The Rock Hill Community
Church is a haven for agitators. Agitating is so much a part of church life
that no one particularly notices any more. There are several groups and cliques
within the church, and observing some of them is illustrative of important
techniques and methods.


Rev. O’Connor’s
sermon is especially lively for a Sunday in February. He moves quickly through
social responsibility and the importance of brotherly love, right past helping
one’s neighbor and ministering to the needy, and into his point for the day.


“The real
failing, my friends, is not to share in the pain and tribulations of our
brothers and sisters. But it is worse to share in that pain and tribulation and
then to elevate ourselves above the hurting by using the pain as a means of
self-aggrandizement.”


In an unusual
gesture of consideration for those gathered to listen, Rev. O’Connor goes on to
explain:


“I am talking
about the gossips and busybodies, the talebearers and rumormongers. They are
among us. Here, I do not exclude myself. I refer to those who fall to the low
level of trying to seem in the know or important. This happens by taking
pleasure in talking about or listening to conversations about the difficulties
of others. Do we do this to be better able to lend a hand? Sadly the answer is
No. We do this to fill our own needs for attention and approval.”


During the coffee
hour after church, the small groups and cliques assemble in the social room.
There are a few who mingle but most take their usual places near their usual
companions. A scattering of conversations can be overheard.


At a corner table,
the preacher is the topic for the morning. “You should go to one of his
so-called board meetings. All they do is gossip and waste time. If I were in
charge, you can bet things would run better around here. We would take care of
business and not spend all our time just sitting around getting nothing
done.”


In a small group
toward the back of the social room, things are getting a little emotional. A
teacher has just said, “I think I’m going to give up teaching one of these
days. It’s getting to where the children just have no respect. It was all right
but the new ones in the class just add to my problems. I don’t know what
happened to the traditional family.”


The group is
sympathetic except for one young mother at the fringe. Abruptly, she sets down
her coffee cup and rushes away.


The teacher says,
“What got into her? She and her children have only been coming here for a
couple of weeks, so I don’t know her very well. Do any of you know her well
enough to go see what she is upset about?”


The preacher is
unaware of most of what is going on around the room. He is saying to an
extremely animated man, “Melvin, I agree there is a problem. It may not be
as bad as you think.”


Not to be
appeased, Melvin presses his point. “I don’t think we should just brush
this off as a minor problem. The next thing you know, the parents will be up in
arms and then the church itself may be in trouble. If we lose members over
this, everything we’ve worked for will be in jeopardy.”


Still trying, Rev.
O’Connor says, “It’s true Carolyn should not have said that to the child,
if she said it. I will talk with her about what happened.”


Just at the moment
Rev. O’Connor thinks he has managed to get away from Melvin without getting him
more upset, another agitator steps up. “I couldn’t help hearing what
Melvin said to you, Reverend. I don’t want any bad feelings and wouldn’t upset
anyone for the world. I just have to say this. Carolyn is having family
problems and she deserves our support.”


It is about twenty
minutes later when the preacher feels a tug on his sleeve. As he turns, he
hears, “I think you better talk with Carolyn. I think she has a right to
hear it to her face. She is my best friend and I’m going to stand by her.”


Looking directly
at Carolyn, Rev. O’Connor says, “I did not say anything about you to
Melvin except you and I would talk. I would like to talk soon except this is
not a good time or place. How about tomorrow sometime?”


With obvious
sincerity, the friend says, “Carolyn does not need this hanging over her
head.” Turning to Carolyn, she says, “You are not going to let him
put you off, are you?”


Unsure what to
say, Carolyn says to the preacher, “So, what did Melvin say about
me?”


As the preacher
fumbles with what to say to Carolyn, the agitator says, “I can see this is
getting a little personal. If the two of you don’t mind, I will be headed home.
I have a hungry family to feed. I will call you later Carolyn.”