The Next Faithful Step
Episode 15: Jan's Announcement
Almond Springs (Scott Cormode, Fuller Seminary)
It was Sunday morning, only a few days after Charlotte Robinson, the pastor of the First Church of Almond Springs, California, had sparred with her choir director, Jan Neuski, in a Worship Committee meeting.
Before the choir began their anthem, Jan turned to address the congregation. She said, "As you know, I have always considered it a privilege to serve this congregation. For years, when we had part-time pastors and inadequate leadership, I provided stability and leadership to our worship life. But certain changes have recently made it impossible for me to continue." She paused to wipe a tear.
"Our new pastor has had it in for me since she arrived. And now she has made my working conditions so intolerable that she has finally succeeded in driving me away. So I want you to know that two weeks from today will be my last Sunday with you." She flashed a defiant look at Charlotte.
"I am resigning," she continued, "I have cost this congregation nothing. I always returned the meager salary that you provided. But now it seems that even that is too high a price for our recently-arrived pastor. I have talked this over with some close friends and they believe I have no choice. In fact, our dear church secretary Mavis has said that she will resign as well." Another pause.
"This is a sure sign that this church treats its people poorly," she said coming to a conclusion, "I cannot continue in a place where I am unloved and unappreciated." She paused to wipe away one last tear.
Charlotte got up and began walking toward her. Jan immediately turned to the congregation and said, "And now the choir will sing a new arrangement of 'God of Grace and God of Glory.'" And before Charlotte could speak, Jan signaled the organist to begin playing.
Charlotte decided not to accentuate the drama any further. When it was her turn to speak, she thanked Jan for her years of service and she said that the choir would surely miss her. She made no reference to Mavis—because, in fact, she had forgotten that part of Jan's announcement. As Charlotte spoke, she tried to keep her voice even and hide as best she could her feelings. Inwardly, she was elated.
Charlotte guessed that Jan might be making a grand-stand move in the hope that Charlotte would be shamed into returning Jan to her previous place of honor. But the pastor would have none of it. Jan had given notice in public and Charlotte meant to make it stick.
When the church service finally ended, Charlotte greeted people at the door and mingled around helping people understand what to make of Jan's announcement. Her stock line was, "Jan did not feel this was the place for her ministry to prosper. And we need to let her go."
Charlotte finally returned to her office, exhausted. But there was one more surprise waiting for her. Mavis, the church secretary, was waiting in Charlotte's office. She had obviously been crying and looked like she might begin sobbing again at any moment. Charlotte sat beside her.
"Hello Mavis. You look like you are upset," Charlotte said rather obviously. They talked a bit until Mavis got up the courage to say what was on her mind.
"Pastor, I don't know what to do. I never told Jan that I would quit my job. I am just a volunteer and all - you don't pay me - but this job is important to me. And now she's told everyone that I quit when I didn't. I think what you did to her is terrible but I am not going to quit over it. It was her idea. She told me that she was going to resign during the service. And she asked me if I wanted to quit with her. And I didn't want to tell her, 'No.' So I did not say anything and now she's told everyone that I quit. What am I gonna do?"