It was the last day of the Annual Conference. The parson was tired. This year he’d commuted the long distance from his home, and the wears and tears of that were taking a toll on his aged body. With the determined gait on a senior citizen dedicated to disguising the aches and pains of age, he walked as briskly as possible toward the parking deck.
As he walked he could not help but reflect upon the church. All these years, all these conferences, all these bishops and superintendents, all the new initiatives, all the reforming programs, and, in many ways, the church was still where it was that day Bishop John Owen Smith laid his hand upon his head and spoke to words of ordination. “Gracious,” thought the parson, “that was way back in the last century.”
At an intersection he stopped to heed the pedestrian “don’t walk” signal. There were no cars evident. He could have walked against the light with no trouble. But being law-abiding provided a respite from his hike. His eye wandered to the opposite corner. Ronald Wilson stood there waiting, also, for the light to change.
The parson had known Ronald since he was ordained, two years after the parson. Ronald was one of those never seen servants of the Lord. As far as the parson knew, Ronald had never served on a big committee; Ronald had never, in fact, served a church with more than 200 members; Ronald had never written an article; never given a speech in support of or against any matter to come before the conference. Ronald was one of those folks who was sent from church to church to church at a more frequent rate than his peers. Ronald was not master of homiletic. Ronald’s sermons, while theologically sound and wonderfully crafted on paper, dissolved into boredom when he delivered them. After the first year among them congregations began to make noise to the church masters that a change in pastoral leadership might be of more benefit to their world.
Ronald would move; he would move without any animosity in his heart, but with thanksgiving for the friends he’d made and the folks he’d been allowed to serve. Ronald would set up shop in the next church as though it were the first he’d ever served.
Ronald had his faults. But not one member of the congregation ever went to the hospital, locally or far away, when Ronald was not at their bedside. Not one teen broke up with the love of their life without Ronald recognizing the wound and trying to help heal the heart. Not one alcoholic was ignored, not one destitute not clothed, not one hungry not fed ….. The list went on.
The parson looked at Ronald standing there talking on his cell phone. He had a smile on his face. The parson had no doubt he was celebrating with whoever listened on the other end the wonderful opportunity to which he was being sent one last time.
The parson remembered years ago when he was in the hospital with tubes stuck into his body and a long gash from his sternum to his gut as the result of the exploratory surgery to save his life. When he woke Ronald was there. The parson remembered the operation on the carotid artery a year later. When he woke Ronald was there. The parson remembered when his wife died and he sat devastated in the hospital, Ronald was there. Ronald wasn’t especially the parson’s friend, but Ronald was there.
The light turned. Ronald walked up his side of the street. The parson walked up his side of the street. The parson watched Ronald. Suddenly, with the experience of the aged, the parson came to the conclusion that, when he attended the next conference, and people asked how to save the church, how to make the church more relevant, how to empower the church to be more like Christ, he’d rise to the occasion, walk to the microphone, and say, “Bishop, as a point of personal privilege, I would like to suggest we ask Ronald about that.”