Monday, August 29, 2011

A Nice Story about the Pastor

What has gotten lost in this whole heartrending situation at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church is the recognition of the many wonderful things that the pastor has done in shepherding his congregation. I'd put the pastor's record up against any of the complaints that have since dominated the debate. And I invite anyone from the congregation pastored by this individual, even those infuriated and offended by my previous posting and those among the pastor's critics, to see if he can find it within himself in the spirit of Christian grace to say something nice, in public, on this blog in the comments section (or really anywhere that's publicly visible), about this pastor. I'll start with just one example of the many that I could list ...

As many of you know, my B-2/3 (that would be my wife, whom I like to refer to as my "better two-thirds") is a potter. At the end of just about every month for the past 3 years or so, my wife sets up a booth at the Palmer Park Arts Market where she not only sells her pottery, but also demonstrates how to make pots at her pottery wheel. And every month when the Arts Market rolls around (usually the last Saturday of every month), it falls upon me to be the muscle in packing up and transporting the heavier and bulkier items that make up her booth from her studio in our house to Palmer Park. This includes her pottery wheel, her booth tent, the tables and shelving display materials. My wife is simply not physically strong enough to do this on her own.

If by some unavoidable reason, I am not available to help my wife with the Arts Market set up, then it becomes a real question as to whether my wife will be able to participate in the Arts Market that month. This almost never happens, but sometimes my work requires travel that conflicts with an Arts Market date. This happens every summer when I need to spend 5-7 weeks abroad running a study abroad program -- so my wife usually takes a hiatus during those months. No problem.

But there was this one time, just this once, when I had an unavoidable work conflict over an Arts Market weekend in which I simply wasn't going to be around to do my usual set-up and break-down duties. By the time we knew about this conflict, my wife had already made a prior commitment to participate in the Arts Market, and had pre-paid the booth fee. So her options were to find some other muscle, whether paid or unpaid, or skip out on the Arts Market altogether that month. Well, you can probably guess what happened.

Instead of my wife skipping out on the market and having to forfeit her booth fee, or having to find some random paid labor to do the task, our church pastor, upon hearing of the situation, voluntarily gave up his entire Saturday morning to help my B-2/3 pack up, transport, and set up her booth. And then he voluntarily gave up his entire Saturday afternoon/early evening at the end of the market to help break-down, pack-up, and transport back home the entire booth. I can tell you, that is hard, sweaty work -- and no small favor.

Remember that this pastor himself has a family of three youngsters; and those of us with children know how exceedingly valuable Saturdays are for quality family time. And remember that Saturdays are also the last prep days for pastors before the demands of Sunday services and sermonizing unfold. This pastor, without even a second thought or a blink of hesitation, stepped up and came through. And he did so in a spirit of good humor, grace, and unconditional friendship and fellowship. I think he might have even bought a pottery mug from my wife after the hard, dirty work of setting was done! Helping my wife to make up our booth fee with a purchase, when it should have been us paying him!

I can't tell you how much that effort meant to me and to my B-2/3 at the time. I will never, ever forget that selfless act of Christian and pastoral kindness. I don't know of ANY pastor or priest who either would step up like this for a congregant, or who physically even could do so. Let me tell you screaming from the treetops, that this is exactly the kind of church and pastoring I want for me and my family, and the example of Christ in action that I want my children to see on display. That's the kind of man and pastor that I have come to know, and that's the pastor who was serving the congregation of St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church.

And I can't even remember if we formally thanked him for helping out, though I'm sure he knew how thankful and grateful we were. Moreover, he's the kind of person who would never hold such an innocent oversight against us. What that man was to us on that particular day was a visible reincarnation of Christ himself, in the sweat and toil of "doing" Christianity, and not just preaching it.

I can offer you many, many more examples just like that one. And I know others can offer many such stories as well. I invite you to do so.

If it is true that we all want to show our pastor and his family that they walk with our love and our Christian companionship in this difficult time, then say it publicly, right here, right now, through a story of your own, in the comments section of this blog posting.

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