Monday, August 13, 2012


Dealing With Spiritual Gifts

Hopefully you have not had to deal with a Candace Whitcomb in your church, but my guess is that you’ve known one or two. Her story is funny and pathetic and all too familiar.

Candace Whitcomb is a character in Mary Wilkins Freeman’s 1889 short story “The Village Singer.” It begins with Miss Whitcomb’s dismissal after forty years as the church’s leading soprano. Her voice had begun to crack and those upper notes weren’t as strong as they used to be. So the church officers asked her to go.

As you can predict, Miss Whitcomb was none too pleased.

The following Sunday, a warm May morning in which all the windows of the building stood open, she had her revenge. Her house sat next door to the church, and just as her replacement, the young and delicate Alma Way, began her solo, old Miss Whitcomb, sitting at home, began pounding away on her parlor organ while loudly cawing another hymn to another tune. Poor Alma continued to sing, but Candace’s shrill strains were all anyone could hear.
That story is a lead in to a discussion of "spiritual gifts." There are two comments I want to make on the subject.

Sometimes us church folk would be a lot better off if we just spoke plain English. In the context presented here "spiritual gifts" is just fancy talk for finding volunteers to do stuff that needs to be done around the church. IF we do not imbue stuff with such spiritual significance there is a lot less drama associated with it.

Secondly, the church belongs to the congregants, not the staff. That means the congregants kinda get to call the shots - so you gotta let them go where they want to go, and give the the freedom to fail. I know, you wince when you see it. I know, someone might leave the church over it. But you know what - Peter failed to walk on water, but Jesus called him out anyway.

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