Moving into my efficiency apartment in Connersville has been an exciting adventure of stocking up on hazelnut coffee, and living outside my comfort zone through the selection of just the right bed-in-a-bag which matches the white/off-white color selection that I got to make for the walls. But, by far, the most complex issue has been a difficulty in securing a library card! I expected to need a valid driver’s license and perhaps even a local bill proving residency in the county. Since my landlord pays all the utilities, I really didn’t have a local bill. (I did take the new church pictorial directory with my name on the front and picture inside saying that I am who I say and serve as the pastor.) Even a letter sent by me to me at church was not enough to secure a library card since the library doesn’t need proof of employment, but proof of residency! You might say, “Why don’t you just send a letter to yourself at your apartment?” Since no one lives in the house downstairs and I’m not sure there is a mailbox for the apartment or where it is, that plan has yet to be explored! I even took in a copy of the contract signed for the apartment but it didn’t have the address on the contract. (Again, no proof that I live in the county.) My pleas of, “But I’m the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Connersville” made little impact with those whose rules for everyone say, “You must be a county resident in order to be granted a library card! We have people move in and out of the county all the time with books, tapes, CD’s, DVD’s yet unreturned!”
“But I’m the pastor of…” “I’m sorry sir. A rule is a rule.”
In defense of the library, they do a wonderful service to 1000’s of people. They are charged with safe-keeping of a valuable inventory. They provide education and enjoyment to all ages. They are like many others in the community such as schools, the hospital, nursing homes and even our church that serve people on a daily and weekly basis. Each of those organizations have rules by which they operate and without which they could not function.
Many of our rules are written and many others are not. “Take leftover food out of the refrigerator” is a written rule while “Don’t run down the center aisle at church during worship” is an unwritten rule. Some of our rules were added at a specific time to meet specific circumstances. Could it be at times that our rules grow to be larger and more important than the people we serve? Is it possible that sometimes, our rules actually prohibit us from serving the people that our organizations were created to serve? I think that we need to constantly reaccess our rules to make sure they are still in line with our mission – the mission of bringing the love of Christ to a broken and sinful world. Jesus dealt with people concerned about the rules of what could be done/not done on the Sabbath. His response was that their rules were getting in the way of why the Sabbath was created in the first place. Whether or not I get a library card is inconsequential. Whether or not the rules of our church and other community organizations, written or not, keep us isolated from people or actually allow us to serve them more effectively is the more important issue. I would be interested in how you see it…