Pastors’ Conference, 1972, ch. 37-38

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Chapter 37

Chapter 37

Glynn drove home as quickly as he could, stopping only for a quick burger at a truck stop north of Oklahoma City. While part of his mind still wanted to go over the sermon he’d just preached and the various reactions he had seen, he knew his focus had to be on what was waiting for him in Adelberg. Joanne Lyles was dead. Everyone’s mom was gone. A significant portion of the church’s backbone was no more. The work ahead of him needed a team, not a lone preacher. Horace would obviously be distraught. He was a strong man, an outspoken man, but he loved his wife dearly and wisely listened to her when she spoke. She was the center of their home. That part was understandable but there was more.

Their two daughters, Glynn struggled to remember their names, Sharon and Denise? Sharon was a senior at OU. Denise worked for the Williams Corporation in Tulsa. He was sure both of them would already be home, grieving for their mother while trying to help their dad. He hardly knew the girls at all, having only met them a couple of times each. He had no clue how to minister to them now. What did they need to hear? What did they need to say?

Then, there was the church. Joanne was the lifeblood of the church in so many different ways. She taught 4-6-grade girls’ Sunday School and had for generations. She ran VBS and both camps. She was responsible for the Christmas pageant. Anything the Women’s Missionary Union ever did, which admittedly wasn’t much, was because Joanne pushed them then took the lead in making sure it got done. Practically every auxiliary ministry of the church had Joanne involved.

An even bigger task, though, would be helping the community to mourn. Joanne had grown up here. She went to school here. She and Horace had gotten married a mere two weeks after they graduated high school some 30-plus years ago. She was pregnant with Sharon when Horace was drafted to fight in WWII. She ran what was then a small farm by herself, kept it going, and made it profitable so that when Horace returned they were able to expand. She was involved in every school bake sale, every fundraiser, chaperoned field trips, went to every ballgame, ran the concession stand for baseball and basketball games, and was involved in every community event that ever happened. There wasn’t a person in town who didn’t know Joanne Lyles.

Most importantly, though, Glynn knew that Joanne was the compassionate person who paid for school lunches when children couldn’t afford them. When he would go to visit someone who was ill at home, Joanne had almost always been there before him bringing in food and helping take care of home chores. She talked to teachers who would tell her which children were wearing the same clothes to school every day and would secretly, anonymously, buy them new clothes without ever asking for any help. She knew who was being abused and rumor had it she had taken a shotgun with her to confront more than one Dad, warning them to never touch their daughters again.

What was Glynn supposed to say to that many people, all who had personal relationships with Joanne and now, quite suddenly, had no one to trust, no one to ask for help, no one to come to their defense? Sure, the preacherly thing to do would be to tell them that they could turn to God, but Jesus wasn’t going to be in the concession stand at tonight’s football game. A spiritual replacement wasn’t enough. They would be looking for someone physical to step in and Glynn wasn’t immediately aware of anyone who was the least bit capable of filling Joanne’s shoes.

As Glynn arrived in the small town, he drove by the funeral home to see if Horace was there yet. He wasn’t, so Glynn went on home. He would prefer to take a shower and change clothes before meeting with Horace and the girls. As he pulled into the driveway, the kids came bursting out the front door of the parsonage yelling, “Daddy! Daddy!” Glynn got out of the car and gave each of them a big hug before pulling his suitcase out of the back seat.

Marve was standing on the front porch drying her hands on a dishtowel. She smiled as her husband vainly attempted to carry both wriggling children and the suitcase, eventually having to set the children down, disappointedly. “Hub says Horace and the girls are coming in around 6:00. I’ll have dinner ready by the time you get out of the shower.”

Glynn leaned over and kissed his wife as he attempted to climb the steps with Hayden attached to his leg. “Sorry I wasn’t gone long enough for you to miss me,” he said with a playful smile. Even if there were serious matters waiting, he could set those aside long enough to flirt with his wife.

“You weren’t gone long enough for anyone to get into trouble, either,” she shot back with a knowing wink. “Parm chicken, peas, and corn sound okay?”

