Jean Harris of Smyrna recently found a bunch of her painkillers missing. After no one she accused 'fessed up, she put up a camera to see who was coming in and out of her home.
The camera seems to have caught her pastor, Rickey Alan Reed of the First Free Methodist Church that Harris had attended for 55 years, picking her lock.
This is obviously a serious matter. Anybody running around stealing painkillers from their friends and acquaintances is in a bad place that, if the allegations against Reverend Reed turn out to be true, I hope he gets the help he needs to come back from.
But Lord Almighty, people, I laughed so hard when I read Sgt. Bobby Gibson, the Smyrna Police Department Public Information Officer, give his explanation for how this could happen.
“From what we understand, he knew when people would be at the church,” Gibson said. “That’s when he would go.”
"From what we understand, he knew when people would be at the church"?! Is this really a "from what we understand" circumstance? He's the pastor of the church. He knows when people are going to be there. Shoot, I was merely raised in a parsonage, and if I were going to rob Methodists, I'd do it on Sunday morning or Wednesday evening.
No, the real question here is how did Reverend Reed manage to develop such strong lay leadership in his church that he could be off allegedly robbing parishioners while they were at church and no one thought his absence was strange?
I called my dad, a retired Methodist minister, and asked him to take all of the money out of his pockets while answering that very question (a little Free Methodist vs. United Methodist humor for you, folks).
"Come on, Betsy," he said. "Use your brain. The minister only has to be there for worship. He doesn't go to every single meeting at the church. Please, there's not a minister alive — male or female — who goes to the women's groups' meetings. We learn when they are and stay out of the church."
So there you go. Access to the church calendar and a culture of pastors disappearing when the women are meeting, nothing special.
But I tell you, if it turns out that he was robbing parishioners during worship, he may have a second career — once he's done his time and gotten clean — as a consultant to other ministers who have a hard time letting go of leading every single thing at the church.