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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

On Gorillas and Flamingos

The church is big enough for both gorilla and flamingo fans.

In late August Mrs. McKinley and I took our 3 ½ year old granddaughter to the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul.  It was Eliza’s first visit, but she had heard about the place from her older brother.

From the beginning our agendas were not in perfect harmony.  As veteran zoo-goers, Pat and I were excited to show Eliza the various animals on display: the gorillas, the lions, the giraffes, the zebras, the bison, etc.; and to take her to the Sparky the Seal show.  These were our priorities.

Eliza, on the other hand, was interested in the food carts and the rides at Como Town.  In spite of the best efforts of the clan to rear her in a non-sexist way, Eliza is 110% girl.  She was not much interested in the gorilla show, but she couldn’t stop talking about the sun dress another little girl had on.  Her favorite animals were the flamingos.  Pink, you see, is Eliza’s favorite color, and flamingos are pink.  She also admired their ability to stand on one leg.

So we had our agendas and she had hers.  We are bigger, stronger, and responsible, so our agenda won out most of the time.  We never did visit the rides.  On the other hand, neither did we go inside the monkey house, which Eliza found completely unappealing.  And we did spend more time than I would have normally looking at the flamingos.  Eliza was not much inclined to visit the conservatory, but when we were inside she loved some of the big flowers (especially, of course, the pink ones) and flopped on her stomach to admire the koi in the North Garden.  In short, a good time was had by all.

New internships are now rolling along.  Supervisors have agendas for arriving interns based on past experience.  Interns come with their own agendas, based on what they have heard and what they have longed to look into in a real live congregation.  Sometimes those agendas collide.  The simple truth is that supervisors have power in this relationship, so their agendas win out most of the time.  But good supervisors, gifted with inquisitive interns, learn to compromise and occasionally let the intern take the lead.  In the end, supervisors see some things through the eyes of the intern, and interns see some things through the eyes of the supervisor, and a good time is had by all.

The church is big enough for both gorilla and flamingo fans.

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