Friday, November 10, 2017


Excerpt from a Soon-To-Be-Published book by

A Fable
Once upon a time, a naïve, idealistic young clergyman was assigned to an affluent suburban church. He didn’t plan it that way. It just happened to him.

He was startled, and somewhat offended by the opulence of his new church. Prior to this assignment he had served as chaplain to a prison and also a university. He was accustomed to the stark facilities of a non-revenue producing ministry. However, this church was a real money maker. The red velvet pews in the sanctuary were enough to make him suspect the spirituality of his predecessor. Equally unsettling was the neighborhood tour, where the plush residences of members of the church were proudly displayed to him. However, his guide on the tour was the kindly Pastor Emeritus of the church who pointed out that rich people need the love of Christ at least as much as anyone else. The naïve young clergyman could cope with everything except the “Louis The XIV Room.”

What a bizarre room to find in a Christian church! The carpet was a pale, mint green, and over an inch thick. It felt like walking on a velvet lawn. Expensive, delicate, antique furniture had been donated by prominent church members. Small mirrors, sconces, paintings, and objects de art were carefully arranged about the walls and furniture. Fine, white lace dollies festooned the arms of rich divans and overstuffed easy chairs. The entire inside wall of the room wasn’t really a wall, but an expansive set of ornate French doors with immaculately spotless, inlaid glass. Brightly polished brass letters over the doors read, LOUIS THE XIV ROOM. A much smaller sign was attached to the door at eye level. It read AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY! Overall, it gave the appearance of a room in a museum designed to recreate the feel of historic periods of ostentation.

A very special group used the room. This group was known by various names, but the one that stuck with them was, “Ruling Roosters.” Not that they were all male, but rather that they all saw themselves as ruling the roost. The Ruling Rooster ladies loved their Louis The XIV Room and two times a week they gathered there to discuss the Bible, drink tea, and gossip. Occasionally a visiting dignitary might be allowed to sip tea in such splendor, but the Ruling Roosters allowed no one else into their hallowed enclave.

The new minister soon came to see the room as merely a symbol of the real problems in the church. He had been warned in seminary that there was a ruling clique in every church, and that many church members were likely to share their attitudes. However, he was only beginning to understand the influence of these “lay leaders.” They made generous contributions to the church, and broadly hinted that the ministry would benefit from their wills. They resisted any outreach to the community, and seemed to make visitors feel unwelcome. They had honestly come to believe that the church belonged to them, and they were determined to keep “outsiders” out. Of course, a new member who had Ruling Roost sympathies was not considered an “outsider.”

They were uncomfortable and irritated with other activities in their church. Unkind things were said about community groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, singles groups, and other intruders. Even the energetic Girl Scouts and Brownies had their enemies among the Ruling Roosters. A promising counseling ministry was nipped in the bud, because they didn’t’ want any “loonies” hanging around the church. Since many of the Ruling Roosters came from successful secular backgrounds, they often put a worldly influence into the decisions and ambience of the church. They were even known to plot strategy for the church board meetings that might border on being considered “dirty tricks,” even by secular political standards.

The Ruling Roosters often complained, and they were effective enough to cause other members of the church to walk on eggshells, for fear of offending them. “SHhhh, the Ruling Roosters are in the building!” the singles leader would say. “Make sure you don’t leave any coffee cups in the kitchen sink, one of the Ruling Roosters might find them,” the church secretary might warn. A youth leader was heard to say, “We can’t sing that song tonight; the Ruling Roosters are having a meeting in the Louis The XIV Room.”

The Ruling Rooster reign of tyranny was nearly all-inclusive, except for the children. Some of the teenagers were bold enough to exhibit deliberate rowdiness in the hall outside the Louis The XIV Room. The smaller children were less overt, but they were known to leave small, smudgy palm prints on the glass doors and occasionally crayon marks were found in the hallway or on the woodwork. The crisis came when a particularly valued vase was shattered right inside the Louis The XIV Room. No one knew who the culprit was, nor did he even bother to clean up the evidence of his heinous crime. Three groups became suspect; “those darn kids,” “those outside people,” or those members of the church who just weren’t respectable enough to be considered Ruling Rooster material.

The outraged Ruling Roosters sent an angry delegation to have a word with the new pastor. They were even bold enough to hint that he may not be around for long if he didn’t effectively deal with their list of complaints. This tactic was the beginning of a disaster… for them!

At first, our naïve idealist leader was taken aback by the vehement complaints. He weakly promised to look into the situation, to see what he could do. However, upon reflection, a much more radical plan began to take shape in his mind. He thought about the sins of elitism and spiritual pride. He knew that the self righteous are seldom righteous in the eyes of God. He consulted the scriptures and was reminded of the respect Jesus had for the awesome closeness to God which children enjoy. He reviewed the story of Mary and Martha and how Martha had chastised Mary for not helping with housework. Mary preferred a pure soul to a perfect house and Jesus used her as an example of the “better choice.” He knew the church needed to reach outside itself, or it had no reason to call itself a “ministry.” He knew the preschool needed new equipment and space, and that the Louis The XIV Room was only used a few hours a week. He got goose bumps all over when he prayed about the matter. His prayer was answered with the words, “Always inclusive, never exclusive!” The spirit of revolution against the Ruling Rooster regime was born in the children, but it was up to him to make the coup successful.

Even though he was convinced of the correctness of the cause, he expected to be rebuffed when he timidly approached the Pastor Emeritus with his plan. To his surprise the Pastor Emeritus flashed a wide knowing smile and only cautioned him to be as kind to the Ruling Roosters as possible. The next Sunday he preached a sermon which left the congregation agape at his boldness! The first thing Monday morning he had the Louis The XIV Room stripped of its beautiful interior, including the pale, mint green carpet. He then notified the church that the furnishings would be auctioned to buy new equipment for the preschool. Soon the Louis The XIV Room rang with the noisy activities of messy, boisterous, curious, alive, happy children.

Strangely, the Ruling Roosters never staged a counter-revolution. To be sure, some of them left to join the ruling clique in another church, but most of them found more fulfilling niches in God’s house. Some of them even became volunteer workers in the preschool, which now occupied their former throne room.

The church began to deliver a full spectrum ministry to the community. Younger families and people without families were drawn to the revitalized church. The older people became respected, tolerant, elders and grandparents in the family of God. The youngsters and outsiders were no longer annoying intrusions, but were welcomed into an open and loving atmosphere. Lonely people found family life, fellowship, and occasionally they even found that special someone within the congregation. Many people found themselves! The strands of subtle change became “the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.” It was wonderful!

So the people of God had a family reunion which lasted through the years. The clergyman learned to appreciate the red velvet pews, and they all lived happily ever after.

MORAL: The family of God can’t afford a Louis The XIV Room in their minds, hearts or house of worship.

No comments: