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Just to announce it provoked mixed reactions. A majority displayed "couldn't-care-less" attitudes and never attended. Others carefully marked it on their calendars as the occasion to exercise Godgiven rights to free speech. The elders and pastoral staff approached it with all the apprehensions of a bomb squad. The rest came for the fireworks.

The pattern was predictable: after reporting on "all the wonderful things God did for us last year," a new budget was presented for discussion and adoption. The tension could be sensed, felt, and I almost tasted as the pace of questions quickened about allocations for the church school, missions support, the music budget, manse repairs, and staff salaries. If a massive explosion didn't occur during the meeting, smaller eruptions took place afterward in the corridors, parking lots, and homes across the community. The end result was always the same: the motion to adopt the budget was carried by a simple majority, but the fallout of misunderstandings, ...

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