“Sounds perfect,” he replied, entering the house and taking a deep sigh as he looked around to make sure nothing changed. He needed something to be stable and home needed to be that place. 

Even the quick shower and meal wasn’t enough to calm Glynn’s anxiety as he drove to the funeral home. Hub was waiting for him at the door, still not understanding why the preacher had been gone but smart enough to not say anything more about it at the moment. “Hey, preacher,” the funeral director said as he held the door open. “I’m glad you’re here. I wouldn’t want to go through this without some help.”

“Marve told me it was rather traumatic this morning,” Glynn said softly. There was something about being inside the funeral home that caused everyone to lower their voice and he was no exception.

“Traumatic is an understatement, preacher. He didn’t want to let her go. When Marve told me you were out of town, I called for Alan and a couple of others to come help. They had to physically hold him back while we put her on the gurney and took her to the ambulance.” Hub paused. “I’m almost wondering if we should call for some backup tonight. If he breaks down like that here, you and I aren’t going to be enough to handle him.”

Glynn considered the matter for a moment. Horace was a big man and grief had a way of causing people to do some strange and drastic things. He could understand Hub’s concern. “His daughters are coming with him, correct?”

Hub nodded.

“Bill’s across the street, the Jones boy is just a block over, he’s big enough to help handle Horace. Maybe call them, have them be on standby. Let’s see how he’s doing, try to keep things as quiet as possible,” Glynn advised. He said a quick, silent prayer that Horace would be able to stay composed. Any level of public breakdown would eventually lead to humiliation that Horace didn’t need.

Much to the pastor’s relief, it was a calm and composed Horace Lyles that walked into the funeral home a few minutes later, a daughter on each arm, lingering tears in everyone’s bloodshot eyes. The deacon’s handshake was firm and he nodded resolutely to the preacher as a way of confirming that he was going to get through this. Any emotional breakdown would be done in private. He understood that a level of public decorum had to be followed.

The process was familiar and Hub guided Horace through it compassionately. First, there was a casket to pick out. Horace wisely let his daughters take the lead on this and wiped tears from his eyes as they chose one that was pink with embossed roses. Then, while Hub and Glynn took the casket to the back, Rose explained the various burial plans that were available, including vaults and tombstones. The tombstone, she explained, didn’t need to be chosen right at this moment, but again, the girls came to a relatively quick choice of pink-toned granite. After some discussion, it was decided that the funeral service would be held at the church on Monday afternoon at 3:00.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to check with the school about using the gym?” Rose asked. “A lot of people are going to want to pay their respects.”

Horace shook his head. “She loved the town, but she loved that church more,” he said. “I think she’d be upset if we had her funeral in the gym. A funeral’s not a ball game.”

By the time the arrangements were made, Glynn and Hub had Joanne’s casket ready for viewing in the chapel. They waited anxiously as Horace walked slowly down the aisle to look at his deceased wife. There was a moment of concern as he paused for a moment and choked back a sob, but he quickly composed himself and walked the rest of the way with his arms around the girls. They cried together. They took turns crying separately. Glynn stood at the casket with his arms around Horace, searching for something inspirational to say what wouldn’t feel trite. Nothing came to mind.

When it seemed that everyone was cried-out for the evening, Glynn, in full pastor mode, prayed with the family in his most compassionate voice, a prayer that he had used too many times the past few months. As he asked God to comfort the family through their grief, though, he couldn’t help wondering if anyone was listening. If God was listening, he certainly wasn’t coming off as caring. 

They walked out of the funeral home together into the quiet of a cool late-September evening. The football team was playing out of town and those who hadn’t gone to the game had mostly gone on to bed. Cricket chirps echoed quietly through the empty streets, a soft breeze gave a sense of solemnity to the moment. 

Glynn stood at the car door as Horace paused before getting in. “You know, preacher,” the deacon said quietly, “I’m probably going to be mad at God for taking her before he took me. That’s the way we had it all planned out. Girls would get married, have grandchildren, and then I’d die, probably out in the middle of a field somewhere yelling at a cow that had gotten itself stuck. She’d bury me then enjoy the next years enjoying the grandkids and spoiling everyone. That’s the way it was supposed to happen. It’s not all sunk in just yet, but when it does, I’m going to be angry.”

