Pulpit Vacancy at Menlo Park

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menloparkclri‘m still not sure how I got the nod to chair our little church’s pulpit committee last summer. When I asked what led to my choice, I was simply told, “It’s God’s will.”

I’d been at our little two hundred member congregation three years and served on the board a month. I really liked Pastor Giff, but he finally got fed up with us after serving at Menlo Park Spirit Filled Praise and Worship Fellowship for five years. I suppose all the sniping, griping, and pastor’s wife bashing can get to you after a while. He said he was heading to the mission field. Bosnia, I think. I guess we were pretty bad.

No matter. Suddenly, he was gone, and it was up to me to select the new candidates to “try out” for his position. Not only was I to screen them, but I was to host the prospective ministers in my home as they came to give it their best shot. Great. Whoever invented pastoral try-outs anyway?

I barely made the deadline for an ad in Charisma magazine, placed a few ministry calls, and within a week the church phone was ringing off the hook.

At the next board meeting I explained how I whittled a stack of thirty resumes down to eight and invited five to come preach.

“He better be good lookin’,” said Minnie, our church secretary.

“He better know Greek,” said Bob Marrs, church treasurer.

“He better have well-behaved kids and a submissive wife,” said Charlie Dralin, chairman of the board.

He better walk on water to put up with us, I thought to myself.

All five candidates looked good on paper one way or the other, the board agreed. Then we agreed again to, “wait and see.”

Our first candidate arrived the Saturday after the board meeting. He was well mannered, ate with the family, then retired early to get “prayed up.”

“God bless ya,” he said as we bid him good night, but I couldn’t get over his “heavenly glare.” When he talked with my wife and I, his gaze would drift upward to our foreheads.

He didn’t say anything strange, at least not that night. But Sunday was something else.

“Blasss Ghauddd-ah! It’s soo gut to-ah be-ah with God’s-ah people-ah in the housse of Ghaudd-ah, haya basheea di-di-shandele-di-di-dit,” he began.

“I bid you-ah greetings from God’s-ah golden-ah throneroom from-ah on high,” he continued as he took a huge golden crown out of his suit case and placed it on his head.

Oh God, help me God, I thought to myself as I squirmed around on the pew, then looked around. He didn’t blass Ghaudd-ah, di-di-di-didet, wear the crown, or bring greetings from Ghaudd’s-ah golden throneroom over the phone or at home last night. No one he listed on his reference sheet said he’d ever been there. Now everyone’s going to think I’m an idiot. And they did, too, as he continued his message on divine-ah revelation (especially his own), then started standing people up for “words” around the room.

“And the wheeels-ah of Zekiel’s cherubim signaled Ghaudd’s plans-ah for-ah my life-ah, and their wings spoke of new pauer-ah and holy-ah specieeal light,” he concluded.

Great. His message was finally over, but the damage had been done. I took a look around the room while he removed his crown to get ready for “word” and “healing” time. And as I did, I could see every shaking head and grimaced eye in the building beading in on me.

Oh Lord, why did it have to be me? I brooded in a self-pitied fright.

Then came a young man’s voice from the back of the sanctuary, “Uh, excuse me?” Oh brother, it was Matthew Barlow, the worship leader of our high school group. He was musically talented and loved the Lord well enough, but he could really be a pest.

“Yass young man…what is it?” the preacher replied.

“Uh, well, I was wondering, Your Majesty,” Matthew began. “Did you say Ezekiel’s cherubim appeared to you personally? Or did you say it was just in a dream?”

“Both!” the preacher growled.

“Right, yeah, okay,” Matt shot back.

“Well, uh, I was also wondering about the part where you said Jesus appeared to you in the vision with the head of a moose, and the part where the devil appeared as an electric blender and all of that. I mean, I just thought that was kind of weird, you know? I mean Jesus never had antlers in any of the prophetic scriptures and the blender thing in which the devil chewed God’s people up was just…”

“Sit down young man!” the preacher interrupted. “Touch not the Laurrd’s anointed!” he rebuked as his face turned a mild shade of chartreuse and his head arched toward the ceiling.

