Pastor Henders shifted on his chair several times. It had only been two years, but he really needed to ask the church board to consider a replacement office chair. The one he had was less than ideal, especially after a full day of office appointments. Thankfully there was just one left to go. His
secretary administrative assistant said that he was on time for the Allerbys, a couple that had been attending for about a year, and then announced she was leaving for the day.
Mark and Diane Allerby had said they were interested in church membership. This appointment would be quick, especially since the Pastor had found a way to fast-track the process. After some customary small talk with both of them, the balance of the first part of the conversation was mostly between Mark and the pastor, with Diane joining in later.
PH: You’re already getting this in a letter, probably arriving on Monday, but I wanted to thank you for paying for the classroom set of Bibles for the Grade Six class. You were quite generous.
MA: We’re glad to help.
PH: We got an even better deal and were able to purchase more than we expected with the money, so we bought some early reader Bible story books the Grade One class has been asking for.
MA: Glad it all worked out.
PH: So as you know, membership requires you to take the newcomers’ class, but we just started one two weeks ago, and once we start, we don’t add people to that group. So, although you didn’t come here directly from Maple Grove Church, I called their pastor last week and he confirmed that you were members there for ten years, so I think we can call this a transfer even though there’s the three years in-between; but first I needed this office appointment that we would have done either way.
MA: Did the pastor at Maple Grove say anything about us? [Shifts awkwardly] I mean, did he say to say ‘Hi’ or anything?
PH: Well, he’s only been there for four months. So he just went through the records and confirmed the duration of your membership. He said he thought the secretary, er, administrative assistant might know you, but she was off for the week.
MA: That would be Thelma. She’s been there a billion years now.
PH: I’m not sure exaggeration is scriptural, Mark. Anyway, the main thing we always ask in these interviews is, ‘Why do you want to enter into membership.’ Everyone has their own reasons; at one point you had to be a member to sing in the choir, but nowadays nobody knows what a church choir is. Of course you need it to teach Sunday School or teach in the midweek programs, but not to volunteer for a non-teaching role.
MA: Well actually…we’re interested in sort of getting involved in the issues.
PH: I’m sorry, issues?
MA: Well, yes. We want to be able to be more involved in various issues and concerns that arise in the life of a church and be able to speak to those issues with an involvement that is best expressed by being actual members and not just attenders.
PH. That’s encouraging. Are you thinking you’d like to put your name forward to be on the board? I mean, usually people are here two years, but if you join by transfer…
MA: Well, not exactly. We just want to be able to respond to things in a way that only church members can.
PH: I’m not sure I’m getting this.
MA: Well, for example, if the church was heading in what we were considering an unhealthy direction on a specific issue, we could then pull our membership.
PH: [blank stare]
MA: But we can’t do that if we’re not members.
[at this point, Diane clears her throat to speak]
DA: Basically, Pastor Henders, right now, we have no leverage.
MA: Membership gives us the voice we don’t have.
PH: So basically, you want to join the church because it gives you the option of quitting the church?
MA: Yes, that would sum it up, I think.
PH: We do have membership votes on anything that is considered controversial, you know. You can vote for, you can vote against, or you can abstain. It’s not necessary to threaten to withdraw from membership if there’s something you disagree with.
DA: [mysteriously] But it’s far more dramatic.
MA: What my wife means is that it has more impact than if we were just attenders.
PH: But attenders don’t vote at those meetings at all.
MA: No, I guess they wouldn’t.
PH: Is this what happened at Maple Grove?
DA: [in a Mississippi Southern Belle voice] Well now, isn’t that just a lucky guess?
PH: And the church you just came from?
MA: No, we couldn’t get membership there, so all we could do there is threaten to leave. And we did.
DA: And then we did.
PH: But then, why not just do that here? If there’s something you don’t like you can simply threaten to leave.
DA: And then we would.
MA: But it would never show on any records. This way, we’re listed in the official church register as members one year, and the next year–
DA: [in a Kindergarten, sing-song voice] –Now you see us, now you don’t.
PH: Poof! [throwing his hands up in the air]
[Everyone laughs, except the pastor is clearly only pretending to laugh.]
PH: Okay [filling in form while shifting uncomfortably on chair] …’Reason for seeking membership’ …Joining… in order… to be able… to quit… being a member.
DA: It doesn’t get more committed than that.
PH: This form needs to be approved before we can include you our next membership Sunday. Right now I’m not sure–
MA: What about the Grade Four class? Someone said they needed a new classroom set of Bibles as well.
PH: Well we don’t expect one single family to pay for everything.
MA: Well see, there’s a policy right there we could take exception to. We could say, ‘Unless they allow people to throw their money around, we’re going to pull our membership.’
PH: [firmly] You’re. Not. Members. Yet.
MA: That’s just the point.
DA: Yeah, now you’re getting it.
To be continued, unless of course the Allerbys have some objection…