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Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Empaths have the unique ability to feel changes in the social and/or spiritual atmosphere. Most dramatically, when a neutral or positive space goes negative, the change may create a physical response in the empath. Glynn Waterbury was one of those people. From the moment he woke up Monday morning, he knew that the day was going to be full of challenges. The first clue came almost immediately when he put his feet on the floor and felt water. Quick inspection revealed that the toilet was overflowing. The bathroom and both bedrooms were covered in a half-inch of water. While Marve carried the kids from their bed to the kitchen, Glynn tried fixing the problem. It didn’t take too long to discover that a plastic toy in the tank was preventing the water from shutting off. While the water stopped flowing as soon as the toy was removed, cleaning up the mess was going to take every towel they had and a lot of mopping. 

By 9:00, most the water had been mopped up but Glynn was in a bad mood, snapping not only at Marve and Hayden, but also at Gladys Edmonds when she called to ask about Vacation Bible School materials. Glynn caught himself quickly enough and apologized, but it was clear that he was not going to have a good day without something altering the energy in the house. Marve was ready to throw him out into the cold, wet shoes and all, but remembered that it was time for Glynn to leave for Pastors’ Conference. He balked at first, but she was insistent. 

Unfortunately, the energy at Olivet Church was even worse. Even though the meeting hadn’t officially started yet, Larry Winston already had the group’s attention, this time fuming about a picture representing Jesus in the third-grade Vacation Bible School materials. A copy of the offensive material laid in the middle of the table.

“Brothers, I don’t understand how these liberals are getting into our own Sunday School Board, but they’re there and they’re pushing an ungodly agenda that we have got to stand up against! Look at that picture and tell me they’re not trying to sell Jesus as a Negro! That just ain’t right! I mean, at least they didn’t give him one of those af-rows that those people like to wear, but we all know good and well that Jesus had the complexion of an angel and angels is white!”

The pain of the pastor’s racism hit Glynn like a hard punch to his abdomen and he nearly doubled over in response. He understood that this part of the state was anything but diverse. Black people had been frozen out of land ownership from the moment the gun sounded starting the land rush in 1889. He knew the only black people in the county were a handful of international students at the junior college. That there would be a lack of understanding was inevitable. Larry’s racism ran deeper, though. Negro hadn’t been his first choice of a descriptor and everyone in the room knew it. His was the type of deliberate rhetoric meant to incite hate, the kind that encouraged donning white hoods and burning crosses. How anyone could associate such hostility and venom with the gospel of Christ seemed to Glynn to be impossible, but there were too many pastors at the table nodding in agreement with Larry.

Glynn stood in the doorway feeling sick to his stomach, not sure whether he wanted to stay or slip back out and spend the morning visiting people at the hospital. Certainly, he could do more good at the hospital than he could here. Emmit hadn’t arrived yet so Glynn thought he could step out the door without anyone noticing. Just as he put his hand on the door, though, Glynn felt someone touch his shoulder. He turned to see Clement Garner at his side, smiling. 

“I know, Larry’s racism gets rather old, doesn’t it?” Clement said. “Emmit’s in Oklahoma City this morning so this is going to be a gripe fest in here. There’s a cafe just a couple of blocks over. Why don’t you and I go there and grab some coffee?”

Glynn quickly agreed. He liked Clement. The pastor was about ten years older than Glynn and about an inch taller, though he tended to slouch a bit, making him appear shorter. A graduate of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Clement wasn’t one to wave his education in anyone’s face. Not only had he been kind and personable at Pastors’ Conferences, but his weekly reports also showed that his church was growing. Glynn was hopeful that he might be able to pick up some tips from the more experienced pastor.

The cafe was all but empty in the middle of the morning between breakfast and lunch making it easy for the two pastors to find a quiet table near the back of the dining room. They each ordered coffee and a slice of coconut cream pie, keeping the banter between them light and largely uninteresting so the waitress wouldn’t have an excuse to linger.

