During the celebration last fall of our Cambridge UMC's 150th anniversary, I shared the story of how that church taught this minister about ministry. While I was their pastor some years ago the funeral home called to ask if I would offer a funeral service for a member of the community, but not of our church.
Of course, I said yes. However, that was before I learned who the deceased was, namely the former owner of the town's saloon. And not only that, but the establishment attracted an area-wide clientele, mostly male, because it featured more alcohol and fewer clothes adorning the young dancers. Surely this was bordering on the scandalous for both my new church and the community, I thought. I'd just been moved from a touchy congregation where it seemed that I could do no right, so I was wary.
For guidance in my quandary I called the chair of the trustees and explained the situation, including my reservations about the whole thing. I'll never forget her response. She said, "Well, isn't that what the church is for?"
Thank you, Alice. Thus, I learned anew that the church indeed is for offering abundant hospitality more than abundant judgement. It's for walking with people through times of need when they may be turned away by others. It's for giving witness to the inclusive love of One who meets us as we are in order to lead us to who we're called to be.
So, it happened that the congregation and community of Cambridge turned out in good numbers to support the grieving family. The funeral was held in the church and the usual funeral luncheon was offered by our UMW. It was certainly a feast for my soul and a significant teachable moment for me. For you, too?
Pastor H.D. Mitchell, Iowa Annual Conference, retired