley, baritone voice.

“Probably not?” Bruce admitted. He pointed up road and said “I am a neighbor. I am Bruce Simpkins.”

The pastor nodded. “Blue Spruces out front? Husqvarna zero-turn?”

“Yup. That’s me” Bruce said.

“I apologize for being blunt but it saves a lot of time” the pastor said. “We have been here for thirty years and people I met back then expect me to remember them. People change a lot in that time.”

The pastor patted his belly “I used to be skinny, for instance.”

Bruce allowed how people could change a lot over thirty years.

“Isn’t that a long time for a pastor to stick around?” Bruce asked.

“Maybe” the pastor said. “But we were raising a family and Eaton Rapids is a good place to do that. By the time the kids left we had roots and were comfortable.”

“That was close enough to the reasons why Bruce still lived in Eaton Rapids that he understood completely.

The pastor didn’t seem to be in any hurry to hear why Bruce was there. He still had four inches left on his cigar and the night had soft tones to it that held the promise of the coming summer.

Bruce blurted out “I am looking for a church.”

The pastor nodded, sagely. “Well, I got one. It might be a fit or the shoe might pinch. The only way to tell is to attend a month’s worth of services. I will point out that a solid church that is a half mile away is better than a perfect church that is a four hour walk away.”

That seemed like a pretty fair assessment.

The pastor worked the cigar down about another half inch when Bruce ventured “All these migrants coming out of Lansing. Quite a challenge.”

If the pastor noticed that Bruce had wrapped the “challenge” in completely neutral language, he gave no indication. Words were the pastor’s prime tools. He noticed. He just didn’t give any indication.

“God’s children, just like we all are. Many of them are kids” the pastor observed. It was banter and “easy”; not a verbal sword-fight.

“What are you doing for them?” Bruce asked. It was getting darker and he needed to know.

“Mostly they need to get out of the weather. We can sort out the other issues later. But first they need a roof over their heads, food and some warmer clothing” the pastor said.

“Are you housing any of them in the church?” Bruce asked. The facility was much, much smaller than 1st-C's. The building's footprint was less than one-tenth the size of 1st-C's.

“We talked about it” the pastor said. “but we decided it was better to reserve it as an emergency shelter for those who show up at dark...like you just did...and when the weather is really bad.”

“Some of the women want to move the top of the griddle outside and start a tortilla factory. The kitchen isn’t very useful without gas or electricity” the pastor said with a note of sadness. The pastor was very fond of church meals…even the funeral meals. Much healing of wounded souls happened at funeral meals.

“Mostly, I am leaving it up to my congregation” the pastor said. “I pointed out that the migrants qualified as ‘...the least of my brothers...’ and let them go from there.”

“Did it work?” Bruce asked.

“Lots of growing pains” the pastor grunted.

“It isn’t like we aren’t trying but there are a lot of moving parts and families showing up without warning.”

“I have members of my congregation with barns and warehouses and empty buildings.”

“I have members with storage units filled with usable clothing and more bicycles than you can shake a stick at.”

“I have members who need work done and I have sources willing to donate food.”

“What I don’t have, is the time or energy...or frankly the skills...to get it all organized and running smoothly.”

“These families cannot wait around for a week. They need a roof over their head tonight and a full meal first thing tomorrow” the pastor said.

Bruce cleared his throat. “Maybe I can help with that. I am a planner by nature and I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands.”

8 comments:

  1. So...all of these poor Central American migrants, most of whom are at least nominally if not devoutly Catholic, are about to become...Lutherans?!? I am not sure the Pope would approve.

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    1. Many areas of Central America are more Evangelical Christian than Catholic. That "Liberation Theology" communism didn't work out so well for them.

      My gut feel is that they will affiliate with those churches where the congregations live out the Gospel message rather than mouth the words. That said, the ones that are stupid about living out the Gospel message won't last long either.

      Jesus shared parables about houses with barred doors and windows and shepherds that protected their livelihoods.

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  2. "...and the night had soft tones to it that held the promise of the coming summer."

    ERJ, you have really evolved as a writer.

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  3. Clap, clap, clap
    I find myself checking frequently for your fiction. Your writing is more than entertaining, it's thought provoking...

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  4. But, what cigar was he smoking?

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    Replies
    1. Mission trip bring-backs. In this case, Dominican Republic Montecristos with all D.R. tobacco content.

      Not cigars he would have bought for himself but it is ungracious to turn down gifts, especially from church members who volunteer for missions.

      Delete