Vol.V No.XI Pg.4
January 1969

Church Punch Bowl

Robert F. Turner

In a certain community a group of neighbors got together for a purely social event, Someone went across town and borrowed a large punch bowl from which to serve a cooling pink lemonade. Later, when a daughter became a bride, the punch bowl was again borrowed, for the reception. A few more parties — with the borrow, take home problems — and some one hit upon the idea of chipping in for a community punch bowl, property of all.

The church had nothing to do with the matter, but since many of the social group were members of the same congregation some one suggested the punch bowl be left at the church building, accessible to any and all. An out-of-the-way storage spot in the basement was found, and for years the bowl was carried in and out, serving well its innocent place in the social affairs of the neighborhood.

No one knows who first called it the church punch bowl, but such a natural was bound to come. Of course many knew better, and repeated corrections were made, but the error persisted. Even church members, who had not been in on the original purchase, thought the bowl was part of the church property (as the chairs, song books, and communion service). Some approved the idea, others doubted the wisdom of such a course, and a few made a mental note of this proof of digression which they would hurl against the elders when the right moment arrived.

It is not hard for me to believe that the time could come when some would charge the elders with social drinking because of this church punch bowl in the basement. That would be no problem for those who can make a sleep in out of the Arlington Bible study of current issues. It is equally possible that, when the elders realized the misunderstandings that were arising, and requested the removal of the punch bowl from the church building, some would charge them with believing the building was holy or sacred.

Hind-sight tells us the bowl should never have been left in the church building in the first place. Foresight is not always so clear. Many who think they have such marvelous foresight today (they would never allow a punch bowl in the building) are actually using accumulated hindsight that comes from our current social-gospel problems. They may be actively engaged in a practice now, that twenty years from now will appear extremely dangerous.

The most obvious lessons from this church punch bowl illustration are (a) the importance of little things Obsta Principiis — resist the beginnings. The little foxes that spoil the vineyards. (S.of S. 2:l5) We should also learn (b) that announcing This is NOT a church affair does not greatly weaken the impact of association. Plan a social event in the business meeting, announce it from the pulpit or in the bulletin, have it on the church property. and spend twenty minutes telling the people it IS NOT a church affair. You will not get it across to some now — and your explanation will weaken with time. We are children; Father help us grow up!