At last night’s Session meeting we removed 93 names from our roles.

It was long overdue as the individuals on the list have not been seen in town or at church for years and years, many of them for decades. The church has to pay a per capita fee to the General Assembly each year and is required to perform an annual review of the roles. The task is never popular, but it is nonetheless required of us.

The troubling thing about such a task is that we don’t know what’s become of most of them. Letters of inquiry have been ignored; some addresses are listed simply as “England” or “America” or even as “moved.” We have no idea what has happened to them.

Part of the process of removal is that the names be read aloud and minuted as having been removed. And so our Session Clerk read each one to us.

Naturally, I didn’t know any of the names on the list, but it was nonetheless interesting to hear the names spoken. It was interesting because they are not just names, they are people; they are souls.

Too often the church role book is confused with the Book of Life and many times people are deeply insulted to find they’ve been removed. Even when a person has not been active for years and shows no signs of becoming so; even when repeated efforts to contact them have either failed or been rebuffed, people still want the names retained on the role book.

Church policy reminds individuals that it is a simple process to restore the names. “Just come to church a few times and request it; just show up once in a while.”

But, it’s hard to convey that message when you have no idea where or even who a person is. Last night’s names represented, in many cases, people that have long been forgotten. Some of them may even be long dead.

For us, they are gone, but God knows each one of them. God knows where they are. He knows their current address and how long they’ve lived there. He knows the reason they came to reside there. He knows if they are worshipping somewhere else, or if they’ve been gone from church as long as they’ve been gone from our fellowship.

He knows the 93; he knows them full well, even the number of hairs on their heads.

He is the Author of the Book of Life and the names have been recorded there since before time began. “He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight” (Ephesians 1:4).

We may never know if some of those names ought to have been left on the roles. We may have made one or two mistakes. If so, we can easily amend the errors. But, we can rest assured that if God has chosen them they will not be lost and, “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be.”

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