LET’S TRY RUNNING AHEAD OF THE PACK

“What best distinguishes our species is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: we contemplate the future … and that sets us apart from other animals.” -Martin E.P. Seligman and John Tierney.

Some scientists are questioning the discovery but I’m sticking with Selgman and Tierney on this one.

One day while sitting at my desk in my office I had the urge to take a look at the church archives. I wish I hadn’t. The worship bulletins and newsletters from seventy years ago were no different than what I was putting forth weekly. I was a bit repressed wondering why I hadn’t up-dated the latest materials. I was determined after that to do something about it.

I decided to try preaching on the theme of coming up with a vision for the church. The following week a young eager member barged into my office and said he liked my sermon. I was pleased but he didn’t stop there. He was so excited he couldn’t hold back.

“You know what we ought to do, Reverend?”

Before I could reply he blurted out “We should provide a place in our church for seniors in need in the community. We could use that big room that has a street exit and we might hire a part-time social worker and a half-time nurse to offer services. I woke up at 2 am this morning and it hit me like sledgehammer. What do you think of that, Pastor?”

I was stunned. All I could think about was that ‘big room’ to which he alluded had been the choir rehearsal room for over 50 years. The idea hit me like a giant mallet, and aside from that, the church was dead broke. Three other members urged me to go for the senior center. Obviously, the young fire brand who came in first must have pushed for the concept onto others.

I figured I could wear a flak jacket and present the idea to the church counsel. I invited the members to consider revising our bulletins and perhaps coming up with a vision for the church. Big mistake. Several lay persons thought I was a heretic by messing with the bulletins and an irate gentleman bellowed “Why in the hell do we need a vision when we haven’t had one since the church was founded a hundred years ago!” I thought he had a good point but were they the animals that don’t have much to offer by way of projecting ahead?

I continued on nervously and pitched for the senior center. We happened to be in the immense room where the choir had been rehearsing for eons. The new member who volunteered to chair the finance committee turned white. He gritted his teeth but managed to mouth the words “We’re broke and I’m out of here!” He left through the exit door to the street that is seldom used and never came back to the church.

The choir director was a highly regarded and lovable staff person who was in her 24th year. She ran out of the sanctified room. I let the finance guy go and raced after her. I thought that was a smart move. When she got to her car, I can’t tell you what she thought of me in that moment.

The project was passed and it turned out to be a highly successful community center that was adopted later by an interfaith organization and still exists after forty years. And we turned a corner on finances and attendance. My talented choir director took a few weeks off and returned to her music ministry.

OK now, who were the animals in that venture and who were the visionaries? Frankly, I don’t want to know!

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