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Solitary Refinement

I knew they would soon invite me to "preach for a call." My discussions with the search committee had gone well. But I had not yet seen the church building, and for some reason it was important that I do so.

The day of the evening meeting with the committee, I drove the two hundred miles early in the day and arrived at the building in the afternoon, long before my appointment. To my relief, there were no cars in the parking lot.

I had imagined this scene many times. Some things I had imagined correctly: the size and shape of the building, its colors and layout. But others were a surprise: the long narrow parking lot, the old cemetery, the small grove of trees by the yard, the location's isolation.

The air was mild, though it was winter. I wore only a hooded sweatshirt. I wandered around, circled the building, and tried to peer into windows. I picked my way carefully through the snow in the cemetery. I studied gravestones, wondering at the history behind them.

Then I walked under the trees. ...

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