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Parsonage: Major Characters and
about life behind the scenes for an evangelical pastor's family: in the church,
the parsonage, the community.
© 1988, 1996 G. Edwin Lint
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James A. (Jim) Hogan -- Pastor of the Ashtabula (Ohio) Community Church for 25 years; candidate for an opening as senior pastor, and eventually becomes senior pastor of the much larger Wesley Evangelical Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania; early fifties.
Debra Hogan -- The pastor's wife; late forties.
Jessica (Jessi) Hogan -- 17-year old daughter of the Hogans.
Reuben (Ben) Hogan -- 6-year-old twin son of the Hogans; known for his riddles; hates to be asked about his ability to play golf.
Rachel (Shelly) Hogan -- Ben's twin.
Dave Court -- Church softball coach, Patricia's husband; defendant in a felony assault case which alleges he sexually-assaulted and seriously injured 2-year-old Tessa Stetson, whom he dearly loves as a daughter; mid twenties.
Patricia Court -- Dave Court's wife; director of Wesley Day Care; the Courts want a child but Patricia is having difficulty becoming pregnant.
Paul Donaldson -- Lawyer friend of Jim and Debra Hogan; counsel for the defense in the assault case against Dave Court. His business card reads CALL PAUL, plus phone and fax numbers, e-mail address, and sky-page number.
Jonathan King -- Jessi's red-haired friend and eventual fiancee.
Carla Stetson -- Tessa's mother; early thirties; begins as a friend of Debra Hogan and Patricia Court..
Sandy Simpson -- Jim Hogan's administrative assistant in the church office.
Tessa Stetson --
2-year-old victim in the sexual assault case against Dave Court; fond of playing
horsey with "Unca Dave" Court.
1. Dedication: As the story open, Dave and Patricia Court are presenting their new baby, Elizabeth Ann, to the Lord on a Sunday morning in an act of infant dedication. Tessa is thrilled to be named as baby Beth Ann's God-sister, and the official witness of this important event. Carla Stetson appears at the rear of the sanctuary and Jim fears more disruptions. Instead, Carla begins to walk down the aisle towards the altar. As Jim watches and prays, he is aware of a monumental spiritual struggle with the young woman at the epicenter. Little Tessa's eyes are huge with fear but she takes her cue from her Unca Dave. She joins her small voice with the mighty volume of prayer which is being lifted for Carla's deliverance. "Please Jesus, please help my Mommy." Years later, Beth Ann will ask Mommy and Daddy about all the tear drops on her Certification of Dedication. Dave and Patricia will be too choked with emotion to do a very good job of telling her why.
2. Interstate 80 East: Jim Hogan is driving across Pennsylvania in a driving snow storm to spend the weekend in Mechanicsburg. The church board of Wesley Evangelical Church has nominated Jim as senior pastor. There will be a congregation vote Sunday evening. Back home in Ashtabula, a pensive wife and a somewhat obstinate teenage daughter are not too sure they want to leave Ohio.
3. Mechanicsburg: Jim meets the staff at Wesley and learns about the physical plant.
4. Interview. The church board has arranged for Jim to participate in a large-group Saturday afternoon "interview" with members of the congregation asking questions and Jim giving extemporaneous answers.
5. First Sunday: This is a behind-the-scenes view of the morning service in a large evangelical church as Jim sees his prospective congregation in worship for the first time.
6. Beggars' Bonanza: This chapter is in didactic narrative style as Jim preaches his first sermon in Mechanicsburg -- from 2 Kings 6:24 -- 7:11.) "Why are we sitting here until we die? . . . We have wonderful news to tell and we're keeping our mouths shut!"
7. Moving: Jim doesn't get as strong a congregational vote as he expected, though the altars are lined with seekers in both morning services. For several days, he and Debra wrestle with the decision of what to do about the call. Eventually Debra and Jessi join with Jim in feeling God's clear leading to accept. The move from Ashtabula to Mechanicsburg is major because of having lived in the same old farm house, a.k.a parsonage, for twenty-five years; what a collection of garage-sale fodder.
8. First Day Of School: Jessi starts school in Mechanicsburg as a junior in March. She feels lost the first day, especially when a resource person in health class harasses her regarding her beliefs on sexual morality. But she takes her stand-- vocally and forcefully. Before the day is over, she gets a standing ovation from the class for the manner in which she has stated her beliefs, makes two new friends, and forms the nucleus of a Mechanicsburg chapter of the Ivory Club. (This is a support group for young people who believe in celibacy until marriage.)
9. Tournament: Jim helps Dave Court coach the church soft ball team in a regional tournament of church teams. This chapter ends with a play-by-play narration of the exciting end of the final game as Wesley wins the two-day tournament on a pinch-hit grand slam home run by the pastor. After the game, Dave's Louisville Slugger is missing.
10. Unca Dave: Dave drops in on Patricia's day care class and has a good time romping with Tessa and the other kids as they use him as their "horsey".
