Friday, July 14, 2006


(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find this item humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

July 15 is a milestone day for me, for a couple of reasons. It's my late father's birthday (he would have been 86). And on a July 15 Saturday six years ago, I left the church denomination that I attended for close to 20 years. I didn't really leave my congregation hanging - because the ministers sort of did that themselves.

I happened to be Worship Leader of the church service on that final Saturday morning, and had everything in order -- with some of my favorite Christian songs, including one or two which were personal tear-jerkers for me. If I was going to go, It wouldn't look right to leave with a proud smile on my face.

The pastor of our congregation had been on shaky ground for some time -- suspended once for not supporting doctrinal changes in the denomination. The biggest question involved whether we keep meeting on the Saturday "Sabbath," or switch to Sunday. It was one time when denomination leaders actually said "everybody's doing it" was a good thing.

Our congregation had adopted several of the denomination's changes - including hymns and recordings with more modern music. The Pastor-General said old-style songs and a traditional format screamed to newcomers, "Not welcome!" Yet for some reason, that denomination's membership count has kept dropping ever since....

I disagreed with some of the doctrinal changes, so I e-mailed the local pastor Friday night to inform him of my plans to leave. He replied Saturday morning before the service, revealing he was being fired that day! It turned out that old inspirational song was right - "You'll Never Walk Alone."

A couple of Regional Pastors were on hand, to announce the change of leadership - yet my Pastor was undaunted, not only showing up but sitting in the front row. He could have played on the congregation's emotions, but the wife and seven children were left at home in Montgomery.

But the big announcement wound up interrupting my grand plan for my final service in the old denomination. The Regional Pastors declared the pastor would be replaced - then led the congregation in a prayer, and canceled the final song on their own. They apparently realized I'm a fairly good public speaker, and feared I'd turn into a loose cannon.

One of the Regional Pastors came to me after the service and asked if I could lead songs again next week. That's when he learned the news about my departure - personally from me. If he had let me come back up to the speaking stand, everyone might have been doubly shocked together.

The last song I'd planned to lead that day is still as applicable today as it was on July 15, 2000. I offer it to my old congregation and denomination now - and if you're a Christian, I offer it to you as well:

God be with you till we meet again.

When life's perils thick confound you,

Put His arms unfailing 'round you.

God be with you till we meet again.

Till we meet, till we meet -- till we meet at Jesus's feet.

Till we meet, till we meet -- God be with you till we meet again.

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