Clement took a bite of his pie and smiled. “So, how are you liking Oklahoma?” he asked. “I hear you all had a pretty good revival. A couple of our people dropped in Thursday night, I think.”

Glynn nodded as he chased the bite of pie with a sip of the fresh coffee. “We did. It was my first experience using a professional evangelist like that, but I have to say it worked really well for us.”

“You used that guy from North Little Rock, didn’t you, Charlie-something?” Clement asked. “I know the guys in the state evangelism office have been pushing him to our smaller churches.”

“Charlie Henderson, yes. He came highly recommended and the pastors I talked to that had used him recently all had nothing but positive things to say about him.” Glynn paused to take a sip of coffee. “He definitely gave the church a bolt of energy that I hope will carry us forward for a while.”

Clement was still in the process of swallowing a bite of the pie when he asked, “How are you following it up? Any post-revival activities planned?”

Glynn felt his face flush. He hadn’t even thought about follow-up to the revival. No one had ever mentioned it to him before. He had always gone back to his normal preaching routine. 

The elder pastor recognized Glynn’s hesitancy in answering. “Don’t be embarrassed. 

I can’t really say our church does follow-up, either. It’s easy to just keep going the way we’ve always been going. When I plan my follow-up, though, the effects of the revival last longer and we’re more likely to retain those who make decisions.”

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean,” Glynn admitted, his voice quiet and almost timid. 

“There’s something about revivals, especially when you’ve got a dynamic preacher, that can put a lot of great numbers up, but six months down the road you don’t see any of those people in your church service and many go right back to living like nothing happened,” Clement explained. “Doesn’t matter who the preacher is, either. Billy Graham’s organization has the same problem. All those people who come forward? Their names are distributed to all the participating churches after the crusade, but those churches rarely see any benefit because they just let the information sit in a drawer somewhere. They don’t contact anyone, no one visits anyone, and all those people who felt convicted by Dr. Graham’s sermon are just left to the wind.”

Glynn looked down at the table. “Wow, I’ve been doing it all wrong,” he said. “And you’re right, six months down the road you can’t tell we ever had a revival.”

Clement finished his pie and pushed the empty plate off tot he side. “Don’t beat yourself up over it,” he said. “If you don’t mind me asking, where did you go to school?”

Glynn’s skin practically burned with humiliation as he shook his head again. “I didn’t really. I went to junior college for a year and a half when I was first out of high school, but I couldn’t afford to keep going. I definitely couldn’t afford to go to a Bible college. I just have to get by on what I read.”

Clement sat back in his chair. “You are kidding me,” he said, astonished by Glynn’s confession. “I just assumed you had gone to a Bible college up north. Pardon me for being crude, but you don’t come off as uneducated. I’m pretty sure you’ve got some of the others fooled, too. You’re definitely not one of the good ol’ boys straight off the farm.”

Glynn smiled. “I was actually raised on a farm in Ohio. My family moved to the Detroit area after I graduated from high school. Not that I really understand the whole ranching thing they have going down here, but I can at least appreciate the challenges they face.”

“Brother, you’ve really impressed me,” Clement said, shaking his head. “I knew both your predecessors and neither of them seemed to connect with their people as well as you do. That’s not meant to insult them, mind you, they’re both fine men. But you know how it is when you first go someplace new, you don’t really know what you’re getting into, and in one case I know he accepted the position with a less-than-unanimous vote. He had a couple of deacons against him before he even moved in. You’ve started off really well. You should really feel good about that.”

“There’s just so much to get used to,” Glynn admitted. “This is my first full-time pastorate and I greatly underestimated what I was getting into. The hours didn’t just double, they tripled or more. The demands on my wife and my family have been greater as well. I could do nothing but visit the hospitals every day and that alone would fill my schedule. I don’t regret the move but I feel like I’m struggling to be the pastor they need.”

