Jessica read the email aloud to her husband Steve. “It is with regret to inform you that your application for the Sunday School teaching position with the junior high-school girls has been rejected.”
“Can you believe that?” A crestfallen Jessica sighed.
“I’m sorry,” Steve, replied. I couldn’t talk to you about it until you were notified. I’ve tried to find out why. Oh, and Mrs. Watkins will take over the class next Sunday.” He hung his head.
“But Steve, Mrs. Watkins is a cranky old woman who speaks appallingly to those girls. There’s got to be a reason why they rejected me.”
“I’m sorry,” he repeated. “Not even Pastor Jerry could give me an explanation.”
Jessica picked up the phone. “Well, let’s see what he has to say to me.” She dialled the number for the church office.
Later that day Jessica sat outside the Pastor’s office. Her watch ticked over to 3.04pm just as the office door opened. Mrs. Watkins shook Pastor Jerry’s hand and said her goodbyes. The two women’s eyes met. A sense of pending doom swept over Jessica when the older woman crossed the room to avoid the younger.
“Come in, Jessica,” the Pastor said in his slow drawl. “What can I do for you?”
Jessica cleared her throat. “I want to know why I was rejected for the teaching position.”
It felt like an eternity had passed before he spoke, and it seemed to Jessica that the pastor was trying to out stare her.
He leaned back in his chair. “I had hoped that this would be left alone—by you and Steve.”
“I have all the right qualifications, Pastor Jerry. I bring four years’ experience with me, proven moral values, and a history that I work well with girls this age.”
Pastor Jerry moved all the way forward to his desk. “Jessica, it is well-known among our congregation that your ‘moral values’ are not what we would call ‘a good example for the girls’”. His voice changed to a harsh whisper. “In fact, if it wasn’t for me, Steve would have been removed from the leadership team, despite his previous eight years of Christian ethics on the team.”
Jessica felt cold and sick. She struggled to reply. “I beg your pardon?”
“It’s no secret that you stayed at least two nights with Steve." He looked briefly at the ceiling. "Let's see, it was about a month before your wedding.” Pastor Jerry’s eyes stayed focused on Jessica’s without blinking. “And please, don’t try and deny it. Your car was seen outside his apartment building by three of my most trustworthy elders.”
Jessica’s mind raced and she shivered involuntarily. “You had them spy on us?”
“This meeting is over, Jessica.” The pastor stood, walked to the door, and had it open before Jessica realized she was expected to leave.
Steve met Jessica at the front door of their little apartment that he had bought six years earlier after an automobile accident had killed his first wife. Jessica loved his little abode and together they made it their home, but she had never entered it until their wedding night. They had always tried to set an example.
“What is it?” Steve asked. “You look sick.”
“I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Jessica?” Steve took her hand. Please, tell me what happened.”
Slowly, as if waking from a bad dream, Jessica repeated the conversation she had with their senior pastor.
“What?” Steve paced the room angrily.
“Why would he say a thing like that?”
“I been trying to figure that out all the way home,” a tearful Jessica whispered.
Steve stopped pacing. “Oh, dear God, help us.” He let himself drop onto the sofa. “It was your mother’s funeral.”
“What do you mean? I could only manage to secure the one plane ticket.” Jessica paused to recall. Her eyes widened. “One of the headlights wasn’t working on my Saab and you drove me to the airport. You brought the Saab back here so you could work on it while I was away.” Jessica stared at her husband through her tears. “My car was parked here the whole week!”
Steve kissed her. “Everything will be all right. Wait here.”
Two hours later Steve returned with a letter of apology signed by every member of the leadership team, including Pastor Jerry. It would be read to the congregation on Sunday morning; the last service Steve and Jessica would attend at ‘Christian Faith Church’ on Chapel Road.
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