Meningsbee sat in his car panting, with sweat dribbling down his face.
What just happened?
His mind raced to retrieve some sanity.
He had gone to the grocery store to pick up some fruit, and was standing in the produce section, trying to decide between blueberries or blackberries, when he was tapped on the shoulder. He turned around to discover that he was surrounded by three irate women in their seventies.
There was no escape.
Woman One piped up. “What gives you the right to come to our town, break apart families and remove our sense of community?”
Without affording Meningsbee a chance to respond, Woman Two inserted her piece. “What was so wrong with our little Garsonville church? I think we were a loving sort until you showed up.”
Likewise, Woman Three intoned her complaint. “We dedicated that organ in the church to my grandmother, and now I’m not even able to go.”
Meningsbee tried to figure out a way to respond without becoming defensive, but the women continued to bombard him with their frustrations, refusing to allow him to leave. It caused such a commotion that the store manager called the local police, who uncharacteristically arrived within three minutes.
The constable felt it was his job to get to the bottom of the story, so he listened patiently as the women outlined their grievances.
When Meningsbee was asked to describe his take on the situation, he chose to remain silent, realizing that he was not only outnumbered, but also that his rendition might seem anemic compared to their enraged profile.
Unfortunately, a local reporter for the newspaper was in the store at the time, and she felt it was her responsibility to interview the participants, with Meningsbee politely declining.
He just quickly grabbed some fruit, went through the checkout and exited the store. Now he sat alone, bruised and a bit infuriated at being ambushed.
Yet the situation did not go away.
Two days later when the newspaper came out, there was an article about the incident and a background about the ongoing struggle between the Garsonville Church and the new Garsonville Christian Church, meeting at the Holiday Inn Express.
The closing line of the piece was provided by one of the women, who shared, “If the people who are still at the Garsonville Church really love us and respect us as neighbors, they will at least come out to our new gathering and give it a chance.”
Even as Reverend Meningsbee was in the midst of reading the article, the phone rang. It was the first of thirty-five or forty calls he received from parishioners, saying that they were torn and conflicted, and felt it would maybe be good for them to show their respect by going to the Garsonville Christian Church this week.
Meningsbee didn’t know what to say. Honestly, he wanted to cry. He never intended to split up families nor bring conflict–just share Jesus.
Upon arriving at the church on Sunday morning, Meningsbee discovered there were only twelve in attendance–and eight of them were the visitors who had come over the past several weeks.
Because he didn’t want to deal with unresolved hurt, he shared his heart with those who were present, and explained what he believed to be his mission and desire.
He dismissed the service and headed for his car. All the other attendees left the parking lot and he sat alone. He couldn’t help but feel cheated–and maybe even, in a strange sense, jealous.
After all, his congregation was somewhere else, listening to someone else–being torn between their new discovery of faith and their loyalty to tradition.