It's 3 a.m. and the phone rings. For most in the tiny Oklahoma farm town, the blackness of night has drugged the distraught into a temporary state of forgetfulness.
But volunteers who man the Oklahoma Council of Churches' farm crisis hotline frequently forgo the peace that sleep brings to reach out - no, literally run out - to farmers on the other end of the line. They help soothe the pain of those who can still hear the auctioneer's tongue branding their homes and machinery "sold" to the highest bidder.The Rev. Max E. Glenn has been there. He's heard the cries, helped heal the hearts and marveled at the resilience that men and women of faith can display after losing all their worldly possessions. As director of the Oklahoma Council of Churches during the farm crisis of the 1980s, the Rev. Glenn helped organize the hotline.
Of the 40,000 calls that volunteers fielded from 77 counties in his home state, the Rev. Glenn figures his volunteers saved the lives of at least 78 farmers contemplating suicide over the loss of their farms.
Now several states away, as the new full-time director of the Shared Ministry (formerly Shared Ministry in Utah), the Rev. Glenn's volunteers probably won't be involved in the kind of life and death drama that breeds unity among the diverse.
So he is intrigued, but not surprised, by the cooperation he has found locally among the organization's five Protestant sects.
"This group is the only place in the country that has this kind of organization and people coming together this way. On the surface it looks simple. But for the official bodies of five denominations to come together for worship, celebration and communion - to act as one body in business, abiding by the decisions of the total group - that's just not happening anywhere else."
Against the backdrop of Utah's overwhelmingly LDS majority, such cooperation is a must.
Speaking to denominational representatives during the organization's spring meeting in Brigham City in May, the Rev. Glenn said it is in the group's diversity "that we can find unity. You are doing the nitty-gritty work of dealing with the body of Christ.
"Sometimes when denominations have issues so hot they don't want to deal with them, they toss them to an ecumenical agency and say `you do it.' But when the agency begins to deal with it, the denominations pull back - `we can't support what you're doing.' It is a delight to see that you have matured way beyond that."
The Rev. Glenn said faith in God - not any particular religious creed - is the force that motivates people to either change oppressive circumstances or deal effectively with events they can't control.
"All major struggles, wherever they may be, have generally had people of strong faith involved in the beginning. I don't know what God is calling us to do and to be here, but that's OK. My task is to be faithful, and my hope is that we can be open to the spirit to join in whatever she or he is doing in these days."
The Rev. Glenn was recently selected for his post from among 50 applicants in a nationwide search. He will be formally installed during the organization's fall meeting, Sept. 22-23.
The Rev. Glenn said he wants to help the denominations implement their goals and strengthen the work of congregations in their local communities. "I don't have any agenda other than 30 years of experience."