On the Sunday of our interview weekend in 1999 we attended church at the Union Church of Hinsdale. It happened to be Commitment Sunday, a time of lifting up the church budget and asking members to make a financial pledge for the following year. I already knew that Union Church was a very traditional church in terms of the layout of the sanctuary, the music and its' worship style. This concerned me a bit, so I was was anxious to see what worship felt like. I was astonished when as Rev. Dick Nye began his sermon, he was interrupted by a man walking down the aisle dressed in biblical garb. This man ascended to the pulpit and introduced himself as Moses. What followed was a wonderfully creative skit on giving that had the congregation laughing and involved. It felt neither stuffy nor overly traditional, and it put many of my fears to rest. Once again, I was impressed.
Lunch with a few of the church staff members did little to change my impression. Dick Nye, Barb Cathey, Mark Toole and others seemed like people it would be a joy to work with. They all said glowing things about the church and about the possibilities for student ministry there- with the right leadership. I found out that Barb and I would share a secretary. I had never had my own secretary before (although Millie from Springfield might argue that point!). They informed me that the two areas of youth ministry that seemed to be working at Union were a hand bell choir (see album-yes, album- cover at top) and a Spring Break Mission Trip they called Work Tour. They told me that the church contained a wide range of theologies, and wanted to know about my comfort level with those who believed differently than I did. Having at various times been one of the more liberal believers in North Carolina and perhaps the most conservative Christian in all of New England, I felt uniquely qualified to handle the situation. I left lunch feeling more and more like this might be the place.
More visiting with David Knecht and Mary McKenzie also helped. These were two loving, caring Christ-followers who had huge hearts both for youth and for the "least of these" in Chicagoland. They both loved Jesus, and both of them would be there to help. Mary was a stay-at-home mom and David had sold his computer company and was basically retired- at age 35 or so. He wanted to learn everything I knew about youth ministry- it had become his new passion. Everything I had learned about Union Church was leading me to think that this was where God wanted me next. Marilyn and I flew home still worried about how far away it was (and about the lack of contemporary music, but the staff seemed to think I could have an impact on that) but otherwise just praying that God would give us a clear answer on moving.
Looking back later, it was easy to see how I was seduced by Union Church. It was the WOW Factor. First, there was the feeling that they needed me- not someone like me, but ME!- if their youth ministry was ever to be all it could be. Secondly there was the money. Not just the huge salary, the nice house in a nearby neighborhood and the other benefits, but the opportunity to do ministry with an almost unlimited budget. There was the church staff and the people already in place to be molded into a Youth Ministry Team. David and Mary were amazing people, and I could not wait to get to know them better. I would have great people to work with. And finally, the skit at worship that morning had convinced me that despite being an older, traditional church, worship was creative. I looked at all of that and said WOW! And after some time praying about it, Marilyn and I looked at all of that and said YES.
Remember what I wrote yesterday about seeing only what we want to see? In the end, worship was actually seldom creative at UC. The money was not what it seemed to be. The Allegro Hand Bell Choir turned out to be in competition with the youth ministry in many ways. There were people excited about building a student ministry, but the youth and parents were not really part of that group. And perhaps most importantly, there were very few people in that church with the love for Jesus Christ that I had seen in the staff and in Mary and David. I'll write more about all of that later on. Before we headed to Hinsdale, we had a long way to go at FUMC-K. Those stories will resume on Monday. Tomorrow it's another Moment With Mullins! See you then.
Because of Jesus,