red footbrigde over lily pads

Many years ago a couple came seeking a wedding at the church I was serving. I had worked with the young man as his occupation crossed paths with mine. The young woman did not know me, except by reputation. They had grown up in nearby villages to the one where I lived and served.

When a couple had no experience in the church which they wanted to host their wedding, I usually asked, “Why do you want to hold your wedding here?” In this case I knew the church where she and her family had participated. It was a recent merger of two friendly congregations, who had built a beautiful new building with convenient facilities, all on accessible ground level, instead of “my” traditional Gothic  two-story building with its many steps. So I asked my question.

The bride-to-be paused momentarily, as if uncomfortable, dropping her eyes. The groom came to the rescue, saying that they planned to move to this community and expected to take part in this church, where they would make their home. She seemed to recover her composure quickly, and the rest of our conversations moved smoothly over many appropriate thoughts about marriage and the wedding service itself.

Still I puzzled about that moment and what it meant.

I knew her minister; in fact, he and I gathered with other ministers of our affiliated denominations monthly in conversation. He was popular due to the successful growth of his congregation during and after their reorganization and building program and also due to his outgoing and attractive personality. When we next met, I let him know that the couple had come to me to prepare for their wedding, and that they had shared their plans to move. He did not respond visibly. To my mind, he seemed unusually uninterested in what they were doing or planned to do.

A year later, several of the young women of his church, several of them being juveniles, accused him of sexual misconduct. He was arrested and held in jail for a few days, much to the embarrassment of his wife and children. He submitted his resignation, surrendered his credentials as a minister, and eventually moved to a distant community and took up another occupation, selling insurance. The case against him fell apart as the women, one by one, decided not to go through the visible public process of a trial.