The Parable of the Parish

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut and there was only one boat, but the completely devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea and, with no thought for themselves, they went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost.

Many were saved by this station so it became famous. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding areas wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and crews were trained. The little life-saving station grew. Some members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. So they replaced the cots with beds and put better furniture in and enlarged it to a more elaborate building. Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members who were proud of it and they redecorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely because they used it as a kind of club. Fewer of the members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The life-saving motif still prevailed in the club decorations, however, and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where club initiations were held.

About this time, a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty and wounded and sick and some had differently colored skin. The beautiful new club was left untidy and muddy. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where the victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside. At the next meeting there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s activities as being somewhat beneath them and an unpleasant hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some of the members insisted that life- saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were known as a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save all the various kinds of people, with different colors of skin and strange languages and odd religions, who were shipwrecked on those waters, they could start their own life-saving station down the coast. They did.

As the years went by the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore.

Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.

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