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On Tuesday morning after my installation as pastor of New Cana Lutheran Church in southern Illinois, not far from St. Louis, Leonard Semanns came by my study to orient me to the community. He brought along the elders, three men charged with the spiritual oversight of the congregation, which in practice amounted to making sure that Sunday services ran on time and that Confirmation instruction was provided. As I would learn in succeeding weeks, they gathered every Sunday in the sacristy for ritual kibitzing before and after each service.

The trustees, on the other hand, were in charge of the church's physical properties. They weren't required to possess the spiritual aptitude of the elders. Unlike the trustees, who were almost always old and retired, and unlike the members of the cemetery committee, who were even older—older than the dirt they supervised—the elders tended to be middle-aged, the sons of trustees.

That morning Leonard and his cousin Gus spread out a hand-drawn map ...

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