Ordained Irreverence – Review

McMillan Moody. Ordained Irreverence. OBT Bookz, 2012. E-book.

With a name like McMillan Moody, this guy has to be associated with book publishing. Of course, Macmillan is a secular publisher (though it does carry titles by C. S. Lewis) and Moody is a conservative Christian publisher. Ordained Irreverence is somewhere in between.

Ellington “Elmo” Jenkins is about to graduate from a conservative seminary, perhaps not all that different from Moody Bible Institute. He has one requirement left—an internship. Through a bad date, he comes in contact with a staffer from the local megachurch and soon finds himself as an intern there.

As one can judge from the title, there is a lot of humor here. Elmo’s office is a converted broom closet. But the church has status. The senior pastor is an avid golfer and the board of elders includes a Mr. Fitzsimmons, as Elmo puts it, very old money and the wealthiest family in the area. One thing Elmo has going for him is that he played on his high school golf team, so at least he can keep up with the big boys.

This reviewer was laughing out loud in places. Like Garrison Keillor, Moody has fun with the foibles and funnybones of Christians with good taste and not a little tenderness. Moody is no Lenny Bruce.

Elmo is not really sure what his calling is. He is tone-deaf. He is no orator. He refuses to even use the word missionary because he does not want to hear a call to some forbidding foreign land. Maybe this internship will give him some direction.

Ordained Irreverence is largely composed of discrete chapters. Each chapter is a little story in itself, giving us another perspective on First Church. There are two story threads that tie the chapters together. Elmo is attracted to a young woman (only a year older than he) on the church staff. This relationship progresses awkwardly but still romantically.

He also discovers an old note from 1959 that refers to the Black Toe. He has to do some digging, but the Black Toe Enigma has baffled the church for nearly 100 years. Back in 1939 it even made the newspapers. It involves a wealthy deacon who almost died of exposure when his feet broke through the ice on a brook while hiking in the winter. He was rescued by a man who claimed to also be a member of the church, but the deacon could not remember who it was because had passed out. All he knew was that the man gave him his boots so he must have had frostbitten feet—or black toes.

So, yes, will the mystery be solved? Will he get the girl? Perhaps more important, will he still be sane after helping to chaperone a middle school all-nighter? What happens there could only happen to middle schoolers…

I confess I was attracted by the price, currently free at Amazon. Of course, Ordained Irreverence is the first of at least half a dozen books about Elmo, so this is a loss leader to get us wanting to read more. I suspect for many readers this will work. I had just read some pretty intense books, it was final exam time at school, and there were other things conspiring to make my life complicated, if not miserable. I needed some laughter. Thank you Elmo Jenkins for sharing your life with us. I suspect that I may read another when I am looking for a laugh.

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