I sank down lower in my seat wanting to pull my suit coat over my head.

“Now attest the wisdom of the Laord!” the preacher shouted.

“Yuouuu Sirrrr, in the middle of this section with the suit and red tie. That’s right, you Sir, please stand up! God has a word for you.”

Great, I thought, it was our best tithe and offering giver Dave McCurdy, manager of a local bank. He wasn’t Spirit-filled, but liked pastor Giff because of his propensity for Sunday morning frills. One embarrassing move here, and McCurdy would belong to the Baptists.

“That’s right, you Sirrr,” said the preacher as he acknowledged McCurdy and asked him to stand again.

Dave stayed seated and shot me a dirty look. No matter to the preacher, he went on anyway.

“Gaudd-ah has shown me that you are a local school principal and that your stand-ah of faith has recently brought great persecution into your life,” the preacher said.

I smacked my forehead and crouched deeper in the pew.

“Actually, no, I’m a banker and get along quite well with everyone at my Job,” McCurdy quipped snidely back.

Actually we didn’t have a school principal at Menlo Park, but we did have a few teachers in the crowd.

“Uh, I’m not quite a principal, yet,” said June Rooney as she stood, “but I have been a teacher for years.”

Great, I thought, it was looney June Rooney, the hovercraft National Education Association convert who never quite got all the New-Ager out when she came to the cross. Just what we need to top this off.

“Good-ah!” the preacher said quickly.

“And uh, you’ve-ah been experiencing some extreme persecution for your-ah faith-ah on the job-ah?” he continued.

“Uh, no, not really,” June answered, “but I’ve been praying for the principal’s job now for a little under a year.”

“Glory! All right then, habasheeah blada ghama aba sheeah, let’s everybody stretch out-ah our hands-ah toward this dear woman and agree-ah for God’s-ah blessing in her life,” the preacher said.

No one stretched out a hand and I felt a sharp poke in the top of my back.

I knew what I had to do.

Oh God, why me? I agonized in self-pitty as I stood up and shuffled onto the platform as the preacher had his arms raised in fervent glossolalia prayer.

I took hold of his arm and he opened his eyes.

“Uh, Mr. Reeger, thank you so much Sir. That should do it for this morning, Sir. We appreciate your time,” I said.

I then turned to the crowd and thanked them for coming, said a quick prayer and announced, “See you at six tonight.”

“No you won’t!” a cacophony of voices muttered back.

At the punitive board meeting after the service I was severely reprimanded and reminded of my responsibilities as pulpit committee chair.

“The whole idea of a pulpit committee chairman!” Charlie Dralin shouted, “was to ensure that by the time candidates got to the church they were to be, at the very worst, just really bad preachers, too ugly, or something! Not crowned space cadets from God’s golden throneroom on-ah high!”

“I knew that,” I groveled, “but who could have known?”

“We all could have!” everyone shouted back.

Next week would be better, I sheepishly assured them. Then I remembered, next week’s try-out was Reverend Chartoon.

Oh brother, I thought, this was the guy who barely squeaked by because of his name. He said God revealed it to him along with his true Hebrew identity while visiting Lazarus’ tomb. I bet he’s got a great crown, I thought.

On Monday I made some quick cancellations and asked Charisma to stop next month’s ad (I got an anointed bargain deal that placed us next to O.L. Braggart’s end-times nephilim invasion vision in the back). Then I called the Foursquare Church down the street, and they put me in touch with Bob.

Pastor Bob’s been with us close to three years now, but he’s been talking about moving his family to minister to Shiite Muslims in Saudi Arabia. That is, after he takes a short rest in North Korea. At least that’s what he said. Here we go again.

By Mark Norris

Mark is a former Charismatic pastor who believes in the gifts of the Spirit. But he also believes we ought to be able to laugh at ourselves. So, who’s next?


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