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The Doughnut War

December 19, 2012

(Note:  The following story, though basically true, has been modified slightly to disguise the identity of those involved.  No essential facts were changed.)

There was seldom a young family who needed church more.  The young mother and her two children clung to their church family after the husband/father died of cancer in his 30s.  The young woman, alone with children 8 and 5, found comfort and solace in the love of the people of God…until the doughnut war started.

The church, more than 125 years old, had recently adapted to a common trend in churches and added coffee and refreshments before Sunday School and between Sunday School and church.  There had been some dissention.  Long-time members who had no problem with potluck suppers questioned whether giving coffee and doughnuts before the worship service was contrary to an “attitude of worship.”  The idea passed however and, for more than a year, there were no problems.

Then, just a few weeks ago, just before the start of worship, the war started.  The eight-year-old son who had lost his father walked into the worship sanctuary still munching a half-eaten doughnut.  He was stopped by an usher and told to step back outside and finish the doughnut before coming in.  According to the usher, who was ten times older than the boy, he was concerned both about crumbs on the carpet and the fact that eating in church was “offensive to God.”

The child, being a mischievous lad, promptly stuffed the entire doughnut into his cheeks and grinned.  The usher was offended and took the boy by the arm to find his mother.  Other parishioners stepped in, some supporting the usher, some the child.  Tempers got a little testy.  By the time the mother showed up the offending doughnut had been safely swallowed.

As in most wars however, truces are hard to come by.  The two sides wanted the other to admit they were wrong.  As neither was willing to do so the church resorted to a long-standing tradition of American churches, they decided to draft a policy on whether or not doughnuts, and presumably other refreshments, will be allowed in the sanctuary.  That policy will be ready soon, or at least I hope so.  In the meantime, the broader lesson is clear.  We Christians need to choose our wars, particularly with each other, with more care.

How important is it to win the point we now battle over?

Do I fight any wars that are really just as ineffective and hurtful as the doughnut war?

How much grace am I willing to show to an eight-year-old who has lost his father?

Or to an eighty-year-old who feels the loss of comforting old traditions?

I wonder what I would have said or done had I been there at the time the doughnut war began.  Would I have taken a side?  Would I have seen that neither the child nor the usher was, at heart, looking for war?  What would you have done?

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