Someone invented the telephone,

And interrupted a nation’s slumbers

Ringing wrong but similar numbers.

—Ogden Nash

The minister undisturbed night or day by wrong or right numbers has probably taken a hammer to his telephone. If it were only his slumber that was interrupted, or if the calls were only slips of the finger, he might feel less hostile toward Alexander Graham Bell’s invention that for nearly a century has sent profound thoughts fleeing at the ring of a bell.

Still, the telephone is important stock in the minister’s trade, ranking close behind his twenty-six Bible translations and favorite commentary. In a widespread or heavily populated parish he can let his fingers do some of the traveling. Being able to reach a parishioner in a few seconds frees the minister to increase his “calls” and extend their range beyond the traditional visits of comfort and counsel to congratulatory calls for birthdays, engagements, weddings, births, graduations, awards, and promotions. A clergyman’s call to commend a teen-ager on his scholastic achievement could do more than a week of Sundays to draw that young person to the church.

News of this sort usually abounds in the local paper—the source that salesmen use to sell everything from diaper service to magazines. The annoyance that telephone solicitors cause is probably directed less at their sales pitch than at the interruption they cause—a feeling with which the busy minister surely can empathize.

A telephone call is bound to intrude on something. To minimize its disruptive effects, and perhaps even make the interruption a pleasant break, the calling clergyman should (it hardly needs mention) be polite and gracious, should be careful of timing (not calling at dinner time, for example), ...

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