Glynn nodded. “That’s okay. We can be mad at God. He can take it. One of the challenges of death is that it never, ever makes sense. It’s okay to wrestle with this unexpected reality and if you need me, if you simply need someone as a stand-in for God so you can yell out your anger and frustration, I’m here. You know my number.”

The deacon nodded and patted the pastor on the shoulder. “You know, Joanne was the one who told the church we needed you. She was right. She was always right.” He bowed his head and sighed then got into the car and drove back to the farm.

Saturday and Sunday were almost surreal. Normal activities occurred, shopping, farming, laundry, and other routine things, but it all felt automated as if the entire town had fallen into some kind of trance. Of course, the community rallied around Horace and the girls. There were so many cars parked along the road to Horace’s house that Glynn had to park down the road and walk the better part of a mile to get to the family. Women throughout the town were involved in preparing meals and a schedule was created so that Horace wouldn’t have to worry about cooking for the better part of a month. Everyone knew the schedule was clumsy and not nearly as well planned as Joanne would have done.

Glynn borrowed pieces from Thursday’s sermon for Sunday morning, using slightly different language to make it more palatable for the circumstances. The sanctuary was full, which wasn’t surprising, but there was no emotion beyond sadness. They listened politely as the pastor spoke of the necessity of death’s absolute horror and the transcendent power of God that made resurrection possible, but when it was all over they filed out with few words, returned to their homes, and ate dinner in near silence. Only the smallest of children, the two- and three-year-olds, seemed unaffected. Their shrieks and squeals as they ran about playing felt disruptive to the grieving process and parents went out of their way to quiet the young ones who had not yet lost their happiness.

Monday was a process more complicated than a full Catholic Requiem and Glynn was at the center of it all. While Baptists didn’t believe in taking the body out to the home, there were scheduled viewings at the funeral home. Horace and the girls were coming in at 9:00 and would receive visitors so people in town could offer their condolences and remind them how much Joanne had meant to their lives. Glynn was there for all of it, patiently counseling those who could not contain their grief, watching Horace and helping him slip into a separate room when the press of well-wishers became overwhelming. Hub did his best to keep traffic flowing smoothly through the small chapel but the crowd was overwhelming as people from all over the two-county area came to pay their respects.

Glynn followed the family back out to the farm at 11 and did his best to politely tell people that the road needed to be kept clear for the family car, the funeral home’s extended-body Cadillac that could hold up to seven mourners in the back if everyone squeezed in tightly. Few cared to listen and it was only when Alan came out and took over parking duties that the road was quickly cleared.

Back at the church, Buck and his wife, Frances, along with Irene Hendricks, Norma Little, and an exasperated Roger Sutherland, whose cows had decided they didn’t like their pasture and taken a stroll down the road, worked with Rose to get the church set up for the funeral. There was no question that the crowd was going to be too large for the sanctuary. The crowd at the funeral home had Rose wishing she had insisted upon using the school gym, but she knew that would have had its own set of problems as well. Buck and Roger attached a couple of auxiliary speakers to the sanctuary’s meager sound system and ran wire back to the fellowship hall where an additional 100 folding chairs had been set up. This would serve as overflow for those unable to be seated in the sanctuary. The women made sure the sanctuary was clean from Sunday’s services. Rose managed the onslaught of flowers as they delivered, making sure there would be plenty of space for the casket when it was brought over. 

Most of the town, including the school and the bank, shut down at noon so that everyone would have time to prepare for the funeral. Only the diner and the gas station stayed open until 1:00, which was considered the last minute. Marve and Claire had volunteered to keep smaller children in the church’s nursery so that parents could attend the funeral but older children were given no choice but to attend with their parents, leading to no small amount of fussing at having to wear their best clothes two days in a row. 

