A note from
Rev. Rob Warren
One of my first weekends as a pastor, fresh out of seminary, back when I still knew it all and the only thing wrong with the church was that they hadn't let me out in it to fix it yet, the church I was serving was having a "Joy Group" dinner. The Joy Group was a group of people that gathered at the church one Saturday night a month (September through May) for an evening of dinner and fun. There might be a movie, I did stand-up comedy once, we had the praise band debut one evening, it might be a game night, it might be a sing-along or talent show. I think you get the picture. But the first one I attended, the worst thing that can happen, happened. The coffeemaker broke.
Now, I know the Navy supposedly floats on coffee, but the Body of Christ shares it before communion. Good coffee is key. And the problem must be solved.
Now, I should explain; everything you need to know is in the set-up. I watched as good, earnest Presbyterians started passing a basket around. No committee met to investigate which coffee maker was to be purchased. No recommendations were made, no phone calls, no meetings. No authorization to collect designated funds to... no oversight to... and I was this close to stepping up to interrupt the process when I felt a hand on my shoulder. My dad was there. He was working downtown in the national ministries division at the time, and since I was singing that night, he and my mom had decided to come (neither had ever seen me sing and play solo in public before). Standing in front of the pass-through window, he whispered in my ear, "Let me ask you some questions first."
My dad had been in the pulpit from the early sixties until the nineties. He'd preached civil rights in southwest Mississippi in the late sixties, he'd chaired COM, served as an Associate Presbyter - he taught elders how to eld and literally collected, compiled and written the training manual "Called to Serve" about polity. He knew the "structures" that I'd been taught in seminary. We walked out into the narthex, and he smiled, "Ok, before you start…" (Have I mentioned that he'd met me?) "The church has identified a problem, identified the solution to the problem, is raising money to solve the problem, and will have the problem fixed by tomorrow morning when we gather for church; so where, exactly, is the problem?" I silently sat as random members of the church delighted in throwing small bills into the basket. I chewed on the inside of my cheek (a habit I have quit) and sure enough, the next morning before church, there was a 30-pot stainless steel percolating away and people sitting around in the fellowship hall complaining about how thick the coffee was (made by a gentleman who defined these three words - Lifetime, Navy, Enlisted).
Now, I'm not saying that this kind of thing should happen often in the church, because, if left unchecked, it can lead to individuals setting off on their own to do some pretty strange things. In my relatively short time, I've seen "anonymous" people paint walls (to match the original color), repair ceilings, replace toilets, plant flowers, replace coffee makers... but I've also seen some of the larger examples of this. The same church? Someone ordered new carpet for the sanctuary (we did need it) but it was a decidedly different color than the existing - that had to be turned down and feelings were hurt. One other example is an elder that I know (who no longer serves on Session) was contacted by a local real-estate company about a buyer and sold the manse... which was empty at the time. He didn't inform anyone, just deposited the check and said, "Oh, by the way..." needless to say Session and Presbytery were furious. Because of the way the church's deeds were signed locally, he legally had the power to do so, even if the church's polity requires Session agree to petition the Presbytery, who would vote to allow the sale or not. His words: "I got a great offer on it, and if we waited around for all that to happen, we were going to miss the chance."
Last weekend, I was walking one of the dogs around the house, and I saw one of our members pull into the parking lot (I'm glad you haven't sold this manse). I went up to check-in (I'm nosey) and soon we weren't alone. Someone, or someone(s) had anonymously donated a ramp to be placed in front of the educational building. Over the course of the next few hours, it was put together by volunteers and secured to the concrete and come Sunday morning, there was much rejoicing over what had taken place on that warm Saturday afternoon. Me? I didn't know a thing about it, but the people who needed to know approved it, the people who were going to do it did it, and someone(s) who was/were wishing to remain anonymous is continuing to do so.
To the persons involved, thank you. Thank you for sharing your time, talent and treasures to help us adapt our campus so more can enjoy classes in the education building. Thank you to the teachers who work to make sure there is a reason to come into the buildings. Most of all, thanks be to God for the church that continues to look for ways to be the hands, heart, and voice of Christ in this community.