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by Abigail Van Buren

Waitress Declines to Join Good Customer's Pastoral Flock

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 31-year-old waitress and proud atheist. I'm one of the least judgmental people I know. Who other people love, or how they choose to worship isn't important to me.

I have a regular customer who comes in to the restaurant about twice a month. He's a pastor and one of the nicest guys I think I've ever met. He'll often bring along people from his congregation and buy them dinner. He counsels new families and tries to teach them the ways of the world. He counsels angry teenagers, and they listen to him. I have tremendous respect for him.

The problem is, every time he comes in, he tries to get me to come to his church. It's sometimes an hourlong conversation. At first I was polite about it and just said no thank you. Recently it reached the point where I said firmly, "I don't need your church." Abby, he still persists!

I don't know what to do anymore. I wouldn't feel right kicking him out of the restaurant. Is there a middle ground? -- NONBELIEVER IN GEORGIA

DEAR NONBELIEVER: The pastor may be an evangelical, who feels that it is his duty to "spread the word." The middle ground, since he seems unable to accept your polite refusals, is to have another waitress serve him instead of you, if that's possible. If not, ask your manager for guidance.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Work & School