Jim Johnson plugged in the coffee pot and arranged the donuts on a plate. “I’m too old for this,” he thought. “Maybe I should resign after we call the new pastor.”
One by one the other deacons entered the fellowship room near the church kitchen. Chad, who worked at the nearby paper mill, came in looking a bit bleary and saying to Dennis, “These staggered shifts will kill a guy. Just get used to the day shift and it’s on to the evening shift, an’ just get used to that and it’s the night shift or the graveyard shift, and me sleeping in broad daylight again. Hate to think what that’s doing to my internal clock. Guess I should be glad the mill’s still running. I am glad. But I sure am tired.”
Dennis murmured something suitably sympathetic and announced that Lee was following right behind him. The two of them sat at the table, followed shortly by Lee. Jim found some cups and added them to a tray that held the donuts.
After a few minutes of discussing the recent rain, the resignation of the pastor at Our Savior Lutheran, the economy and the state of the nation in general, Jim poured himself a cup of coffee and passed the pot around the table, saying, “It’s decaf,” so no worries, Chad. You’ll be able to go right home and crash.”
Lee stretched and announced that Mary was going to visit her sister in Rhinelander so he was batching it for the weekend.
Dennis said that the Children’s Church teachers were wondering about a Back-to-School outreach of some kind.
The room grew silent except for faint slurps as the men settled down.
“Well, we’d best get started,” Jim announced. The others nodded, a bit nervously.
For the next half hour they discussed the previous Sunday’s worship services, both morning and evening. They talked about the need to find a pastor soon, noting that time was passing. In a month, school would begin, and then it would be Thanksgiving and then Christmas, for goodness sake. No one wanted another Christmas without a permanent pastor installed at North Woods Chapel.
They had heard good reports from the youth who went to camp.
The women’s ministry wanted to have a picnic on the back lawn before the weather turned crisp but wondered if they could also have a bake sale as a fund raiser.
No one spoke about Dee Anna, except indirectly.
Finally, the room grew quiet again. All eyes turned to Jim, who sighed and said, “Okay, let’s get this show on the road. We all know why we are here. What are your feelings about Reverend Dee Anna Hanson?”
After a moment in which everyone hoped for someone else to begin, Dennis said, “Well, I’ll tell you, Marla hasn’t stopped talking about her. She was very moved by what happened Sunday morning. That was God, don’t you guys think? Marla does, and I’m thinking I agree with her.”
Chad said flatly, “I like her. Not like Sunday morning was a sermon, but it was—unusual. You know. And people responded to her. Did you notice how quiet it was while she was telling her story? And the message Sunday night was good. I like how she brought out that Jesus’ was a radical. And she was funny. The teenagers liked her.”
Lee cleared his throat and said, “I don’t really understand why we had her come here in the first place. I mean, okay, I know we are a small church and maybe we won't get the cream of the crop, but,” he stopped and began again.
”Sunday morning was surprising, and I’ll be the first one to say that it seemed like the Holy Spirit was doing something. I’m all for that. But, well, I mean, you know people are not going to want a woman in our pulpit.”
“Why not?” snapped Chad. “It’s the 21st century, for crying out loud!”
“Because the Bible says a woman must be silent in church.” And we might not like it, but that’s what the Word of God says!” Lee retorted. “I mean,” he cleared his throat again, “I know a woman founded this church and all. I’m not sure what all that was about but…well, it just doesn’t seem right, women preaching and leading the church. And she isn’t even married. I mean…there’ll be problems.”
Jim listened silently as the conversation swirled around the table for several minutes. Finally he said quietly, “All right. Let’s all just settle down and take a deep breath. We never did pray when we started this meeting. Let’s pray now.”
The others grew quiet. “Okay,” Lee said. “I’m not trying to be difficult. And we all want the Lord’s will. You lead and we’ll agree with you in prayer.”
Jim bowed his head and the others followed his example.
“Lord God,” we are grateful for your boundless love and grace. We come to you as humbly as we know how. We are seeking your holy wisdom. We do not want to do anything that would hinder North Woods Chapel. But we don’t want to miss what you may be doing either.”
A quiet murmur of agreement came from Chad and Dennis.
“I guess what we are asking, God, is that your will be done here in our church, as it is in Heaven.”
After a moment the others all said “Amen.”
As the conversation begain once more, Chad was thinking that he probably wasn’t going to get a lot of sleep before he had to start on the night shift at the paper mill.
He was right.