Clement leaned forward, his arms on the table. “You’re being hard on yourself, and I get that, but brother, let me assure you that no one has given that church the level of attention you’re giving them. They love you! You’re making them feel as though they matter to you, which, by extension, makes them feel as though they matter to God. I think what’s probably important is that you set some limits for yourself.”

“I’m not sure,” Glynn said. “I don’t want anyone to be disappointed.”

“Of course not,” Clement replied, “but if you don’t mind me getting a little personal, when was the last time you and your wife had a date night, no kids, no church talk, just the two of you?”

Glynn thought for a moment, trying to think of the last time he had taken Marve to dinner without the kids in tow. “I think like, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving last year? I know we’ve not had time since we moved.”

“Brother, you need to make the time,” the elder pastor instructed gently. “An easy trap for us to fall in is being so busy taking care of the church that we forget to take care of our families, and our wives suffer more than anyone. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened with the pastor’s wife over at Grace. He was always off going to one convention meeting or the other, not even really tending to his flock as it were, just doing the whole denominational dance, and after a few years of that, she’s feeling alone and someone comes along who offers her some company. I’m honestly surprised that the divorce rate among preachers isn’t higher. Almost all of us, myself included, are guilty of mistreating and neglecting our wives.”

Glynn hung his head, feeling convicted. “You’re absolutely right. I’m afraid too often she and the kids are the last people I think of and they really need to be the first. I’m setting an example for everyone else in the community and right now it’s a bad one.”

The waitress finally re-appeared and set the checks on the table. Clement quickly snatched up both. “I’ve got this one,” he said, smiling. “I appreciate you saving me from all the fussing that I’m sure is still going on back at Olivet. I know there are times Emmit can’t help being gone, but without him there it’s always a mess. As much as I appreciate and believe in the autonomy of the local church, guys like Larry really make me wonder if we shouldn’t have some minimum qualifications for our pastors.”

“Thank you,” Glynn laughed. “Although, I’m not sure I’m any less chaotic.”

As they walked toward the door, Clement put his hand on Glynn’s shoulder. “You know, I have a couple of books that really helped me when I first went full-time. I rarely use them anymore. I’d be happy to loan them to you if you’d like. I have to go through Adelbert every time I come over here so it wouldn’t be a problem to drop them off one morning.”

“Sure! I could really use the help,” Glynn said, “Just let me know so I can make sure I’m actually at the church. My schedule often changes minute to minute.”

“Not a problem,” Clement responded. “I make the trip two or three times a week for one meeting or another and I’d rather the books be helping you than collecting dust on my shelf.”

“You know, that reminds me of a question I’ve been meaning to ask Emmit,” Glynn said as they stepped out of the cafe. “Why are so many of the meetings over here, especially the Pastors’ Conferences? Seems to me it is a little unfair for you guys to have to make the long trip all the time.”

Clement chuckled. “The reason is numbers. Pastors from Washataug come from one of two extremes. Either they’re bi-vocational and don’t have time to attend daytime meetings or they pastor larger churches and can afford to make the trip. Pastors from Ridell County, not just Arvel, are more likely to be full-time but at churches that are barely managing to pay them a salary. Most of their wives end up having to work outside the home just to make ends meet. If there’s a meeting over in Washataug, only a couple of pastors from Arvel will make the trip.”

Glynn shook his head. “Have they ever tried having any in Adelbert? We’re pretty much right smack in the middle between the two towns and outside Vacation Bible School in a couple of weeks the building is never used during the day.”

Clement thought as he opened his car door. “You know, I don’t have an answer for that. I’ve been here eight years and I can’t remember any meetings ever taking place there. Might be worth talking to Emmit about it.”

“Let me check with my deacons,” Glynn said. “I need to make sure I’m not unknowingly violating some long-standing feud.”

Clement laughed. “You learn quickly, don’t you?”

Glynn opened his car door. “Let’s just say I’ve been warned that some people are a bit sensitive. Something about light bulbs.”

Clement laughed even harder. “Friend, you’ve no idea. That whole incident ignited a power struggle in every small church in this association!”

