A funny story about the importance of listening well & fact-checking:
My husband Dave has been a pastor at our church for 15+ years. Our church tries to prioritize being FOR our local community, loving our neighbors well. If you know Dave, you know he is all in.
Dave is also an environmentalist. And a snake-advocate (I know, cringe, but bear with me…). Our eldest son is a self-taught herpetologist, works at a reptile store, and hopes to open his own reptile park someday. I know more about snakes than I ever wanted to know.
A few years ago, Dave saw a social media post by a neighbor who had killed a gopher snake, thinking it was a rattlesnake, to “protect” children walking to school. That day Dave became Reverend Ricketts, Reptile Wrangler. He made his contact info available to people who spot a snake near their property, and he will identify and relocate snakes as necessary.
Snakes are emerging earlier this year due to warmer temperatures, so Dave once again shared his info on social media. Except, oops, he didn’t narrow the Nextdoor post to our local community; instead, he shared it with the entire San Francisco Bay Area, from Sacramento to San Francisco to San Jose.
And then he got calls from not one but two journalists.
The reporter from the larger syndicate (NBC!) asked how far Dave would travel to pick up a snake. Dave responded that, as a pastor who is FOR our local community, his priority is to our immediate community. He also doesn’t charge a fee, and he takes time away from work/family to protect both people and reptiles, so it makes sense to stay close to home. (Personally, I also love that he wove his pastor’s heart into a story about snakes).
The original story, mostly about rattlesnakes but including mention of Dave, got that part right. And then Newsweek picked up the story and took it national. Newsweek corrected most of the typos in the local story, but made a bigger error: they attributed Dave’s personal commitment—as pastor, environmentalist, and snake-advocate—to a church-wide commitment. They wrote: “Ricketts said the church helps prevent human-snake conflicts in the area, and will continue to do so as they inevitably become more common.”
Umm, what? As a pastor, Dave models well a life of faith. However, he would never expect the individuals who make up the local church to pick up the human-snake conflict in their own hands … or snake hook!
I have to laugh imagining what the Newsweek reporter must have thought about this NorCal church to which they incorrectly attributed an invested commitment to the human-snake conflict. More Christian crazies, I’m sure (okay, sad tears on that one, but mostly laughs). I have to laugh imagining the shocked faces among our congregation who most assuredly *do not want* to help in snake relocation. I have to laugh that a local small-town pastor who cares about the environment made national news.
Okay, except, how cool is that? Pastor Dave loves his congregation and community and he loves this great big gorgeous world that God made … including all its creatures, even those that make others cringe (or run for the hills – to quote one person on Nextdoor, “How do I take a photo of a snake while running?”).
Dave laughed, too. He reminded us that the human-snake conflict began in the Garden, not long after creation itself. It goes all the way back to Genesis chapter 3, just after Adam and Eve walking with God in the Garden and just before Cain killed Abel. The human inclination against snakes has a long history, and it seems Dave’s work gets to be about redemption in every regard. Pretty cool.