Chapter Three

In which Bill Hill has a meeting with the new pastor

In fact, Bill Hill did not call Claire the next day or the day after that. Bill waited an entire week before making an appointment, going on the assumption that Claire needed a little St. Rahab experience under her belt before presenting her with his ideas of how she should do her work.

He called the Monday after her second Sunday, and they agreed to meet on Tuesday afternoon at 1:00, as the time interfered neither with Claire’s Tuesday morning staff meeting nor Bill’s 4:00 round of golf.

At 1:00 o’clock on the dot, Trystene, the secretary, stuck her head in Claire’s office. “Reverend Grayson, Bill Hill is here to see you. Should I tell him you’re busy?”

“No, thank you, Trystene. We made this appointment. And please call me Claire.”

“Alright, Pastor Claire. I’ll send him right in.”

Trystene Wood had been the secretary at St. Rahab’s for three years. Like Claire, she was a single mom. Her son Robbie had finished high school although he was still around, trying to find himself but being generally helpful to his mother, or so he thought.

On her first day in the office, Claire asked Trystene about her unusual name. “Oh, I get that all the time,” she answered. “My mother loved the story of Tristan and Isolde, and my father had his heart set on naming his first daughter Kathleen, so they compromised and called me Trystene. No one is every really sure how to pronounce it, but no one ever forgets me either.”

So far Trystene appeared to be quite competent at her work. She showed up five minutes before the office opened and stayed at least five minutes after it closed. She knew what to do when church members called – some needed to talk, some needed to complain, some just needed something copied, and she managed all of that. She and the sexton Bill Carr seemed a little wary of each other, and Claire wasn’t sure just what that was about, but it didn’t appear to be interfering with either’s work.

Claire didn’t know the details of Trystene’s divorce and that was fine. Claire decided that Trystene’s relationship with Robbie was none of her business, although she hoped the young man wasn’t draining his mother’s few resources. He’d stopped twice the last week, but seemed polite enough. And he was up before noon, which was more than Claire could say about her own kid. It would be good when school started.

There was a cute little flirtation between Trystene and Frank, the copier repair man. Claire would make it a point to jam the machine as often as possible.




Claire stood up as Bill came in. She motioned to one of the chairs by the window. “Have a seat, Bill.”

“Thank you, Claire. How are you today?”

“Just fine. I made it through my first two Sundays without any disasters, so I’m considering that a win.”

“Have you had disasters in your first two Sundays before?”

It was at this point Claire realized that she and Bill Hill had differing opinions about what was funny and lighthearted. Claire wasn’t sure if Bill thought anything was funny or lighthearted. She also realized that her usual tricks of charm and light self-deprecation weren’t going to work on Bill. Best be plainspoken and serious.

“So what can I help you with today, Bill?”

“Claire, I have been a member of this congregation for fifty-seven years. I love this church. It’s where Gladys and I met, back when we both sang in the choir. We got married here. Our daughters were baptized here, and went to Sunday School, and got confirmed here. One of them was married here. Gladys and I have served on just about every committee and have done just about every thing except be the treasurer. St. Rahab’s receives the largest portion of our charitable giving. We both plan to have our memorial services here.”

“It sounds like this place means a great deal to you.”

“Yes, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. And here’s the thing: Glad and I have been here sixty years, and we have lived through seven pastors. We loved Pastor Dale. We liked Pastor Meg. We cried the day Pastor Peter said he was leaving. We barely made it through Pastor George. Pastor John Mark baptized our daughters. Pastor Henry was a friend. Dr. McIntyre married us.”

“You have quite a memory, Bill.”

“Of course I remember all those pastors – and the temporary and interim ones we had in between. I remember all those pastors and I can tell you which ones helped the church and which ones almost killed the church. And if there was a pastor I thought might kill the church, well, I did something about it.”

“I see.”

“Now Claire, I want you to succeed. I want you to be one of the pastors who helps this church, because I think a lot people are excited you’re here. And I want to help you help the church.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m not done yet. There are certain things that help this church succeed, and I’ve made a list, because no one else has the balls – excuse me – no one else has the guts to say things up front anymore. But I believe in being direct.”

“I can see that.”

“So as I said, I’ve made a list, and I’m not going to go over it now with you. I’ve typed it up, and it’s in this envelope, and you can read it at your leisure. But if I were you I wouldn’t wait too long. And when you’re done reading it, we can meet again and go over it. How does Thursday sound?”




Bill left and Claire sighed. She didn’t know whether to throw Bill out, kiss his ring, or write him off. So she decided to call on a few of the older homebound members. They were always good for a cup of tea and sweet conversation. Bill’s list could wait.