qLV2RRAYou know that problem of church members not taking initiative? Today’s ministry challenge is a result of a church member who steps up big time. Read all about it:

Tonight our church began the process of selecting an architecture firm for designing our new sanctuary. I had to leave due to sickness. A charter member of the church volunteered to pray to open the meeting. So help me God, she ended the prayer with these words: “Thank you God for sending us such cute architects.” I was just speechless. That’s the last time I open the floor for volunteers to pray.

How would the Matriarchs handle this one?

Heidi Rodrick-Schnaath:
I’m not sure what the solution might be, but here are some of the things that would keep me awake that night. First, you may be tempted to apologize to the architects, try to resist that temptation. You didn’t do anything wrong, but the member crossed a line. That person is on the hook. Second, someone may try to make light of what was said, “Not everyone is good at extemporaneous prayer.” “Oh that’s just Mickey. Don’t think anything of it.” Ah! We know it is possible to pray without making a personal comment about someone else’s appearance. In certain circumstances, this would be construed at harassment. My guess is that like many contract professionals who work with congregations, the architects have had to deal with any number of strange comments, but that doesn’t make it right. Third, you were sick and on your way out the door. What else was going to be said in your absence? (That would have made me rather crazy as I drove away from the building.) Hopefully there was someone in the meeting who could share with you the subtleties of the balance of the evening.

The who, what and where of it all may strongly impact what you choose to do, but I would hope that in someway the member would learn that it is not appropriate to make comments of this kind in a business meeting or in a prayer at a business meeting. It may have been an innocent comment, but it’s not appropriate. The member is the only one who should apologize. Since this is the start of the project and not the end, it would be smart to resolve this quickly, but I would encourage you to respond at a level that matches your particular circumstances.

Sharon Mack Temple:
Thank you, Heidi, for your thorough, thoughtful response. I am compelled to highlight her final advice to (a) resolve this quickly and (b) respond at a level that matches one’s particular circumstances. Heidi, you remind us that response delay is not our ministry friend, and knowing (and loving) our context leads us to respond more wisely.

RevGal readers: Have you had a similar experience? How did you handle it? Please do tell us in the comments below.

Do you have a question for our Matriarchs? We would love to hear from you! Send it to askthematriarch (at) gmail (dot) com and we will do the best we can for you.

Rev. Sharon M. Temple is a United Church of Christ pastor living in Austin, TX. She is a contributor to the RevGals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit and blogs erratically at Tidings of Comfort and Joy.

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