A rich man goes to his minister and says, “I want you and your wife to take a three-month trip to the Holy Land at my expense. When you come back, I’ll have a surprise for you.”
The minister accepts the offer, and he and his wife set off to the Middle East.
Three months later they return home. They are met by the wealthy parishioner, who shows them a new church he has had built for them while they were gone.
“It’s the finest building money can buy, reverend,” the man says. “I spared no expense.”
And he is right. It is a magnificent edifice, outside and in. But there is one striking difference. There is only one pew, and it is at the very back.
“A church with only one pew?” asks the minister.
“You just wait until Sunday,” the rich man says.
When the time comes for the Sunday service, the early arrivals enter the church, file onto the one pew and sit down. When the pew is full, a switch clicks silently, a circuit closes, the gears mesh, a belt moves and, automatically, the rear pew begins to move forward.
When it reaches the front of the church, it comes to a stop. At the same time, another empty pew comes up from below at the back and more people sit down. And so it continues, pews filling and moving forward until finally the church is full from front to back.
“Wonderful!” says the minister. “Marvelous!”
The service begins, and the minister starts to preach his sermon. He launches into his text and, when 12 o’clock comes, he is still going strong, with no end in sight. Suddenly a bell rings, and a trap door in the floor behind the pulpit drops open.
“Wonderful!” says the congregation. “Marvelous!”