Well, here I am trying to get caught up on work from this past week after being struck down by a nasty stomach virus that forced me to postpone the first of our scheduled Lenten reflections at St. Francis. I’m making some good headway despite our upstairs neighbors blaring James Brown and, from the banging going on, dancing along with it.
I meant to post this earlier in the week, but, like so much else, it got pushed back. As I’m sure anyone who’s worked in ministry knows, there are all sorts of people who contact churches for all sorts of reasons. I don’t know if it’s because of my experience as a private investigator or just my experiences since ordination, but I have to admit to a degree of skepticism about most of the stories I hear. My general rule for folks asking for help is to help them the first time, unless I have major alarm bells going off, but to ask increasingly hard questions with each request (and of course we do have the same sorts of rules many churches have adopted to make sure that help actually goes to those in need and not those who milk people’s good will).
Be that as it may, last Friday I experienced a first. I was working in my office at St. Francis when the phone rang. I answered the phone and the conversation went something like this:
Me: Hello, St. Francis Church, Jody Howard speaking.
Caller (in a voice that sounded like he had a mouth full of marbles): Yeah, I wanna speak with the manager in charge of hiring people.
We get a lot of solicitations that assume we’re a business, so I’ve learned to sort of cut them off rather quickly to move on with my day…
Me: I’m sorry sir, but this is a church, not a business, we don’t have anyone in charge of hiring.
Caller: Oh, OK.
My cell phone rang and a picked it up, and while I was talking the church phone rang again and I saw it was the same number. Continuing my conversation, I ignored it. A few minutes later the church phone rang again: it was the same number calling a third time, so I picked it up again, thinking that perhaps our number had gotten mixed up with a business’ and I might find out who this gentleman was trying to reach.
Me: Hello, St. Francis Church.
Caller: Yeah, I need to speak with the person in charge of hiring.
Me: Sir, we’ve already spoken and I told you that we’re a church, not a business and we don’t have a manager in charge of hiring. I’m the pastor, so I expect that if we were hiring, which we’re not, you would need to talk to me…
Caller: Yeah, well, see, I just need your name.
Me: My name?
Caller: Yeah, see, I’m out of jail on work release and I’ve got to show my parole officer that I’ve talked to so many managers about jobs… I just need to put your name down or get you to sign something saying I talked to you…
Me, somewhat amused: Well, sir, as I said, we’re not a business and we’re not hiring. But since you’re out of jail on work release and you’re supposed to talk to people about a job, don’t you think you should actually talk to people who might actually hire you? Isn’t that sort of the point’?
Caller: Oh, well, thanks….
People are crazy.