Every now and then I still get asked to fill in for a pastor who’s going away somewhere. Last Sunday I was in South Glens Falls filling in for our friend Regina, the QuakerPastor.
But that’s not what this is about. This is about what happened while I was away, after church here where Brooke is the pastor.
At the doughnut-fest in the church basement after the service, one of the church members who is older, whose wife passed away last summer, whose been sick for a while and not in church — this church member, let’s call him Steve, showed up (as was his habit before he got sick) not for services, but just in time for doughnuts.
When Brooke sat down to ask him how he was doing, he went through his litany of aches and pains, of how it was all he could do to take care of his horses and dogs. Then he asked, “So, have you heard from the Bishop yet about your being moved?”
Brooke had not. And as of today, we still have not heard anything about this. And if we haven’t heard, it would be highly unusual for anyone else to have heard. Among the Methodists, this sort of information is highly classified. Like NSA classified. You need to petition a secret Methodist FISA court to get it. (Not that Steve isn’t the sort of person who would do just that sort of thing.)
“No,” she said. “I wonder where you heard that?”
But Steve didn’t answer. Instead he changed the subject. (His wife was a lawyer, and he was her paralegal. Very cagy.)
“Do you remember when Caspar’s parents came to visit a couple years ago, and they came to church with you?”
“Yes,” Brooke said.
“Well, you know,” Steve said, “when I was talking with Caspar’s mother that day, she said it was a shame that Caspar had to give up the ministry so you could be the pastor here.”
“She said that?” Brooke asked.
“Why, yes, she did,” Steve said.
“Well, if that’s what you remember, I guess she must have said it,” Brooke said. “And I guess I should expect a call from the Bishop about a move any time now.”
I can understand Steve wanting Brooke to get the message, loud and clear, that he doesn’t want her to be the pastor here. Steve and his wife were devotées of the former pastor and objected to anyone replacing her.
When Brooke told me about it, I said, “You don’t suppose he called the Bishop’s office and asked for your removal?”
It’s been known to happen. But when it does, the pastor is supposed to be informed it’s happened that same day. It’s a Methodist FISA protocol. We were not so informed. I suppose sometimes “mistakes are made,” but we have no prima face evidence that they were in this case.
And of course, I didn’t give up the ministry so that Brooke could be the pastor here. It was not a career sacrifice. I gave up the ministry because it was the right time to get out and try some other things. When I made the decision to retire from ministry, Brooke asked for an appointment and the Bishop sent us here. Sure, it’s felt over the last few months like being sent to Siberia. But as soon as it thaws out and we can sit in the sun on the back porch looking across the river at the mountains, it’s going to be just fine. And I get to do what I like most days. We like it here. And, as it turns out, I’m still as much in the ministry as any pastor’s wife ever is.
I can only surmise that Steve came out of his hibernation to get the rumor mill going around the doughnut-fest that the Bishop and I, and even my mother, object to her being the pastor here and change is blowin’ in the wind. But we don’t expect to hear anything from the Bishop.
Not that it couldn’t happen, of course.