Monday, December 18, 2006

No Gifts? No Problem

AP--Ross Stanley, pastor of Living Waters Pentecostal Church in St. Louis, has been in this business for 22 years. He thought he had seen it all. Parishioner Randy Klugh, however, gave Stanley the surprise of his career. Recently, the pastor and elders of the church completed a process that confirmed that Klugh has no gift or grace of the Holy Spirit.

This appears to be the first confirmed instance in history of a church member being completely ungifted. The most recent suspected case was in 1952, but the 53-year-old man in Mississippi Springs, Florida was eventually found to possess the ability to whistle “Amazing Grace” through his nose, clearly a charismatic gift. Yet, because no previous person in the 2,000-year history of the Christian church had ever been found completely graceless, scholars assumed it was impossible.

Then along came Randy Klugh. The 47-year-old unemployed carpenter became a member of Living Waters in 1996. He participated in several spiritual gifts surveys in his first years of membership, but the results were inconclusive. Likewise, during worship services, Klugh showed no obvious gifts, such as speaking in tongues or the ability to run the church’s audio-visual equipment.

Pastor Stanley arrived at the church three years ago. Klugh’s case puzzled him, and he subjected the man to even more spiritual gifts inventories. Stanley even invited several visiting evangelists to interview Klugh, and still, there was no evidence of any gift.

Stanley and the elders engaged in a marathon 24-hour prayer session before they reached their painful conclusion: Randy Klugh was the first baptized Christian in history to be certified giftless. In a statement to the press, the leaders of the church said, “We remain certain of Mr. Klugh’s salvation, and accept that it is God’s will that he has not received a gift of the Holy Ghost. In the future, God may choose to bless Mr. Klugh, but it is not for us to unravel the mysteries of God.”

Ellard Howard, one of the leaders that examined Klugh, said, “We’re all perplexed by this, but none of us are particularly surprised that it was Randy. He’s one of the heavier hymnbooks in the rack, if you catch my drift.”

“I’m not going to give up on him,” said a hopeful Stanley. “Maybe he’ll get a gift someday. Not even the Apostle Paul got it right away.”

Klugh, though, is not disappointed at his fate. “I don’t mind,” he said. “It makes me special, doesn’t it? It’s like my spiritual gift is to have no gift. Maybe I can be an inspiration to others who don’t have gifts.”

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Putting the 'Pagan' Back in Christmas

Gerald Calvin, Staff Writer

“We love Jesus and we love Mithra,” said Kyle Long, pastor of Christ the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Clyde Park, Kansas. “For too long, Christmas has only been about the birth of Jesus. It’s time to change that.”

Long and his worship team have been concerned that many Christmas traditions are losing touch with their pagan roots. This season, they decided to initiate a campaign to restore the multiple reasons for the season, particularly its connections to the pagan gods Mithra and Saturn.

“In this time of Advent,” Long wrote in a pastoral letter to his parishioners, “we prepare for the return of the Son of God and the sun god.” Though a few members protested, most were pleased to learn the church would celebrate Saturnalia--a festival in honor of Saturn--on December 16, especially when it was announced that a beer garden would be included.

Worshippers who attend the midnight Christmas Eve service will experience an abundance of mistletoe. Sprigs of the greenery will be tied to rafters throughout the sanctuary. Kissing beneath the mistletoe is a tradition likely associated with Frigga, the Norse goddess of love. Long will preach his Christmas sermon about Frigga’s virtues and “may or may not” compare her to God’s love shown to humanity in the birth of Jesus.

In order to publicize Christ the Redeemer’s new Christmas emphasis, the church is running a massive advertising campaign. Radio ads encourage townspeople to “revel with us” at the Saturnalia. A large banner that reads “Wiccans Welcome” is draped across the front of the church. Church members were given bumper stickers for their cars that proclaim: Pagans Need Christmas, Too.

Though Clyde Park’s ministerial association is distancing itself from Long’s efforts, a local Wiccan group, Shamash Our Savior Wiccan Church, is praising the Lutherans. “This could usher in a new age of Wiccan-Christian dialogue,” said Sally Firebelly, a local witch. “Our relationship really suffered over the past few centuries when so many of our spiritual ancestors were burned at the stake.”

“Christmas is too wonderful to be hijacked by Christians. It’s time we shared,” said Long. Then, the Lutheran pastor grinned and said, “Wait until you see what we’re preparing for Easter!”