Monday, December 21, 2009

Sue's Church

Of all the people at the Oak Street Bible shop, staff and customers, Sue is probably the most mysterious. In a way she seems to be in her own world, and that world is far away and almost in another time.

You can picture her on a covered wagon heading for Oregon, or at a pier in Maine waiting for her husband to return on a sailing ship, that is the quality she projects, a kind of sad, detachment. And she has been willing to keep it that way, preferring to talk about others and their lives, rather to open her heart to anyone.

Gary attempts to reach her with his humor and to discuss movies with her. She tries to respond to the jokes, which seem to go right past her but she does say that she likes the old black and white movies. She mentioned Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre, no surprizes there.

But not long ago she spoke up with strong feeling about what had become of her church. We had been discussing a variety of things concerning the Faith. That is the way it is at Oak Street Bible Shop. When the little bell on the door jingles and the brass door latch clicks behind you, you are in another world. Jesus Christ is king here, the Bible is an open book and the world goes away as long as you are there.

Gary was discussing various Bibles, a favorite topic with him. He seems to draw energy by being in contact with a Bible.By now we pretty much understood everyone's preference of translations. We all revered the King James, no question about that, and we said so. "The British call it the Authorized Version", said Gary, always correct.

"Authorized by who?" said Glen, "That's what I'd like to know, by the Church of England?" Glen used the New Scofield, but he had about seven different versions that he referred to. "The New Scofield", he said, "retains the King James's words, and that is important to me. As for the notes, they are the best! I mean, it is a whole Bible study system in one volume. With a Strong's Concordance you have a real system of study in two volumes."

"But you have told us more than once you don't always agree with everything in the New Scofield," said Joy, who had been taking this all in from her high stool by the doorway to the back room.

"Well no, Joy, " he said. "I'm a protestant! Don't you know what that means?"

Gary, behind the counter, piped up, "To be a protestant means to be in a continual state of reform, always questioning, always, protesting." Glen looked over at him with gratitude for his support. "Amen, brother", he said.

Joy was a little sensitive about the emphasis on the word “protestant”. Her Baptist church taught that Baptists are not Protestants, because Protestants came out of the Roman Catholic Church, while the Baptists were the "original church". Everyone else, to Joy, was a Johnny come lately, they were tainted.

When Glen first heard her say that it cracked him up. "Oh, Joy", he said, "You're not going to tell me that John THE Baptist started your church are you? Heck, there was no such thing as a Baptist until after Luther. The Baptists came out of the English churches over the issue of immersion. They were called Anabaptists, or re baptizers. The first Baptist Confession was written well after the Reformation, look it up, I did. I found a good history of the Baptist Church that reveled its true origins.

Who wrote it? Joy snapped. "A Baptist wrote it", Glen came back, "So it must be true, right?"

Things quieted down a little and Glen started to open up a little sack he had brought in. "Joy, would it be ok if I eat a toasted cheese sandwich in the back room. I'll pay you for a coffee and I'll wash my hands before I look at any books?

I'm starving", he said, plaintively.

"I really wish you wouldn't" Joy protested, "Could you just eat it out on the porch? I'll bring you a chair and you know you don't have to pay for your coffee. It's just that I don't want any crumbs on the floor. I'm afraid it will attract bugs. All I need is for somebody to come in to look at a Bible and see roaches on the floor."

Gary couldn't resist, "Just pretend they're Catholics and step on them," he quipped.

We all laughed at that one, since Joy was so set against the Catholic church which she came out of.

Sue had been thinking and finally said what was on her mind. "You know we all need a church home, whatever kind it is. I envy people who have a place where they feel at home with people that believe like they do."

We were startled to hear her speak of herself as churchless."What happened to the church you were in", said Joy, with unusual sympathy in her voice. "You once said you were so happy there".

"I haven't been back there for over a year", said Sue. It's all changed, it's just not at all like it once was. Somebody just came in and took it over, from top to bottom.We waited for her to continue."They even made a new church charter! What was wrong with the original charter is what I want to know?"

They announced we could vote on it, but no one explained anything and before we knew it, the voting was over and everything started to change. There was a big celebration and everything. It was so hokey, believe me. They led the new pastor down the aisle and had a trumpet fanfare as he walked to the pulpit. Ta da da dah da da," she mimicked.

"The new man had a Scotch accent, and some British type guys were behind the whole thing, it seems. Nothing was the same, after that, "She had tears starting in her eyes as she went on. "Mr.Anderson, who taught prophecy, was told his services were no longer needed."

Glen looked at her as she mentioned prophecy.

"He used to pass out dispensational charts and he used a blackboard as he taught. He was so patient with everyone and loved to answer everybody's questions. We all learned a lot from him. But now he'sgone."

Joy was moved by Sue's story, "You haven't gone back for over a year”, she said, “Has anyone from the church contacted you?

"Oh, yeah, " Sue continued in a wavering voice, "I got a letter from the finance office. It said "We missed your contribution".

Glen put away his sandwich. He looked really angry as he slowly wiped his hands on a paper napkin. His muscles tensed and relaxed as he socked his fist into the palm of the other hand.He stood by the window and the afternoon light lit up his craggy face. It looked like his nose had been broken at least one time.

Sue walked over to him and looked at his face. She was shy with everyone but Glen.

She asked, "Glen, did you used to be a boxer"?

He looked back at her and smiled, "Oh, no, Sue, I wasn't what you would
call a boxer" he said quietly.

"What do you mean?' she persisted.

"Well, boxers have to follow all them rules", he said.

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