Sunday, November 6, 2005

Benefit of the Doubt

I think I have something in common with George W. Bush.

I said I think.

There comes a point in everyone’s interaction with a group of people when they believe they deserve the benefit of the doubt. I think this is what George W. was banking on from the GOP when he introduced Harriet Miers as his nominee for the Supreme Court. Sure, he did it out of allegiance to her and certainly she was not qualified (this ranks as old news, I know) but I do not think he expected the extreme, violent negative reaction from his own side. My guess is he figured they would give him the benefit of the doubt.

He could not outright say, don’t worry boys, this chick is 100% ready to set this society back at least 100 years. He could not say it out loud, so he tried to ‘wink, wink; nudge, nudge’ and hoped they would give him the benefit of the doubt.

I have been at this church for over four years. It is true that this is my first ordained call, but it is not my first position in a church. I served as a non-ordained interim to the interim at a church after seminary when their pastor retired and before the interim came in. This gig included five funerals in two week. I interned for one year at a church during seminary. I did a year long CPE at a psychiatric hospital. Before seminary I worked in a church as a Youth Director for 5 years and when the Head Pastor left about halfway into my stint the other Associate and I took on a lot of responsibilities.

If that isn’t enough, I am not new to the Presbyterian Church – I am one of those first-borns who was baptised, hung out in the nursery, went to every VBS and was eventually president of the youth group (whatever that means) in the Presbyterian Church. I GET it. I know we are decent and in order and I know what that means for worship (liturgy, seriousness, God forbid we clap or shout ‘Amen’).

SO – when last Sunday I had my reasons for coming down out of the pulpit during the children’s sermon and throwing rice krispy treats into the congregation I think I deserved the benefit of the doubt(no one got hurt, trust me – you do not know me as well, but please read the title of this essay).

In the 4+ years I have been here I have never done that. On this day the woman who always does our children’s sermon (whom we love, but can be a bit flaky) did a bit about sharing and handed out bags of M&M’s to the kids. She RAN out of M&Ms before she ran out of kids. I was already down there and saw the crisis and her panic so I created a diversion. She also had Rice Krispy Treats in her bag so I teased her about holding back on us and if she really wanted to share she should share everything that is in her bag. I then proceeded to ‘hand out’ the contents of her bag.

It went along with the flow of the service. People laughed. Trust me, although not something I would recommend for everyone and for all occasions it was okay at that time and in that place.

Most people I am sure were ok with it – giving me the appropriate benefit of the doubt – a few were not. One even felt it necessary to apologize for me as if I were her 10 year old delinquent child to a couple who have been visiting. She also felt it necessary to make sure that I knew that she and others did not approve of my behavior and that in the future such displays would be unwise.

When she cornered me yesterday (yes, Saturday) I was hungry, I was tired, I was in day 3 of The Migraine and I snapped, “Betty, I’ve never done that before and I will most likely not do that again, can’t you just give me the benefit of the doubt for once.”

Now it is Sunday afternoon and I did not throw anything into the pews this morning. No one seemed too worse for wear and the visitors were all back again this week. Some folks told me they thought it was a riot – others seemed relieved when I mentioned it in worship as part of a sermon illustration… almost like acknowledging the big, elephant in the room. Yes, I KNOW I threw rice krispy treats last Sunday, yes I KNOW it was inappropriate.. but c’mon people,
can’t you just give me the benefit of the doubt?


reverendmother said...

The Benefit of the Doubt is a wonderful gift a congregation can give to a pastor. It's basically a gift of grace!

I had a field-ed supervisor who said, "You're only as good as your next sermon." I was too much in soaking-up learning mode to question that absolutely dreadful theology.

I love moments like that. You can basically "feel" when it's right. It sounds just fine to me. Sounds like it was fine with 99% of the congregation too.

Gord said...

I think this ties in to the idea of trust (and the lack of trust in our world these days). WHen we don't take the risk to trust someone then it is really hard to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Leslee said...

There's always got to be one it seems.

Bad Alice said...

Am I missing something? People were upset because you threw rice krispie treats into the audience during the children's sermon in which m&ms were being handed out? And it was completely within context? I don't get it. . .

Lorna said...

I don't get it either Alice (grin) think it was the way she pelted them at the sternest looking big-haired members of the congregatino?



willsmama I sincerely hope you will do something like this again :)

will smama said...

I think they are worried about what the next Communion is going to look like.

Purechristianithink said...

So--I guess splashing the whole congregation with water at the next baptism would be right out??

brother terry said...



Pink Shoes said...

I only wish I had been there -- I've never turned down a rice krispy treat in my life. But then again, I'm a Lutheran. :)

LutheranChik said...

Honey, you can throw those Rice Krispy Treats from the pulpit right into my mouth, like feeding a trained seal.;-)

Songbird said...

I think my folk would enjoy candy strewing, but we are UCC, after all.

will smama said...

I do regret using the candlesticks to 'bat' them into the congregation.

BTW - No one was ever in danger. I have excellent aim and hit those who got them right in the hands. I also only threw them at younger folks who I knew would catch the durn things.

Leslee said...

You can throw Rice Krispies at my church ANYTIME!

Girl said...

Next time you have a baptism, you should suck up the holy water with a straw and drip it on the person's head....or have the choir start singing Motley Crue...yeah!