Hub closed the funeral home at 1:00 as well. While the distance between the funeral home and the church sanctuary was only a little more than 200 feet, moving the casket respectfully meant either loading it in the hearse and then backing up to the front door of the church, or calling the pallbearers to ceremoniously carry the casket from one place to the other. Glynn and Hub had talked about the options and decided that using the hearse was probably the safest. The pallbearers Horace had chosen included his fellow deacons and Glynn doubted whether Marcus was strong enough to make that march. When the casket was safely in place at the front of the sanctuary, Hub left and drove out to the farm to pick up the family. 

People began arriving at the church at 2:00, desperate to get a seat in the sanctuary if at all possible. Rose began directing people to the overflow space by 2:30. At 2:45, Buck opened the windows in the fellowship hall so that those standing outside could hear. While the street in front of the church had been blocked off, cars were parked throughout the neighborhood all the way back to the highway so that when the family car pulled into town Horace felt the need to ask Hub if they would have to leave the family car and walk part of the way to church. Hub smiled and expertly navigated the Cadillac through the narrow space, pulling up in front of the church at precisely 2:58. 

Normally, Glynn liked to keep a funeral service to 20 minutes, maximum, but there was no way for that to happen this afternoon. A former Sunday School student of Joanne’s, who had moved away 15 years ago, had a poem she wanted to read. The poem was long. Sharon and Denise could not agree on which was their mother’s favorite hymn, so three of them were included in the service. Horace had agreed to let a group of three women share remembrances they had of Joanne. By the time Glynn stepped behind the pulpit for the requisite homily, 30 minutes had already passed. People who had been sitting in their pews since 2:00 were beginning to fidget. Still, this wasn’t something he could abbreviate.

For the next 20 minutes, Glynn spoke softly of Joanne’s commitment to her family, her community, and her church, interweaving examples of her dedication with scripture. Unlike Sunday morning’s sermon, he mentioned death very little and focused more on the life Joanne had lived and compared that to the life she would experience through the resurrection. He kept the theology simple and avoided common clichés about everyone seeing her again in heaven or a great reunion “on the other side.” 

When the sermon was finished, it took another 45 minutes for people to file out, passing by the open casket one last time. Afterward, Horace and the extended family, which included Joanne’s mother and three brothers, were given time for a last goodbye. Glynn and Hub stood by, carefully watching in case Horace should break down and need assistance. Hub had seen grieving husbands practically pull their dead wives from the casket and feared something similar might happen here but Horace remained reasonably composed, crying with his daughters but knowingly aware that he was expected to set an example for the entire town.

The string of cars following the hearse out to the town’s cemetery was over a mile long and took 20 minutes to park. Here, Glynn was able to keep the service brief. Clouds were gathering and thunder rumbled as he gave final words of encouragement and said the last prayer. He walked the family back to their cars and assured them he would be out the next day to check on them. As the family car drove away, it began to rain. 

Glynn hurried back under the tent that had been set up over the gravesite. He watched as the crowd quickly dispersed. Only after almost everyone was gone did he look over under a large pine and see Calvin Cane standing under an umbrella, watching somberly. Glynn felt compelled to walk over and say something.

“This is a surprise,” Glynn said softly as he approached. “I wouldn’t have expected Joanne’s service to warrant a visit from anyone in the Baptist Building.”

“I just came on my own,” Calvin said with a shrug. “After your sermon last Thursday I wanted to see how you handled something this delicate. You did a good job. You stayed true to what you preached at the retreat which couldn’t have been easy.”

“Is anything we ever do all that easy?” Glynn asked.

Calvin shook his head. “No, I guess it isn’t, is it.” He paused for a moment then added, “I guess I should warn you that you’ll definitely be getting some letters and not all of them are going to be positive. The conversation the rest of the day was lively, to say the least. I can’t even say that everyone in the Baptist Building agrees with you. There will be many interesting conversations in the weeks ahead.”

Glynn looked at the ground and kicked at a clump of weeds with the toe of this shoe. This wasn’t something he particularly wanted to hear. He definitely wasn’t in the mood to deal with someone else’s fussing. “I’m sorry if I caused any problems,” he said. “The more I read on the topic, though, the more I felt we’d been approaching it all wrong, turning death into a fantasy of immortality.”

