Monday, June 14, 2021
Remnant: "I Resign"
Bruce Simpkins dropped in on Ed and Alice in the late afternoon.
Bruce was on the Board of Directors of the First Christian Church and as such, he knew Alice far better than he knew Ed.
Alice was one of the foot-soldiers of the church. She could always be counted on to throw her weight behind any venture proposed from the pulpit.
Ed was entirely different. As far as Bruce could remember, Ed’s shadow had not darkened the threshold of 1st-C in thirty years.
Most people viewed Ed as comic-relief. Alice was the Abraham’s tank and Ed was the water-trailer with the smiley-face it was towing.
Ed and Bruce adjourned to the front porch where they could soak up some sun and sip some mint tea.
Bruce cut to the chase. There was an emergency board meeting at 1st-C in a few hours and he didn’t have forever.
“So, Ed. I always wondered. Why did you stop going to church?” Bruce asked.
“Are you sure you want to know?” Ed asked. “I get that question from time-to-time and folks get their knickers in a wad when I start telling them.”
“I want to know” Bruce said.
“It seemed like we were getting a new Pastor every five years” Ed said, looking back in his head to that time.
Bruce nodded his head. He remembered those days.
“Every time we got a new Pastor he would take about three months to get his feet on the ground and then we would get ‘The Sermon’.” Ed said.
Changing his voice slightly to make it more histronic and projecting “I prayed to God and He told me ‘If we are not growing we are dying’”
“He spoke to me and told me we need a new Choir Room or Library or Organ or upgrade the Information Technology Infrastructure” Ed said.
“It was always more than two-thousand square feet and as soon as it was done the Pastor always gave us ‘The Second Sermon’. You know the one. You have heard it more times than I have” Ed said. “I have been praying and I can feel God calling me to move to another church.”
“Funniest thing” Ed noted “God never calls them to a smaller or less affluent church just like God never tells them to split the congregation into two, smaller churches. I would have thought God needed more workers in the vineyard in, say, eastern-Kentucky...but what do I know.”
“Alice got tired of hearing my griping and she suggested it would be better for both of us if I stopped going” Ed said. “I still study the Bible but I guess I am soured on ‘organized’ religion.”
Bruce, who had more background information than Ed, realized that the pattern of new pastors started when Odette Meissner took over the “Pastor Search” committee.
“What do you think of all these Mexicans from Lansing?” Bruce asked him.
Ed shot him a quick, side-long glance. “You know we had a couple come over and put in the garden, right?”
Bruce nodded in agreement. He knew.
“I reckon they are just people. There are good ones and I am sure there are bad ones. But I figure most of them are like most of us, somewhere in the middle” Ed said.
“Some of the other churches are helping them out. We are going to talk about that tonight” Bruce confided.
“That is going to be a hard sell, I bet” Ed said.
“Probably” Bruce agreed.
“Don’t suppose you have any thoughts on the subject...” Bruce asked, leadingly.
“Maybe I do” Ed admitted.
“About there being good ones and not-such-good-ones,” Ed said. “I read about the miracles in the Bible and in nearly every one, the person who received the miracle had to bring something. They had to bring some loaves or fishes or they had to touch Jesus’s hem. Even in the Old Testament, they had to be willing to sacrifice their son or they had to travel a great distance.”
Bruce nodded. He was familiar with the stories.
“Seems like where folks go wrong is in offering help without requiring that the person who receives it have some skin in the game” Ed said. “I ain’t saying anybody should have to crawl a mile over broken glass. I am just saying that if you have two families and one loaf of bread, the family who is willing to work for is the one who needs it more and will value it more than the other.”
“Thanks, Ed. You helped me clarify my thinking” Bruce said, taking his leave.
One last question popped into Bruce's mind. "You said there was one miracle where the person who received it didn't ask for it. Which miracle was that?"
"Near as I can tell," Ed said "it was when God blasted Saul off of his horse with a bolt of lightening and blinded him."
The Board Meeting was far more contentious than usual.
Odette used Robert’s Rules of Order the way a seal hunter used a billy-club but she was not able to stifle Bruce.
To Bruce’s surprise, Annette Saur seconded his motions and Odette could not deny him the floor.
Bruce calmly pointed out that several other of the area churches were offering aid to the refugees. He mentioned the Lutheran church because it was close to his home and he was most familiar with it (other than 1st-C, of course).
Meissner came close to sneering, “Next you will want us to copy the Catholics, the Baptists, Witnesses and Mormons.” For whatever reasons, known only to her and God, she particularly despised those groups.
Bruce suspected it had something to do with the time that he proposed, in a board meeting, that 1st-C open a clothing bank so-as to not compete with the Baptists’ John 21:15 food-bank. Meissner gave Bruce a ass-chewing after the meeting, directing him to NEVER bring up a topic before having it vetted by her first.
Annette countered “If what they are doing is what the Bible tells US to do, why wouldn’t we?”
“I know about those people” Meissner said. “I talked to people. They steal things.”
“We already have a Wednesday Soup dinner” Meissner said. “As long as they dress appropriately for Church and we lock all the doors except for the bathrooms, I think that is plenty.”
“But most of them don’t have church clothes” Bruce said, quietly.
“Then they can eat Wednesday dinner someplace else” Meissner declared.
Bruce resigned his position on the Board.
Meissner said “I need that in writing” thinking that he would re-think his position before he had a chance to write it.
Bruce turned over the meeting agenda and wrote on the back “I, Bruce Simpkins, resign from the Board of First Christian Church, Eaton Rapids. Effective immediately” and then he signed it.
Meissner slid it back across the table with a smirk. “I cannot accept this unless you give a reason.”
Bruce knew he was going to regret it but he could not stop his mouth.
“I resign because you, Odette Meissner, are a toxic human being and a shameful excuse for a Christian.”
Bruce left the resignation where it was, got up and walked out.
He had not made it to the sidewalk before he heard the door to the church slam shut.
It was Annette. “I should have done that years ago.”
“How long do you figure it will be before word makes it around town?” she asked.
“Meissner won’t care. She still has her quorum of pet-rocks.” Bruce said, bitterly.
“Maybe. But she doesn’t have us” Annette said. And there was a lilt to her voice, a jaunty note that Bruce could not remember ever having heard before.”