Prose – The other side of the story

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empty church
By Bill Pugh

In his exit appointment a young single minister was appointed to the Alpine parish. No one wanted to go there. It was too far from the action – four services a Sunday, central Church, three preaching places. Early on, he reckoned he had his best sermon ready – expository, evangelical, “full of the sincere meat of the word”. Armed with his masterpiece he drove several miles to his first service at 8 am. It was a cold frosty morning, no one on the street and only one car outside the church. He opened the old door. It was warm inside and an old heater blew out intermittent hot air. The old elder, smiling, shook his hand and welcomed him.

“Good morning minister, meet our organist”, the elder said, gesturing to a lovely lady seated at the organ.

The young man was stunned. All his evangelical exuberance ready, only two people to hear it. What a waste of a good sermon. He looked at the old elder and said, “Maybe we’ll just have a reading, hymn, and a few prayers today – not the full service. Only a few here, three in fact.”

The old elder paused, looked around for a few moments, and said, “Bob, only three? Why the Church is full, crowded inside and out with the church above, the saints, who sing and praise with us, each Sunday. And He is here!”

Quaint? A true story, but real.

What do we say as we join in the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving?

And so we praise you with the faithful

Of every time and place, joining with

Choirs of angels and the whole

Creation in the eternal Hymn:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord …

All gather with us around the Holy Table.

We are called to outreach and mission. Also we have a local flock to feed. We are required to be faithful. Let the cricket, football and the shows worry about ‘bums on seats’. Each Sunday we are in the box seats, front row. Allow the Spirit to guide as we journey, having a little bit of the religious virtue of patience. Two or three in church? There is something special about that number. God requires of us not success but faithfulness.

Bill Pugh is a writer and retired minister from Leighmoor Uniting Church.

Photo by Julian Ortiz via Flickr.


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