“You were right to say what you did,” Calvin quickly responded. “And you will want to know that Dr. Hobbs called yours the most thought-provoking message of the entire weekend. He’s squarely in your corner, as are Joe and I and several others, those who appreciate a thoughtful, careful approach to the scripture. There were a lot of pastors from smaller churches, though, who are struggling to understand and a handful that are downright angry. You’ll be hearing from them. Just, please, don’t feel the need to respond or engage with any of them. If they get abusive, let me know. There are a couple I had to take aside there at the retreat because they were being inappropriate with their comments. Let us deal with the rowdiness. You focus on helping your community heal.”

A bolt of lightning hit close enough that both men were startled. Calvin excused himself and made a run for his car. Glynn waited until the casket had been lowered into the grave then made the solemn drive home. Death, he thought, was exhausting for the living. He wondered to himself if there was a better way to grieve, to mourn without it consuming the entire body. 

The town felt vacant for 6:00 on a Monday evening. There were no cars out driving from one place to the next, no lights on in the store windows, no sign that anyone lived in any of the houses. Adelberg was coming to grips with the absolute horror and blackness of death and Glynn knew that as people dealt with the finality in their own way there would be questions. He didn’t want dealing with death to be his legacy, but he knew that to leave the community struggling would be the cruelest thing he could do. 

Chapter 38

Chapter 38

The first letter came on Tuesday. Glynn opened it and at the sight of the “Dear Fool,” greeting, folded the letter, returned it to its envelope, and put it in the bottom drawer of the desk. He didn’t have time to argue with anyone who wasn’t part of the community for which he was spiritually responsible. The association’s annual meeting was quickly approaching. The executive committee was meeting a prospective Director of Missions that afternoon at Clement’s church. Glynn hoped that this would be someone they could trust, hire, and introduce at the meeting at the end of the month. 

While he understood the importance of the position and the need for the committee to do due diligence, at the same time he knew there was plenty of need right in Adelberg that could fill his schedule for the rest of the year and beyond. Joanne’s death had prompted many questions as to who was going to take her place. Marve had already taken a number of phone calls asking if she could help in the various activities that Joanne led. She had balked hard at first, but by Monday evening was beginning to wonder if she was being too reclusive. Glynn knew she couldn’t do everything Joanne had, that she should do that much, but he didn’t have anyone else to suggest, either. 

There were also requests for him to speak. The Lion’s Club issued their third invitation and Glynn was beginning to feel pressure to accept. The town’s garden club was being persistent as well, their chairperson having been the first phone call he fielded upon arriving at the office. The high school science teacher was wondering if perhaps Glynn might talk about the nature of death and decay both physically and spiritually, as the teacher was concerned that a purely academic discussion might upset too many of his students. 

He had already planned to stop by and check on Horace on his way back from the executive committee meeting and had warned Marve that they might need to have dinner a little later than usual. Glynn was feeling the pressure from all the ministerial needs of the community when Marve called.

“The eye place in Oklahoma City called. They want to see Hayden next Monday at nine,” she said. “The next appointment they have open isn’t until mid-November. I know it’s a long drive. What do you think.”

“The drive isn’t’ going to get any shorter in November,” Glynn responded. “Maybe we can have Claire spend the night and she can walk Lita to school that morning.”

“How early do you think we’ll need to leave?” Marve asked, concerned about the length of the trip. Hayden, of course, could sleep in the back seat, but she had never been able to sleep well in the car. If nothing else, she was concerned about Glynn falling asleep at the wheel.

“If we leave the house by 4:00 we should be fine. We won’t have any real traffic until we get close to the city.” Glynn didn’t mind the drive all that much. The turnpike road was fairly smooth and he knew the trip back would be the harder part. He could ask Marve to do some of the driving then.

Marve agreed and said she’d handle all the arrangements. She could tell Glynn was stressed. All the talk and study about death the past few weeks had left him somber and quiet. Even their date nights had been less robust as he wrestled with the thoughts continually going through his head. 

