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Commentator: Did You Get the Message?

By Gary Schindler

Buffalo, NY – It was a really important special church meeting. It was to take place in just a few days. As the pastor, I knew that everyone on the committee needed to be there, or at least by contacted so that they would know the meeting was happening.

I immediately put together a thoughtful and finely crafted communication and e-mailed everyone. Well, not everyone, because some people on the committee don't have e-mail. And some who have e-mail don't check it often, sometimes not for weeks.

So I put the notice on the church website, but how could I know if anyone looked?

I sent out postcards, but some of the members live in the next county and it can take days for mail to arrive. Besides, a post card can get lost and thrown away with all those "urgent" bulk mail solicitations and sales catalogs.

Just to be safe, I decided to call everyone. I could at least leave a message on the answer machine. Or voice mail. Or they would see my number on their caller I.D. and call back. Maybe they will, if the right person checks the message or number and it isn't deleted. Of course, and how annoying is this, some folks don't even have an answer machine! I had to keep trying and trying. Or worst of all someone answers, but it's not the person I want and then I have to trust that they really do have a pen and paper and are really taking down the message and will actually give it to the person for whom it is intended! The receiving of phone message via liver person can be rather hit and miss at my house.

Or was I supposed to use the cell phone number? Then I got the dreaded, "The person you called is not available at this time" message.

I even thought about stopping by peoples houses, but this whole operation was taking way too much time. Besides, no one ever seems to be home nowadays. They are out on the road somewhere, sending pictures from their mobile phones or mailing something they've sold on E-Bay, or taking little Johnny to soccer.

After several hours of this, I felt exhausted. I took a moment to reflect on the plethora of technological options in our astounding age of instant communication. How can I contact you, let me count the ways. I was sure everyone had been covered, 2, 3 even 4 times. I would skip sending out faxes.

The few short days passed, the meeting came and went. Several people weren't there. A few days after the meeting, I ran into one of the absentees. "Was there a meeting?" she said, "I didn't hear about it."

Next time, I think I'll just send a post card and pray. God will get the message. Right?

Listener-Commentator Gary Schindler is pastor of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Springville.