Getting connected or plugged in became a catch phrase for the church a few years back. My husband and I visited a church and were handed a sheet a paper when one of the ushers realized we were visiting. The person in me recognized it as an attempt to keep in contact with people in this hectic world, but the writer in me saw so much more.
“We are so glad you made it back today.” The usher was pumping my hand like he expected to get water.
I smiled politely. “What do you want?” I thought the words, but they were never allowed to escape my thoughts. I said, “Thank you. I have been enjoying the services.”
He cast his line. “You ought to think about joining us.”
“You know, I have been thinking about that.” He had a nibble. With lightening precision, the application and pen were thrust towards my hands.
“Huh?” I was startled, but followed the billowing paper.
He guided me to a back room. “We have a place set up just for you to fill this out.” They had a place just for me. I liked the feeling the idea brought with it. I settled into the chair that the usher pushed my way. I was certain that there was laughter coming from somewhere behind the wall, but past it off as a conversation with another member of the congregation.
APPLICATION FOR MEMBERSHIP. The billowing paper again caught my attention. I looked at the paper the usher was holding. I could make out the words even from this distance. “Do you mean I need to apply to your church?” The memory of my first job interview swept into my mind – sweaty palms and shaking resume not excluded.
“No. It is not like that. We just like to know more about you when you join. That way we can make sure we get you plugged in to the right place.” He jiggled the paper a little, and I reached out for my chance to become a part of it all.
NAME, ADDRESS, PHONE NUMBER, DATE OF BIRTH. It all seemed harmless. I glanced up at the usher and thought I noticed him in the corner dancing a jig of excitement - he’d hooked one. Then I noticed him still by my side and realized it was just a mirage, or a dream, and I returned my attention to the paper.
HOBBIES, INTERESTS, GIFTS. I guess this kind of information could help them find a place for me. I scribbled down a few of my favorites. The usher was grinning like a possum. Although I’m not completely sure how they do that.
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND, SPIRITUAL BACKGROUND. I was stumped. I knew where I had attended school, although I was not sure what it mattered. It was the spiritual background that had me concerned. The usher sensed my trepidation and was quick to guide me through this rough point. “That is nothing’. It helps us understand how to help you if we know where you have gone to church in the past.”
“Oh.” I nodded. “I guess that does make sense.” There was that laughter again. The usher tapped on the paper to focus my attention down, and I obliged.
EMPLOYER, WORK PHONE, SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER. He could see my anxiety before I had spoken a word. He tapped the paper at the line I was reading. “That is for your benefit. This ways, the accountant has a record of what you tithe, the percentage of your income, and he can have the tax papers ready faster. I heard more laughter, and this time I looked around. The usher seemed oblivious on purpose. I decided to read on before doing anymore writing.
SHIRT SIZE, PANT SIZE, SHOE SIZE. I shook my head. “That is for the uniform - for the choir of course.” His grin only worked to make my hair stand on end.
EYE COLOR, HAIR COLOR, WEIGHT. “Is this a misprint?” I was pointing to the weight portion of the list. It all seemed to be getting a bit Stepford for me. I looked over my shoulder, but the coast seemed clear.
“Oh no, that bit of information helps protect the entire congregation. You see, this church is built on a faulty foundation. In order to keep it from falling in we have to evenly distribute the people. We need to know your weight in order to do that.”
I watched the usher for a moment, but he was serious. This was more in depth than I wanted to get into at the moment. “Um, I think I will just take this home with me for now.” I folded the form and put it in my purse. “I do not want to rush things.” I stood up. His look seemed to crush in on itself. It was not going to happen this time and he knew it.
“No, you should fill it out now, really," his heart was not in the plea and he sighed. He gazed longingly at my purse and the now tucked away application as he walked me to the door. He noticed another new couple out of the corner of his eye – two for one – and I was no more than a story in the back of his mind about the one that got away.
Your turn: you get an application in an unusual place - tell your story of the circumstances. Post your story on this page or post on your own blog and come back here to let us know that you are writing so we can check it out.