“I don’t understand why!” Glynn exclaimed. “A bulb went out. The pastor fixed it. What’s the big deal?”

“He spent a nickel without asking,” Clement answered, still laughing. “The people in these small churches are ferocious about them being in control of everything. They want a pastor to lead, but only on spiritual matters. Fiscal issues, even the small ones, are for the church to decide and heaven help the preacher who crosses that line. What’s funny is that they all create budgets each year, but then they don’t want to spend the money that’s in that budget. There’s no sense of responsible delegation. So help me, they’ll argue over a three-cent difference between one-ply and two-ply toilet paper in the restrooms!”

Glynn was enjoying the conversation and wasn’t in any hurry to leave. He leaned on his car door and asked, “Why is that? That’s the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches!”

Clement leaned back against his car, not in any hurry to leave, either. “You’ve heard of the Dust Bowl back in the 20s and 30s, right?”

Glynn nodded. “Sure, but wasn’t that out in the western part of the state?”

“The dust part was,” Clement said, “but the economic impact was state-wide. I promise, there’s no one in your church over the age of 50 that doesn’t remember those days and how much they struggled to survive. People packed up and left this state in such large numbers that roughly a third of the churches in the state convention had to close. Most will never return. So, small churches especially are gun-shy. They didn’t see the Dust Bowl coming and they’re afraid it could happen all over again. All it takes is one bad year.”

“A fine line between trusting in God and being financially responsible,” Glynn said.

Clement agreed. “We do best when we stay out of those matters. Sometimes it’s difficult and they may need an occasional push, but these families are likely to be here long after we’re gone. We do our best to preach stewardship then have to stand back and see how well they listened.”

Glynn shook his head. “It’s all so challenging.” He paused a second then added, “Thank you so much for the break. I was going to be sick to my stomach had I stayed listening to that nonsense.”

“The pleasure was all mine,” Clement responded. “It was nice to spend the time with someone who’s not completely closed-minded. Some of those guys make me wonder if they ever really crack their Bible open. You have a safe trip home and I’ll see you about Wednesday or Thursday with those books.”

“I’ll look forward to it,” Glynn said with a smile. 

He got in his car and drove home, his energy having flipped to a more positive attitude. When he got home, Marve was standing at the kitchen sink peeling potatoes. He walked over to the sink, took the paring knife from her hand, and kissed her passionately. “I forgot to tell you how much I love you this morning,” he said.

Marve smiled. “Amazing how much more you love me after spending the morning with your preacher friends.”

“Nothing like a moment in the darkness to make you appreciate the light,” Glynn said, smiling. 

Chapter 14

chapter 14

No two days as a pastor are ever the same, especially in a town as small as Adelbert where there’s nothing to shield a pastor from the petty grievances such as Margarette Loy being concerned that the graveled parking lot was dinging her 1954 Nash Rambler or Ed Warisale’s complaint that Glynn’s voice was so soft by the end of the sermon that Ed could hardly hear the final prayer (turned out to be a faulty battery in Ed’s hearing aid). Most days Glynn could deal with them easily enough and rarely did he lose any sleep over any of them. He walked over to Mrs. Fieldcomer’s yard and said a prayer to “bless” her new rose bushes. He assured Kristi Asherman, who had just brought home her first child, that the baby’s red hair was in no way a sign that either parent had offended God. He even drove over to Ken Willis’ home just after dinner in an attempt to convince their four-year-old, Kevin, that God made vegetables special for four-year-olds. 

Glynn found a babysitter for the kids easily enough and took Marve to dinner in Washataug Thursday evening. Their budget was tight enough they both settled for the roast beef special but being away from the kids and Gynn’s promise to not talk about church matters made Marve happy. They decided that, from that point forward, Thursday would be their night even if they couldn’t always afford to go out to dinner. Marve knew there would need to be exceptions, but she appreciated that Glynn had recognized their lack of time together.

