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What's Like Got to Do With It

On my first Sunday morning I was taken aback by a ghastly sight in the sacristy. A dying man was sprawled on a chaise lounge in the center of the room. He was white as snow and as cold to the touch. His total hairlessness, I was soon to learn, was the result of an experimental drug therapy. He was dressed in a cassock, surplice, and stole. A hymnal lay open across his lap.

Erich Martin was the former pastor of the church. He was so weakened by cancer that he couldn't sit in a pew. He worshiped in the sacristy with the door to the chancel wide open. From his lounge chair he could also keep an eye on me, and from anywhere in the chancel I had him in view. Since no one could see him but me, he constituted my private audience of one, a second congregation. Whenever I stood in the pulpit during those first months, Erich was a barely living blur to my right. If I was tempted, as preachers occasionally are, to replace the proclamation of the gospel with affable chatter, the presence of a liturgically ...

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From Issue:Fall 2001: The Prayer Driven Church
May/June
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