Polly and the Parable of the Two Churches (Mar-Apr 1998)

By Matt Dabbs

by Bob Rogers
March – April, 1998

(Following is a brief essay that I wrote the day after my mother’s funeral in January, 1997. Psychologists tell us the death of one’s mother is one of life’s more emotional and stressful moments. I had nothing but wonderful memories of my mother and her funeral was the joyous occasion of a believer going home. My reaction to her death was to write my impressions after her funeral.)

31In a little (population 10,000) town in central Oklahoma, there are two churches of Christ. The larger congregation is of the mainstream variety, practicing cooperation, and having a fellowship hall with an industrial strength kitchen. The small group has no paid preacher, eschews Sunday School, and does not believe in having social activities at the church building. The two groups have not been on the best of terms for the last couple of decades…each believing the other to be in error.

Early in 1997, a member of the smaller church, Polly, died at the age of 84. She and her husband of 63 years had formerly attended the larger church, but moved their membership when they felt the larger church became too “liberal.” One of Polly’s daughters still attended that “liberal” congregation.

Polly and her husband, Morris, lived in the area for more than fifty years. Polly was a warm Christian woman with the heart of a servant. She had many friends. If one were to look up “hospitality” in the dictionary, Polly’s picture could accompany the definition. She was extremely good-natured and everybody loved Polly.

Since the attendance at Polly’s funeral would be too great for either the funeral parlor or the smaller congregation’s facility, Morris decided to have the funeral at the larger congregation. And this is where a miracle began to occur.

Morris planned the funeral in its entirety. He requested congregational singing led by one of his sons-in-law. He organized a singing group comprised of members of both congregations. He had eulogies and prayers by representatives of both groups. After the services at the cemetery, a large meal was served to the family and friends at the fellow-ship hall of the larger congregation, a meal served jointly by members of both congregations. It was a wonderfully warm and joyous occasion celebrating the life of Polly. It became an agape feast in the best and truest meaning of the word.

Members of the more conservative group were wearing aprons and serving “in a church building” right along with those they considered “liberal.”

It suddenly struck me: I was in the middle of all this love and acceptance of each other because of the love we shared for this woman. Why couldn’t folks get together in love and acceptance on a regular basis because of a shared love of Jesus? Isn’t that what the Lord’s Supper is all about? A means of celebrating the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus?

Epilogue

For the past twenty years, we have been sending our annual Christmas letter to our friends who live out of town. The list has grown to about 120 people in eighteen states, as well as Australia, Russia, Africa, and China. Two-thirds of the recipients are members of the Church of Christ. I had expected the church members to understand what I was saying about my mother’s funeral, but was unprepared for the response of people not of our fellowship. But the piece struck a responsive chord in other Christian groups as well, even in casual, name-only Christians. I received calls from Baptists to Catholics, nominal to devout, saying that they too wished we could achieve this unity…and knowing exactly what I was writing about.Wineskins Magazine

Bob Rogers and Jeanette, his wife of thirty-two years, live in Richardson, Texas. They have five grown children, all of whom are Christians, and are about to have their first grandchild.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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