The week was going well, Glynn had both of Sunday’s sermons ready when Buck called late Friday afternoon with word that an emergency deacons meeting had been called for Saturday morning. No, it couldn’t wait until Sunday. Yes, the deacons needed him there. They would meet at the church at 7:00 so they could finish and get on with the day. 

Glynn felt a knot in the pit of his stomach. The fact that Buck hadn’t told him the reason for the meeting was bothersome. His question had been met with, “it’s a complicated issue I’d rather not get into over the phone.” No amount of tossing or prayer was enough to let the pastor get any sleep. At 5:00 he gave up, made a pot of coffee and sat alone in the living room with his Bible open, looking for anything that might prove either comforting or distracting.

At 6:30, Glynn walked over to the church and re-arranged the folding chairs in his office so that all five deacons would have a seat if they all showed. He then realized that without his car in the parking lot no one would know he was there. He stood in the doorway until Buck drove up in his old farm truck, a beat-up red Chevy that didn’t have all that many miles on it but had endured a lot of farm abuse. 

“I’m sorry to get you out this early on a Saturday morning, pastor,” Buck said as he slammed the pickup door shut. “But we just found out about a problem yesterday and if we don’t get out in front of it now before anything happens, the whole church is going to end up fighting.”

Before Glynn had a chance to inquire more, Alan and Horace drove up from opposite directions. Alan looked especially upset, a sign Glynn assumed would mean trouble later.

“Mornin’ pastor,” Alan said. “I hope we can resolve this quickly ‘cause I gotta get 30 head of cattle over to the sale barn in Washataug before 10.”

“I hope we can, too,” Glynn said.

The four men went into Glynn’s office and waited somewhat impatiently on the other two deacons, Roger Sutherland and Marcus Hoppe. Roger burst through the door looking as though he’d run all the way from his farm. “Sorry,” he said, catching the door and closing it carefully. “One of our bulls knocked loose a support beam in the barn and I’ve been trying to get that sucker fixed. Weather guy in Tulsa says we’re getting more storms tonight.”

“Those weather guys in Tulsa don’t know beans from a hole in the ground,” Horace said. “Those storms will be here by afternoon. You need some help?”

Roger nodded. “He cracked the beam right at the base. I could brace it but I don’t think it’d hold. I can’t replace it by myself though.”

“I’ll come help ya’ as soon as we finish here,” Horrace said. “I’ll grab one of my boys to come help, too.”

Roger took a seat on one of the folding chairs, took off his soiled work hat, and wiped the top of his balding head. Roger looked the epitome of an Oklahoma farmer. His spring tan had already created a distinct line around the top of his forehead, his red and white checkered work shirt was torn and stained, his boots were worn and soiled. He was only 38 years old but he looked at least ten years older.

Marcus was only a couple of minutes late, apologizing for the delay caused by having to fix a piece of fencing next to the cattle guard. Marcus was the oldest of the deacons, a short stub of a man whose back was permanently bent from years of hard work. Marcus tended to not say much. His voice sounded like the twang in a country song and his limited vocabulary betrayed his fourth-grade education. He had a kind heart, though, and Glynn admired the fact that at 72 years old he was still running his small farm largely by himself.

Once Marcus was seated, Buck opened the meeting. “For those of you who don’t already know, Pastor Glynn, Marcus, and I assume you, Roger, we’ve had a situation come up that I know I was really hoping wouldn’t move over our direction, but it has. Carol Stanley, one of Edith Mason’s daughters, moved into the old Harrelson place over there a couple doors down from Bill Upton. Carol and her family have been living in Washataug for some time and are members over at what was Grace Church. Edith has been telling people that Carol and her family will be attending our church tomorrow and plan on joining. Normally, that would be exciting news but we all heard what happened over there at Grace and no one in the county wants that spreading to their church. We know some of the churches in Washataug have been very public about sayin’ they’re not going to accept anyone from that church into their congregation whether they was directly involved in that mess or not.”