All the details might have seemed minor to anyone bothering to observe from the outside; not that anyone would actually bother. Most people assumed that the life of a small-town pastor had to be fairly mundane, perhaps even boring. What else could there be to do but visit the sick, bury the dead, and marry the young? Glynn knew, however, that even the smallest detail, if missed, could grow into a major issue down the road. He was doing his best to pay attention to what he heard in the diner and at the gas station, looking for opportunities to head off problems before they became large, and for the most part, he was successful. Everything that was hitting him now, though, was proving to be a challenge.

Distractions seemed necessary right now. The radio blared songs by Elvis Presley, who Glynn never really liked but Marve did so he tried his best to pretend, interesting songs with almost nonsensical lyrics by The Moody Blues, Chicago, and a quirky but fun instrumental called Popcorn that never failed to make Glynn smile. Glynn was thankful for the drive to Washataug by himself where no one cared if he sang with the radio or “danced” a little in the seat as he drove. Being able to clear his mind, even for the scant 20 minutes that it took to make the drive, was welcome and probably even necessary. 

Glynn liked the large, well-lit fellowship hall at Emmanuel Church. Here, the walls were paneled, not painted concrete block like most churches. Coffee came from a commercial coffee maker, not a five-gallon pot. Seats in the metal folding chairs were padded. They were all relatively small touches but together they presented an impression of a church that was more established, was doing well, and maybe had a little extra money to spend instead of worrying over every little detail. 

Clement was waiting with Carl when Glynn arrived. Somehow, Clement had managed to convince the baker at the town’s lone bakery to provide them with some extra donuts, and Carl had just taken a large bite of one when Glynn walked in, nearly choking in attempt to swallow quickly. 

“Hail our associational celebrity!” Clement exclaimed as he shook Glynn’s hand. “Brother, as ill-timed as your church member’s death may have been, you being able to duck out saved you having to answer a lot of questions that afternoon.”

“So I’ve been told,” Glynn responded. “Calvin was up for the funeral yesterday. Apparently I’m in for a deluge of letters. I got one this morning that started, ‘Dear Fool.’ I’ve not read any further than that and probably won’t.”

“I don’t blame you,” Clement said as they walked together toward the coffee pot. “Some of the conversations reminded me of seminary, debating whether or not it is possible for the soul to die. Any letters you might get from those guys are likely to at least be polite and reasonably academic in their argument. The guys whose study is limited to the King James Version and Strong’s Concordance, though, they were hot. How dare you suggest that the early church had re-written some of the Bible to suit their political needs?” He paused to laugh at his own sarcasm. “I’m constantly amazed that some preachers feel they don’t need any level of understanding beyond what they see right there in their Bible. You can’t even talk Bible history with them let alone any level of criticism. They’re short-fused and always seem ready to fight.”

“I think they feel threatened,” Carl said as he licked the glazed sugar off his fingers. “I know I did when I first started preaching. I mean, you feel this call to preach, and once you’ve made that public, churches around here seem to think God somehow magically grants you all the wisdom and understanding of scriptures. It’s easy to buy into that concept. You’re supposed to be able to answer everyone’s spiritual questions. You end up thinking you know things when you really have no clue. When something or someone comes along and challenges your perspective, it’s easy to take it personally.”

Glynn picked up a donut and was momentarily distracted by the wealth of glazed dripping from the fresh pastry. 

“Don’t worry, that donut isn’t going to challenge your views on the Eucharist,” Clement teased.

Glynn smiled and took a small bite of the pastry, being sure to swallow before trying to talk. “That’s exactly why I think we need a well-educated and experienced Director of Missions,” he said, picking back up on the conversation. “When I first started, I had an older pastor who immediately dumped a pile of books in my lap and told me to start reading. Right from the beginning, I had the opposite feeling. I knew I didn’t know anything and honestly, there are still some passages of scripture I won’t preach from because I really don’t understand what’s going on. Actually, there’s a lot of passages I won’t preach from.”

The three men walked over to a round table and each took a seat. They were still talking about the dominant lack of education when a rather round gentleman in a brown suit walked through the door. He was a little shorter than Glynn and at least a hundred pounds heavier. There was a hint of a wheeze as he talked, as though his lungs weren’t quite producing enough air to get the words completely out of his mouth. His hair was dark and curly but grayed at the temples and he walked with just a bit of a waddle.

