Before I drove my mother-in-law back to Connecticut on Dec. 27, I shut the boiler down at our church. The National Weather Service was forecasting mild temperatures for these early days of winter. So I figured to save the church a few pennies with this shutdown.

Of course, well-intentioned plans in a church might elicit pushback.

I will admit the sanctuary was cool on Sunday morning. But, in my humble opinion, it wasn’t bone-chilling; the outside temperature was 44. My hope was that our congregation could adapt.

As soon as the first service was over, a very nice member of our congregation complained about her cold discomfort in the sanctuary.

Next, at the 9:30 service, as soon as a couple walked in, they made a comment about the sanctuary being cold.

To top it off, the head usher at the 11 o’clock service noted on the attendance card that the sanctuary was cold.

On Christmas Eve, I did not fire up the boiler for the sanctuary at all. It was too mild outside, plus we had lots of 98.6 bodies in the sanctuary. That wasn’t the case on the Sunday after Christmas; a lot of our congregation was MIA (missing in action).

So if it took you several hours to warm up on Sunday afternoon once you departed our church, I apologize. Don’t blame God; you can blame that knucklehead, the director of operations — me.

Our building has at least five types of thermostats. My favorite ones are in some of the classrooms in the children’s wing. The best way to raise and lower the temperature for these thermostats is by using a pencil eraser.

No matter where I have worked in my career, thermostats can be a source of frustration. A room can be too hot or too cold. When you factor in our human thermostats, finding comfortable middle ground can be a nightmare for an HVAC technician.

I would imagine that thermostats are not a worry for God and Jesus up in the blue yonder. But I wonder what they think about how we manage our personal thermostats on a daily basis down here on Earth?

Today, I don’t think it takes too much for our incivility to raise our thermostats to dangerous levels. Often, it appears that a tiny disagreement can rapidly agitate a person’s thermostat. Sadly, that agitation might make a person react in an unreasonable and sometimes harmful manner.

Every year, we seem to have more and more encounters where civility is missing. In those situations, sometimes, a person makes a decision that will potentially not only ruin his or her life, but the lives of others, too.

I wonder where the Golden Rule was in that person’s thermostat settings? Maybe God and Jesus are wondering the same as they look down upon us — “Have our friends on Earth completely forgotten the Golden Rule?”

At times — myself included — I think we have forgotten the basic premise of Matthew 7:12: “You should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you.”

On Sunday morning, Dec. 29, I didn’t apply that treatment to those in our congregation who were shivering. I was attempting to be a good steward of resources, but I failed.

I’m sure that the seasonal changes in temperature will continue to challenge thermostat controls in our church building. Certainly, those who were a bit chilly on Sunday morning hope that I have learned a lesson.

But as I move into the early days of 2020, keeping my own personal thermostat grounded to the basics of the Golden Rule will be an important test, too.

I can’t let the frenzied pace of daily living defeat the merits of the Golden Rule. In those moments when the pace of life is pushing my thermostat in the wrong direction, I must be willing to hit that pause button.

Pausing to recalibrate my real thermostat — my heart — can’t be overlooked when I need to apply the Golden Rule.

Those Golden Rule moments for my thermostat are out ahead of me in 2020. I pray I’m ready. How about you?

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Bill Pike is director of operations at Trinity United Methodist Church and is a retired Tuckahoe District representative on the Henrico County School Board. Contact him at

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