The parson was enjoying the solitude of a quiet breakfast in the back corner of his favorite restaurant. Ellen, the competent server, was attending to his every need. The eggs had been consumed, the grits devoured, the bacon savored, the toast with grape jelly relished. And now the parson sat sipping his decaf as he looked over the notes he’d made for the coming Sunday.
The parson was interrupted. It was a surprise to see the church superior standing next to the table. “Hello, Parson,” said church superior, “can I join you?”
The parson motioned for the church superior to sit across from him. He made a motion for Ellen to come over. She took church superior’s order. The parson contemplated what to say. Truth be told, the parson was not that fond of church superior. But he was church superior, and so the parson waited patiently to discover why church superior had plopped himself into the booth opposite the parson.
“Parson, do you know Henry Sullivan?” asked church superior.
“I do,” said the parson. “He’s serving the Quiet Church In the Valley Beside the Gentle Flowing Stream.”
“He is,” said church superior. “And I have a problem.”
“What’s that?” asked the parson.
“Okay, Parson, we’ve decided we want to move Henry. He’s a great servant, but we need someone more dynamic in that church, someone who can attract people to the church, someone who can build the congregation into something it’s not now. Do you understand what I mean?”
“I have no idea what you mean,” said the parson. “I gave up trying to figure out what you guys on the bishop’s cabinet are trying to do back in 1994.”
“Look, Parson. We need to move Henry out of his church so we can move a more dynamic preacher in. Someone who will attract a bigger attendance. But when I brought this up with the local congregation they didn’t just resist; they down right rebelled. I don’t understand it. Henry couldn’t preach his way out of a wet paper bag, but those people are being defiant.”
The parson smiled. Ellen arrived at the table with church superior’s order. The parson watched him as he dug into the scrambled eggs.
“You know,” the parson said to church superior, “my son is the artistic director of a world renowned dance company.”
“I knew that,” said church superior.
“Well, let me tell you something about that dance company,” the parson said.
“And this has what to do with Henry Sullivan?”
“Look,” said the parson, “you’re the one who interrupted my solitude. So I’ll tell the story in my own way.”
Church superior nodded assent.
“So, over the years I’ve had the opportunity to watch more than a few dancers come and go with the Pilobolus Dance Theater. Some have been good; some have been great; some have been down right exceptional. But of all the dancers I’ve seen with that dance company, two - obviously excepting my son - have stood out. One was Rebecca Anderson. She’s retired and doesn’t dance with Pilobolus anymore. The other is Jordan Kriston. Now, here’s the thing. Every dancer with Pilobolus is an exceptional dancer. They couldn’t dance with that company without being so. But, there’s a difference.
“I go to a theater and watch a performance of Pilobolus. I can sit on the fifth row from the stage, or the ninth, or the twentieth. And it doesn’t matter where I’m sitting when Jordan Kriston is dancing. She doesn’t just perform; she is dancing with me. She sucks me into the performance. She makes me part of the story.
“And that’s your challenge with Henry Sullivan,” said the parson to church superior. “Henry Sullivan isn’t just preaching. He’s bringing them into the adventure, making them part of the story. So, you’d better recognize that you’re not going to be able to replace Henry Sullivan.
“You know what,” the parson said to church superior, “Jordan Kriston is going to be dancing in Chattanooga on April 18th. You should buy a ticket. Then you might understand.”