A special offer for preachers only: This week, at your local bank, you can withdraw money, order new checks and pick up a draft of your next Sunday sermon.
Strange though it may seem, the American Bankers Association has begun distributing a sample sermon to help clergy debunk that apocalyptic Year 2000 scenario, the one told in certain Christian magazines, in which people, convinced their bank is about to collapse because of Y2K computer problems, rush to withdraw all their money and buy gold bullion.
"Prepare as best you can," advises the sermon, written by an ABA speechwriter and made available to local bankers earlier this month. "Then trust God for the rest."
Why a sermon, rather than the usual information packet? "If they just got a mailing from the ABA, it would go in File 13," said John Hall, spokesman for the ABA. "You use the medium they use, to make their jobs easier." The sermon, he added, is given out only to other bankers and is meant for them to share with their local clergy as a model.
Written in a folksy pastoral tone laced with biblical analogies, it warns people against the fear that some computers' inability to read dates after 1999 will cause massive system collapses.
"You've heard the dire warnings, the off-the-wall forecasts and the downright silly predictions," it says. "Airplanes won't get off the ground. Our bank accounts will show zero."
After dismissing these concerns--and reassuring listeners that banks and the federal government have the situation under control--the sermon veers into rousing rhetoric, explaining how our response to Y2K defines who we are as "believers in God and members of the family of faith."
"We want to go into the new millennium with hope, eagerness and faith in this new century of promise. We don't want to be crouched in our basement with candles, matches and guns," the bankers' sermon says.
Finally, in a touch that would make any preacher proud, come the casual biblical references:
"There are, after all, two ways to cross the Red Sea. With Moses, who with God's help, led the children of Israel into a bright hopeful future. Or with Pharaoh, who in trying to preserve the old, hurled his chariots, his officers and his army into the sea."