HERE IS THE STEEPLE OPEN THE DOOR AND

“With the great youth representation we have, this 1989 assembly of the United Protestant Church in the U.S. could be the most significant and relevant in our history,” said Jimmy Blackwelder, newly elected moderator of the united church. I found Jimmy in a noisy corridor of the assembly hall, making last-minute preparations for the first session.

“You’re sort of symbolic of the youth movement yourself, aren’t you?” I asked.

“How do you mean?”

“Well, I understand you’re still a student.”

“I see what you mean,” he said. “Yes, I’m a student, but comparatively I’m in the older half of the delegates.”

“How did this large youth representation come about?” I asked, raising my voice over the increasing hubbub.

“Well, it really started with the decision of the General Convention that the delegates should accurately reflect the ages and sexes of the general constituency. Since that time the General Convention has gotten a lot more relevant.”

“It has also gotten a lot noisier,” I observed. “I can hardly hear you.”

“What’s that?” he asked, cupping his ear. “I can hardly hear you.”

“What is all that racket?” I shouted.

“That’s coming from the nursery,” he shouted back. “Let’s go down to my study where it’s quieter.”

He steered me down the hall and into a small room provided for his use during the General Convention.

“I guess with more women delegates you have to provide for their children,” I said.

“What women delegates?”

“Surely you have wómen delegates.”

“Well, not many. But then we don’t have many men delegates either.”

“But the nursery …”

“Oh, those are youth delegates. After all, 20 per cent of our church is made up of those in the under-five category. They have to be represented. Don’t forget, the Bible ...

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