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TORN BETWEEN CHURCH & COMMUNITY

It's risky to visit a congregation you formerly pastored-especially one from which you resigned. But time helps close wounds. So when the current pastor of my former church heard I was going to be in town to attend a wedding, he invited me to preach that Sunday morning. And I accepted.

After the service, I was standing in the foyer when the wife of an elder approached me. Her eyes glistened as if she'd been crying.

"Please forgive me," she said quietly. "Only recently have I come to appreciate your ministry outside our congregation." With that brief statement she passed by.

Those words uncorked memories. She and others in the congregation had insisted the pastor belonged to the church and to no one else. I stood committed to community involvement. Our collision had been inevitable. Out of the steaming wreckage had come my resignation.

I remembered driving alone on a rural stretch between Astoria, Oregon, and the church in Hammond shortly before the clash. I often took the back road because ...

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