In a little Rhode Island mill town, years ago, as a young minister assigned to my first church, I found the
congregation split down the middle by one of those feuds that sometimes start with two stubborn contestants
and wind up with everyone taking sides.
The leader of one faction was an irresistible force named Mrs. Follett.
The head of the other was an immovable object named Mrs. Lloyd.
Things reached the point where the two groups sat on opposite sides of the church, glaring across the aisle.
Drawing on my vast inexperience, I was all for calling on each of these ladies and pointing out their Christian
duty to stop hating each other.
But a member of the congregation, an old mill worker named Rowbottom, stopped me.
"It won't work," he said. "You'll just make things worse. A conductor of goodwill, that's what the pastor of a
church should be. Goodwill is stronger than ill will."
"But how does one transmit goodwill," I objected, "if there isn't any in the first place?"
Rowbottom tapped me earnestly on the shoulder. "Create some, my boy. Create some!" And he walked away.
I knew that hostility provokes hostility, that anger breeds more anger, and that the church was caught in this
As I pondered Rowbottom's words, it occurred to me that the converse might also be true.
If either of these two ladies could be induced to say something slightly pleasant about the other, perhaps the
downward spiral could be reversed.
In those days, full of zeal, I made a great many parish calls.
And since I weighed only about 130 pounds, the good ladies of the parish were forever offering me glasses of
milk and pieces of pie or cake "to keep me from blowing away."
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