Sunday, August 14, 2011

Where do you find retired Presbyterian Ministers on Sunday morning?

Sometimes you will find one or more of them at a Unitarian Universalist congregation.  I don’t mean to shock or offend my Presbyterian friends, but the UUA is and has been for years the refuge of humanist, reason-driven Presbyterian clergy and laypeople.  In January I tried the local UUA in Queensbury, New York.  Yup.  There I met another retired PCUSA minister.  He teaches classes there on occasion.  Now I am there, too.

This summer this congregation lost its minister.  An interim arrives August 28.  So I filled in August 14.  The “worship” “service” [there must be better names for these things] begins with the sounding of tuned brass Buddhist gongs.  This reminded me of the Amida Buddhist church [that’s what they call it] that I attended in Sebastopol CA ten years ago.  There an 18" gong was sounded.  Every Sunday a layperson comes forward and tells a parable.  This is what I heard there and repeated Aug. 14:

Once there was a man who led a good life.  He had a wife and 2 children, a good farm and a good home.  Then his wife died.  His home was vandalized.  His children were killed, everything he had was stolen, and his house was burned to the ground.  There was a drought and his crops failed.

He became homeless and wandered the street.  He was down to his last coins and went into a bar and spent what he had on liquor.  He became drunk, stumbled down the street and passed out in the gutter.

A rich man came along and felt pity for the poor man.  The rich man put a valuable jewel into the man’s pocket and continued on his way.  The next day the poor man got up and continued wandering the streets, sleeping against buildings, relying on strangers for handouts of food.  He spent his whole life this way and died.  He had never looked in his pocket or found the jewel that he had possessed all those years.

Later, at the time of sharing joys and concerns, a man said that this story had parallels with his life, and that he treasured this congregation.

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