“When I find myself in times of trouble…”—Paul McCartney


Years ago I heard an apocryphal story about church life that always made me snicker (even before I retired), so for some goofy reason I thought that I would share it with the few people that check out this blog (If I could remember from whom I heard it first I would give him credit, or blame, but it was decades ago). I will give you the Presbyterian version:

A pastor was called to a new church and on the day he arrived he received a phone call from the former pastor. The former pastor said, “I have prepared three envelopes and left them in your desk drawer numbered 1, 2, and 3. Do not open them until a crisis occurs, and they will guide you through the challenging time, but do not open them until you have to, and be sure to open them in order.” The “new kid on the block” thanked the old pastor for his help, and let him know how much he appreciated him caring enough to help.

For several months church life went smoothly for the new pastor, but eventually a crisis popped up. He was at his wits’ end, and decided it was time to open the first envelope. It said simply, “Blame me.” So he did. He blamed the former pastor, and sure enough, things settled down and the church was able to move beyond the trouble.

For the next 18 months things went well until he came to another seemingly insurmountable problem. He went to the desk drawer and pulled out envelope number two. It said simply, “Blame the ruling elders.” (Baptist version: “Blame the deacons.”) So, since it worked so well with the first envelope, he took the advice. He blamed the ruling elders and once again the crisis blew over.

At the beginning of his third year at the church a really big problem arose. With much hope the pastor went once again to his desk drawer to find guidance to help him in a time of great need. He opened the third envelope and read the following words, “Prepare three envelopes…”


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