In Anne Tyler’s novel Saint Maybe, nineteen-year-old Ian tells his parents, Doug and Bee Bedloe, of his decision to leave college and become an apprentice cabinetmaker. This will enable Ian to raise the young children of his deceased brother, Danny. Ian has arrived at this decision because of the influence in his life of Rev. Emmett and the Church of the Second Chance, a congregation that believes in actual atonement, that is, that you must do something “real” to be forgiven for your sins. Ian’s sin was that he led his drunken brother to believe that his wife was unfaithful, after which Danny committed suicide.
In the crucial scene in which Ian tells his parents of the change in the course of his life, church and faith enter the conversation. Ian explains that he will have help from his church in juggling his new job and the responsibility for the children. This alarms his parents.
“Ian, have you fallen into the hands of some sect?” his father
“No, I haven’t,” Ian said. “I have merely discovered a church
that makes sense to me, the same as Dober Street Presbyterian makes sense to you
“Dober Street didn’t ask us to abandon our educations,” his mother
“Of course we have nothing against religion; we raised all of you
children to be Christians. But our church never asked us to abandon our
entire way of life.”
“Well, maybe it should have,” Ian said
looked at each other.
His mother said, “I don’t believe this. I do
not believe it. No matter how long I’ve been a mother, it seems my children
can still come up with something new and unexpected to do to me.”
Ian’s is a story of two kinds of churches. Dober Street is a church that mainly confirms people’s lives as they are. The Church of the Second Chance disrupts lives in the name of Jesus so that people can change. In my experience, young adults are more attracted to the church that promises them change, new life, and disruption than in the church that offers little but stability, order, and accommodation. Alas, too many of our churches have contented themselves with meeting the spiritual needs of one generation with the resulting loss of at least two generations of Christians. If we are going to fulfill our Conference Priority and summon a new generation of young Christians, I expect that we’ll have to look more like the Church of the Second Chance.
William H. Willimon
 Anne Tyler, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1991), p. 127.