“Hi, I’m Roger Gentry,” he said as he entered, then, looking at Clement, added, “Good to see you again, brother! That was a lively retreat, wasn’t it?” Before Clement had a chance to respond, Roger recognized Glynn and his eyes brightened as he turned and extended his hand, “And you’re Glynn Waterbury, aren’t you? My goodness, but you set off a spark! I loved it! I’ve never seen Hobbs and Ingram and the gang work so hard to answer questions and either explain or dodge a topic for the rest of the weekend. Hultgren was over there, ‘I think there’s room for more than one opinion on the matter,’ because he hadn’t had time to confer with Billy Graham as to what his own opinion is supposed to be. Our little state needed that jolt. Love it!”

As Carl introduced himself, Bill and Herb entered together, each making their own introduction. Once everyone had been sufficiently supplied with coffee and donuts, Carl sheepishly taking three more, they sat back down at the table and began the interview. Clement distributed copies of Roger’s resumè outlining his education; OBU graduate, Masters from Southwestern Seminary, and his pastoral experience; four churches across twenty-three years. He was pleasant and easy to talk with, almost to the point of being jovial had it not been for the fact that Bill kept asking rather weighted questions about deeper theological matters, which Roger answered in an academic fashion that seemed to please both Bill and Clement. 

After several minutes of going back and forth, and multiple trips to the coffee pot, Roger said, “You know, I have to be upfront. Dr. Ingram told me about some of the challenges this association has faced. He showed me the list of allegations Emmitt made and brought me up to date on what has happened since. This a powder keg of a position and I can’t promise you that my kid gloves are soft enough to avoid setting the whole thing on fire. I’m not sure there exists anyone who could. What I can promise you, is that I’ll push education, see if maybe we can get some seminary extension courses offered up here, or at least within a driveable distance. I’ll try to stay on top of the most difficult situations, keep them from becoming trouble spots for the whole association. Unlike some, I don’t believe the Baptist Faith and Message is creedal. With all due respect to Dr. Hobbs and the leadership he’s given that project, it’s got some holes that I think are going to become problems for the convention, especially in our larger churches. I’m bothered by this whole infallibility debate that’s started. I think it’s dangerous, especially for our pastors who don’t have the education to fully understand the concept. What I can do, though, is promise to be there to answer every question I can, push every resource that’s available, and be the backstop you all need when things get rough.”

The meeting adjourned and after Roger left it took little time for the committee to agree that he was who they wanted to fill the position. They authorized Clement to present the offer and let them know if there were any additional questions that needed to be answered.

Glynn drove home feeling pleased that, with any luck, the whole question of a Director of Missions had been resolved and things in the association could get back to normal. He stopped by to check on Horace and was pleased to hear that Sharon was going to take the rest of the semester off to help her Dad cope. There seemed to be little question that he needed someone to help for a while. 

Increasingly early sunsets meant it was dark by the time Glynn pulled into the driveway at home. Marve had already fed the kids and was trying to get through bath time. Glynn quickly downed the plate of leftovers that was set aside for him so he could help. Neither child was being terribly cooperative. Hayden didn’t like the underwear Marve had pulled from the drawer. Lita’s hair was tangled. By the time all the issues were resolved and the kids were in bed, Marve and Glynn fell slumped together on the couch feeling thoroughly exhausted.

“Do you think we can convince the world to finally slow down for a bit?” Marve asked hopefully.

“We can ask, but something tells me just asking could bring more trouble,” Glynn answered. His voice was quiet. He reached over and took Marve’s hand. “Everything set for Oklahoma City?” he asked.

Marve nodded and leaned into his shoulder. Claire had been excited about spending the night with Lita and walking her to school. Marve still had her reservations but there didn’t seem to be a better option. She was thankful that Claire’s parents gave her that much freedom on a school night. “It’s not ever going to get any easier, is it?” she asked, knowing the answer already.

“Probably not,” Glynn murmured. “I think I’d worry about what was wrong if it did.”

They turned on the television only marginally aware of what they were watching. They were both asleep before the first commercial.

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