Buck paused and looked at Glynn before continuing. Glynn’s stomach turned, fearful of where this was going. “Personally, if she were merely a member of the congregation, I’d still recommend letting her and her family join. Carol grew up in this church, she went to high school here, and as long as she lived here she seemed to be an upstanding young woman. However, Carol was tight friends with Colleen Clinton and Billy Clayton called me Wednesday night and warned that Carol was high on the list of women likely involved, though, to be fair, no one has actually admitted to anything. We also know Carol’s husband, Clarence, up and left the family ‘bout two years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. Considering the state of everything, and all the rumors that have been flying around the county for a couple of weeks now, I figure we ought to get in front of this and at least have a plan of action should she show up tomorrow.”

“She’ll be here,” Horace confirmed. “Joanne was talkin’ on the phone with Edith on Thursday and she says she’s not gonna let Carol and those kids sit over there and not go to church anywhere, especially the kids. The kids aren’t gonna be the problem, though. Joanne warned Edith that if Carol sets foot in this building there’s gonna be trouble. The women in Adelbert don’t want anything to do with her and don’t want her near their husbands.”

“Women don’t run the church, men do,” Marcus said, his high-pitched twangy voice echoing off the painted concrete block walls of the office. “If I tell my wife to sit down and not make a scene, that’s the way it’s gonna be.”

Roger laughed. “Sure, and a three-strand fence is gonna keep my cows in the pasture when they know there’s a horny bull in the next field. I can tell myself that all I want, but when I get up the next morning I’m still gonna have a pasture full of pregnant cows and one exhausted bull.”

“If you could build a decent fence, wouldn’t be a problem,” Marcus shot back. Both men were smiling which left Glynn confused as to how serious either of them was.

“My wife and Carol were friends in high school,” Alan said. “She’s already been over to visit and she’s tellin’ me that Carol didn’t have anything to do with that mess. Addy’s about as good a judge of character as anyone and can see through a lie faster than wind can stir up dust. If she tells me Carol’s good I’m inclined to believe her. Not every woman in town is going to feel the same way, though. There were plenty of girls upset when Carol got homecoming queen back in ‘63. You boys remember that dustup.”

The other deacons nodded in agreement.

Roger sat forward in his chair, his elbows on his knees. “The problem is that Carol’s a fine-lookin’ woman and she ain’t got no man at home to come to her defense. Alan’s right, that whole Homecoming mess is gonna come up again. I’m betting there’s still women who think she did favors for the basketball team but my li’l brother, Eddie, was on that team and I know that’s not true. Doesn’t help that she keeps wearin’ those little dresses that barely cover her backside. She bends over at the store and it’s like she’s invitin’ trouble.”

“Her being in town again is enough of a problem,” Horace said. “Doesn’t matter whether she comes to church or not, it’s not gonna be safe for a married man to walk past her house as long as she’s living here.”

Glynn opened his mouth and was about to jump into the conversation when the phone rang, catching the six men off guard. For a moment, they sat there, watching the phone as though God himself might be on the other end of the line. “I suppose I should answer that,” Glynn said. The other men nodded in agreement. He picked up the phone. “Good morning, First Baptist Church. How may I help you?”

“Hi honey, it’s me,” Marve said. Glynn instantly relaxed and his body language was enough to let the others know the call was friendly. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I thought you would want to know that everyone in town knows ya’ll are meeting and knows why and I’ve already had four women tell me that if you let whoever this Carol person is come to church tomorrow, they’re leaving.”

“Did any of them give you a reason why?” Glynn asked.

“No,” Marve answered, “though a couple of them warned me that I should keep you on a short leash. Apparently, she has an appetite for handsome preachers or something.”

Glynn could hear the teasing tone in Marve’s voice and was glad she wasn’t taking the implied threat seriously. “Okay, we’ll take that information into consideration,” Glynn said, trying to sound diplomatic for the sake of his audience. “Thanks for the heads up.”

“Good luck with this one,” Marve said. “You’re gonna have someone upset with you no matter what. I’ll still love you, though.”