11. Cross: Jim gets a call from Ray Benson, a man he met during his question and answer session the first weekend he spent in Mechanicsburg. Benson has listened to a tape of Jim's "interview" with the congregation and wants him to get involved with CROSS Radio -- Christian Radio Over Satellite Systems. Jim agrees to host a daily call-in talk show to be known as "The Pastor's Study".
12. On The Air: Jim's new telephone call-in program goes on the air live and he is seen fielding a number of questions from listeners.
13. Arrested: Patricia Court has an important appointment with her gynecologist and receives the happy news that she is finally pregnant. But as she prepares a celebratory dinner for two while waiting for Dave to get home from a night class at Shippensburg University, he calls from the county prison to say he has been arrested for felony sexual assault against little Tessa Stetson, of all people. Patricia hangs up after Dave's call, phones the parsonage, and then collapses on the floor.
14. Call Paul: Jim and Debra promise they'll call an old lawyer friend about representing Dave in the assault case. As they are driving back to the parsonage after helping calm Patricia's nerves and congratulating her on the pending birth, Jim realizes he hasn't called the Stetsons about little Tessa's condition. When he calls, Carla is very hostile and refuses to talk with him, claiming he is more interested in the welfare of the defendant than the condition of the victim. Later, Jim visits the hospital, just to be able to pray silently by Tessa's bed. However, he is ordered out of the room because of the wishes of the patient's mother. Paul Donaldson, whose business card reads "Call Paul," agrees to take Dave's case.
15. Prison: The physical evidence is strong against Dave: his hat was found in Tessa's bed and the assault weapon is a shaved-down wooden bat with Dave's initials on it. Paul tries in vain to find an alibi; Dave was traveling between his home and Shippensburg University at the time of the crime and stopped at a rest area on I-81 to study and doze. Patricia is heart-broken because the judge has ordered that Dave be held without bail pending arraignment. She visits him in a communal visiting room where she tells him the precious news of their new baby over an institutional phone with reinforced glass between them.
16. Arraignment: Several members of Jessi's Ivory Club and Dave's church soft ball team attend the arraignment to establish a prayer vigil on behalf of Dave receiving bail. The judge is quite intrigued when he learns Jessi has made the arrangements.
17. Carla: Carla Stetson, Tessa's mother, makes a surprise appearance at the arraignment and completely loses control. She leaps on the judge's bench, struggles with an armed officer, and, in the scuffle, grabs his gun and hides it on her person. Suddenly Carla is pressing a Smith & Wesson .38 Police Special against Jessi's forehead and promising to kill her and four persons connected with the case. The Hogans, the Courts, Paul, the Ivory Club, and the soft ball team all join in lifting a mighty volume of prayer. Carla puts the gun in Jessi's mouth and threatens to pull the trigger at once unless the praying stops. The prayers become silent but no less intense. Carla pulls the trigger but the first chamber is empty, as she knew it would be. She pulls the trigger again, with intent to kill-- but the gun misfires. She continues pulling the trigger while pointing the gun at her intended victims, and it continues to misfire. Unheard of in a police weapon! Carla is subdued by Dave's flying tackle and Paul begins to sing the Rich Mullins song, "Awesome God" . All the believers join in a victory parade which starts marching around the court room. Judge Amos Schwartz joins the parade and leads it straight out the front doors of the court house and around it several times. The media people go berserk.
18. News Conference: Jessi becomes the focus of the news gatherers' attention and has a beautiful opportunity to give God the glory for the miracle of the police revolver's misfires. She also explains the moral value system behind the Ivory Club to a national TV audience.
19. Trial: Debra remembers the strange man she saw hanging around the team bats at the softball tournament. Paul tries in vain to find this person and link him to the crime. Despite the miracle at the arraignment, the wheels of justice continue to turn and Dave is tried for the assault on Tessa. The prosecutor attempts to enter into evidence some taped comments Jim had made earlier about demon-possessed criminals being able to look a jury straight in the eyes and lie with impunity; damaging evidence.
20. Star Witness: Against the advice of the prosecution, and to Paul's amazement, Carla insists on bringing Tessa into the court room on the final day of testimony, in hopes of influencing the jury in favor of a guilty verdict. Her plan backfires. Gradually it dawns on Tessa that everything that is happening around her is designed to do something bad to her dear friend, Dave Court. She makes the first sound since her attack, and it's a scream, repeated over and over again. "Not Unca Dave! Not Unca Dave! No, no, no! Not Unca Dave!" Paul moves for acquittal and his motion is granted without objection from the prosecution.
21. Holy Land: Jim gets a call comes from a man in Saudi Arabia who wants to contribute huge sums in U.S. funds to a project Jim proposed almost in jest one Sunday a couple weeks back at the close of the CROSS Network's coverage of Wesley's morning worship service. This man with millions to spare was listening to his short wave radio when he heard Jim's sermon about the danger of burying your talents in the ground. The crises may be gone but the opportunities continue.
22. Holy Land USA: An abstract of Jim's proposal to his benefactor in Saudi Arabia, complete with thumbnails of major attractions and names and titles for key employees.
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