Today I met up with a couple for lunch. They had visited the church this past week for the first time and, per my normal practice, I contacted them in order to have a conversation about them and their visit.
They are “from away” (as we Mainers like to say!) but in the area for the summer, and staying down in Bar Harbor. When I called they happened to be in town doing laundry, so instead of a trip down to the island, I was able to meet up nearby with my four-year-old I had just picked up from school.
We had a wonderful conversation, lasting well over an hour. They are long-time Nazarenes, having attended their home church for 61 years! Recently retired, they now travel the country and just came up to Maine after spending the Winter in Arizona. We spoke about a variety of topics, including music and the normal tension felt in the generational divide – sometimes characterized as “Hymns” vs “Contemporary” although we all acknowledge these words are inadequate. They shared a story with me about the intentional shift in their home towards the praise band and how they felt very “left behind” when Hymns and classic songs of the faith began to be altogether excluded from the worship services. They wrote a letter to their pastor (which is always scary. I’ve received a couple of those!) detailing their feelings. They received a response, but not what they expected: “Perhaps you should find a different church.”
The story is not recent, but it felt like it just happened. You could still hear the sadness in their voices as they describe a church leader who was a powerful speaker and orator, but not a great Pastor. In the awkward and painful silence, I was able to share my deepest sentiment,
Thank you for not leaving the church.
We don’t always know what we’re doing. We try to do the right thing. We want to “grow” the church and reach out and make people feel welcome and at home. Doing The Right Thing, in all it’s various forms, is the one thing that consumes us every moment of every day. If I am a Pastor, and I cannot Do The Right Thing, whatever it may be, it causes me to feel like I have failed at everything. And sometimes we fail with the people who have loved the church more deeply than we can even imagine. 61 years at the same local church? You know more about faithfulness than I ever will. And we are indebted to your faithfulness. Thank you for not leaving the church. I’ll see you Sunday.