The green flower fridge
April 18, 2011
by Rev. Richard Flynn, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Dela

It all began when the chair of the trustees at a previous church in Ohio, Bob, decided to quit taking his medications for hyper-activity. Everything was fine for a few days, but soon, his more manic side began to take hold.

He decided that the church kitchen needed a thorough cleaning. This is a good thing under normal circumstances, but you have to be careful messing with the stuff in the kitchen, where the “ladies” of the church rule supreme.

We had three refrigerators, one of which was dedicated to keeping the Sunday morning alter flowers cool and preserved. Someone had figured out that if we stored them in a refrigerator, we could get at least three weeks service out of each arrangement, instead of the usual two.

A restaurant owner had also offered the church a small, soft-serve ice cream maker, when he replaced it with a more modern three-flavor model at his shop. The donated unit had a single spigot and it soon became a hit with the youth of the church (who would fire it up at the drop of a hat), and with everyone at potluck suppers. Problem was, there was not a perfect niche in the kitchen to put the machine, so it sat out in everyone’s way.

That is until Bob, in his agitated state, figured out a “solution.” He moved the small green flower refrigerator into the furnace room, as it was only opened and closed one day of the week. The ice cream maker slid nicely into the slot previously occupied by the green fridge. Problem solved. Or so it appeared.

The first to notice was Ruth, a hard-working older gal, whose late husband, David, had donated the refrigerator from a rental property he owned. Ruth was the church’s largest financial contributor and a good and faithful worker in the church. When shown the new location of the green fridge in the furnace room, she seemed less than thrilled that her family’s donation was so far out of sight. But she could not quite yet put into words why the new location was not appropriate.

Leave that to Leon and Nancy. Leon and Nancy were retired and had developed a huge garden on their property. In the fall, they sold delicious sweet corn and great pumpkins. Leon had paid his way through college selling gladiola stalks. Leon was nationally known for his “Glads,” and raised close to 10,000 on his little hobby farm.

In the summer, Leon and Nancy donated dozens of Glads to the church for worship decorations. After services each week, members could take the stalks home to enjoy in their home. Everyone loved the flowers and looked forward to them.

Well, Leon had “bad feet,” having suffered through a half- dozen operations, none of which eased his painful gait. Leon and Nancy complained that the new location of the flower fridge was difficult for them. They had to carry the heavy buckets of water with dozens of Glad stalks another 50 or 60 feet. Not an easy task for gimpy and grumpy ol’ Leon.

Plus, the furnace room was narrow, making switching out the buckets of Glads a bit more of a chore, so they said. Nancy informed us that if we were to expect the free Glads, we would have to move the fridge back to its original location, so Leon would not have to limp so far and they would have more room to maneuver the 5-gallon buckets.

Ruth was quick to support their cause.

Bob was offended because it was “impossible” to get anything done at the church. Nobody was willing to change a thing.

All this played out over a period of six months at council meetings, taking an average of 30 to 60 minutes of the two-hour meetings.

At meeting one, Bob proudly announced his rearrangement of the kitchen. Most council members were silent on the subject, but appreciated Bob for his energy and commitment. “Had the council approved his relocating the green flower fridge?” someone asked. Had Bob “consulted” with the “ladies?” No one had an answer. More to the point, everyone was afraid to answer.

Meeting two: Ruth reminded us that David had donated the fridge specifically for the preservation of the flowers and she was worried if its placement in the furnace room would still allow it to accomplish this purpose, given Leon and Nancy’s concerns.

Meeting three: More discussion about the pros and cons of the new arrangement of the refrigerator and ice cream machine. Those who used the ice cream machine thought it was an excellent use of space, and complaints about the machine always being in the way had ceased. Since the flower fridge was never used for food anyway, the furnace room would work just as fine, in their estimation. Ruth didn’t think the ice cream maker was as attractive as the fridge, nor as important. It looked “out of place,” she mused.

Meeting four: Leon and Nancy announced that the Glads were now in season. Perhaps the fridge should be moved back into the kitchen for the summer? Leon and Nancy finally agreed to give it a try with the fridge in the furnace room.

Meeting five: Leon and Nancy delivered their ultimatum on the difficulties with the new location. Ruth understood completely. Bob fussed and fumed and offered to come carry the flowers the extra 50 feet for Leon. No decision made.

Meeting six: Some unknown person, in the middle of the night, had moved the flower fridge back to its original position and the ice cream maker back into the middle of the kitchen work flow. Bob brought a neatly typed letter of resignation to the council. His resignation was reluctantly accepted with no discussion.

A motion was made and properly seconded to leave the three refrigerators in their current locations, not to be moved again without prior council approval. The vote was unanimous.

Soon afterward, Bob’s wife convinced him to go back on his meds, to everyone’s relief, as he had begun to talk about knocking out a wall in the nursery for a new picture window. “To let more light in,” he said.

Personally, a little more light in the church sounds like a good thing to me. Just sayin’ . . .