I don't know how long he had been at the church when the members noticed. I'm certain he must have been on his best behavior for at least a few months.
Some members think that the first time they noticed was the night he failed to show up for a committee. The next day he explained to a member that he had met a friend who had invited him to a community activity. "I knew you could carry on without me," he said with a disarming smile.
When he missed the first prayer meeting is a matter of dispute. Some say one day and some another. But all agree that he failed to show up a number of times. Not that he ever failed to provide for a speaker; it was just that, well, people kind of expect the pastor to be at prayer meeting. A member recalls one explanation: " 'A little job I had to get done at home,' he said. 'It wasn't much, but it was bugging the wife.'"
Then it was a Sunday evening he missed. The members do remember that date, because just the week before, he had spoken on the brotherhood of believers and the necessity of Christian fellowship—"so much the more as you see the day approaching," he had quoted. "The fact is," he explained to a member, "I wasn't on the program, and since the whole family was at home for once, I decided to take time out with them. And I was really tired and probably wouldn't have gotten much out of the service anyway."
Probably all this would have been for given if it hadn't been for the morning he arrived ten minutes late far the church service. And that morning he was to be the speaker. He didn't give any explanation just marched up the aisle to the front and went on as if nothing had happened. Be fore long he was late more often than not. It got so you could almost count on his walking in with the other latecomers. When a deacon ventured to speak to him about it, he just said he had gotten into the habit of starting late and it was hard to kick the habit.
The whole thing came to a head the morning he didn't show up for the service at all. On the spur of the moment, members learned later, he had decided to go for a drive, since the fall colors were so beautiful. "Not many more nice days left," he said. "And I thought I'd not be missed, since I met so many members on the way."
Well, it was then that the church board met, talked over what it meant to be a minister in their church, and decided to get a dependable minister.
"He doesn't even know what membership in the church means," said one board member. "He doesn't realize the importance of the church," said another.
The secretary summed it all up in the minutes of the meeting, after the vote to dismiss him had been passed.
"It was clear he cannot be a minister here if he insists on acting just like the rest of the members ..."