The cell chimed a while before I could audibly zone in on its catchy Pearl Jam ringtone and track it to an innocent looking pile of jeans and socks hurriedly tossed onto the living room sofa. I could faintly hear a polyphonic version of “Yellow Ledbetter” struggling to escape an avalanche of fresh denim and cotton. I dug through my laundry and managed to rescue the call before it was demoted to voicemail. I simultaneously looked down and thumb-flipped open my cell; I immediately recognized the caller.
“Good morning!” I said cheerfully. “How are you pastor?”
“Well,” Pastor Matson replied. “How are you?”
“I’m doing good. It’s still pretty early, so I’m not positive as of right …”
“You know the old saying, right?” Pastor interrupted. “The early bird …”
“Catches the worm,” we chimed simultaneously.
“Yes,” I said, “I think that sounds familiar.”
“Good!” Pastor exclaimed, “Let me tell you now why I’m calling you this morning.”
“I understand you are working as a hunger relief worker for the Council of Churches?”
“Yes, I am,” I said.
“I think what you are doing is wonderful.” Pastor replied. “Let me see if I understand. You are recruiting churches to actually send small groups of volunteers to the inner-city shelter one weekend a month to prepare meals for needy individuals? Is this the gist of it?”
“Yes Pastor. That’s it. The Shelter is in need of more help from churches. A lot of church groups quit because they consider the shelter too dirty and the people too frightening.”
“Interesting.” He replied. “Well, we would do it but …”
“Pastor …” I quickly interrupted, “Your church is so, so big. You all could easily form enough small groups of volunteers to cover an entire calendar year. The shelter could use your church’s help.”
“I normally would not hesitate,” Pastor retorted. “If it were actually part of our community I would say yes. I feel, however, as if we should honor our calling and mission to our immediate community.”
“Your community?” I asked, somewhat bewildered. “Your church is 15 minutes away from the shelter, at the most!”
“Well,” he said, “Our call is to your surrounding suburbs. I’m sure you will be offered more than enough help from the city churches. If not, give me a call and well see what we can do.”
“All right.” I finished. “Thank you Pastor Matson.”
“Thank you!” He said, smothered in pseudo. “Have a blessed day!”