“I appreciate that,” Glynn said, chuckling. “I’ll see ya’ll in a bit.” He hung up and phone and turned to face the deacons. “Our cover, if we ever had any, has been blown. Apparently, half the town knows what we’re talking about.”

“Oh, it’s almost certainly more than half,” Alan said, “I knew this was going to be a problem the instant Baker signed the papers on that mortgage.”

“Wait, she’s buyin’ that house, not rentin’ it?” Roger asked. “So she ain’t plannin’ on movin’ any time soon. She’s puttin’ down roots.”

Alan nodded. The five deacons looked at each other, the expression on each of their faces one of worry.

“I was really hopin’ we could ride this out until she moved on,” Buck said. “If she’s planning on staying, we might as well go ahead and deal with it now and deal with whatever sufferin’ the women are gonna heap on us.”

Alan looked over at Glynn. “Preacher, I know you’re not exactly in the loop on all Carol’s background here. What do you think we oughta do?”

Glynn reached over and slid his Bible across the desk for easier access. “The Bible doesn’t give us a lot of flexibility here,” the pastor told them. “While the Mosaic law facilitated stoning people caught in the act of adultery, Jesus very publicly put an end to that kind of judgement and makes it very clear that we don’t get to separate the people we like from the people we don’t like. The Bible also makes it very clear that gossip, which is what seems to be the prevailing problem here, is a sin. I could spend an entire sermon doing nothing but quoting different scriptures addressing that problem.”

The pastor quietly opened his Bible and flipped over to the book of James. “Gossip is a problem the church has had to face right from the beginning. There were always rumors and gossip about who Jesus was or wasn’t and in the end that’s what changed public opinion and it participated in his crucifixion. I think James deals most directly with the topic in chapter 3. He writes:

2 For we all make many mistakes, and if anyone makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4 Look at the ships also; though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!

6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so.

Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The deacons hung their heads as they listened to the pastor read the scripture. They’d all heard the passage before and they understood its meaning. They also knew that the gossip in and around town had gotten out of control and wasn’t going to go away based on Glynn’s sermon. Glynn knew that as well.

“Our course, as a church, has already been defined for us. IF Carol has sinned, then yes, she needs to repent of that sin, but the same holds true for every last one of us. If God required us to publicly voice our confession of sins, we would all be at the alter every service and we wouldn’t get out of church until dinner time. If Carol and her family, or anyone else for that matter, want to worship God in this sanctuary, we have no right to stop her. This is and must remain the place where people come to deal with their sin. All their sin, regardless of what it is.”

Glynn sighed heavily, not feeling certain as to whether the men were strong enough to stand up and do what needed to be done. “As pastor, I have no choice but to follow the Bible on this. What I need to know is whether you, as a body, are standing with me? I think…”

Glynn was suddenly interrupted by a pounding on the office door. Roger reached over and opened it and Hub walked in looking angry and defiant.

“Which one of you ‘Godly’ fellows is going to make this ambulance run with me? Edith Mason just found Carol unconscious in her living room floor.” The way Hub emphasized “godly” was accusatory in its tone. Even those who weren’t members of the church knew the men were meeting and why. 

Thunder rumbled in the distance as though God were voicing his displeasure.

“I’ll go,” Glynn said, picking up the phone to call Marve. Looking at the deacons he added, “I think you guys need to start making some visits. Take your Bibles and start with your own wives. Whatever happens or has happened, we have to take responsibility.”

Marve was waiting on Glynn’s call and started talking before he had a chance to say anything. “I know. Go,” she ordered.

As Hub and Glynn walked quickly toward the waiting ambulance, Hub said, “Those boys in there were looking completely whipped.”

“God has a way of doing that to us,” Glynn answered, “but I’m not sure if it’s God or their wives that has them scared.”

Hub nodded and shifted the ambulance into gear, spraying gravel across the parking lot as he took off. “Men like to think they run things, but they have to have their wive’s permission first,” he said as he switched on the siren.

Reading time: 32 min