Joanne Simpson sat on the edge of the pew in her beloved church. Never before had she experienced the least bit of distress inside the house of worship that influenced most of the people living in her tiny town – spiritually as well as socially. A nervous buzzing, like a hive of bees trapped inside a wall echoed off the wooden walls. Some parishioners whispered to each other and a few stared intently straight ahead.
Until today, entering the church had always given her the sensation of just having been baptized in cool, sparkling water, a feeling that had started when she was only eleven and never went away. That’s why Joanne insisted that her eleven-year old daughter, Tina, attend services with her. She wanted her to have the same experience, but according to Tina it hadn’t happened as yet. Joanne had faith.
Every Sunday the minister’s simple and direct sermon brimmed with love and caring. They always touched Joanne deeply, a reminder that her fellow parishioners were like family. Her religion provided sustenance for the struggles of a single parent facing everyday life. She barely kept her head above water.
The minister, Reverend Henry Lukuns, cleared his throat. “I beg each and every one of you to welcome our new member, James Anderson, when he comes to church next Sunday. We are all about forgiveness and love. Jesus welcomed sinners and good people alike, bringing those on the wrong path into his fold. We must do the same. James Anderson has paid the price to society by serving a long jail term, and is declared reformed by the system.” The minister bowed his head. Then he looked up.