An Angel in the Pew

An Angel in the Pew

Based on a journal entry in Tom Miller’s Encouragement Journal

It was one of those weekend church conventions where camper enthusiasts pull their vehicles into a large campground and enjoy cookouts and conversation before the event. Tom struck up a conversation with the husband and wife in the camper next to his and learned that they were from a small town not far from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Tom said he didn’t know the area, but had once stopped to attend a church service in that area, about 12 years ago, on his drive back to Fort Riley, Kansas.The husband and wife exchanged curious looks, first to each other, and then to Tom and began to ask questions. What was the church like? Do you remember the sermon? Did you talk with anyone?

Tom couldn’t recall.Then, as he and the couple were walking back from the evening service, memories gradually returned. He recalled how he had been sent to Fort Riley on Army business, which was fortunate, because it gave him opportunity to visit his cousin in Tulsa, who was facing a terminal illness. The cousin had a one-day remission and he and Tom reminisced about their childhood.

     “On my way back,” he told the couple, “I saw a sign, First Church of God–which is my denomination– and I also saw that there would be a service at 7:00. p.m. Well, I looked at my watch, and that’s what time it was! So I hit the brakes and turned into the parking lot, tires almost squealing.”

During the service, I wrote a note on the bulletin that said, I was driving by and saw your sign, First Church of God, and would not be worshiping here if it had not been for that sign, and dropped it the collection plate.”

     “Yes, it’s him!” the wife shouted.

She explained that the congregation had been deeply divided over the name of the church, and just as the quarrel was about to boil over, with half of the congregation ready to leave, a stranger wrote a message on a bulletin and dropped it in the collection plate.

“Well, we still have that bulletin,” she said. “Over the years, the story has been told–and people have come to believe–that an angel dropped by one evening and left the note, telling us to keep the name. That note kept the church from splitting.”

Then, after a moment, she added.

“That should encourage you, Tom.”

The next morning, Tom woke up early to tell the couple how much the story meant to him. But their camper was gone. “Now, who is the angel?” he wondered.

When Tom Miller served as rector for an Abundant Life Tres Dias weekend, he invited team members to contribute inspirational stories to an “Encouragement Journal.” This article, based on a journal entry, was originally published in the Januarly 2014 issue of this newsletter.