Disclaimers (PLEASE READ!):
I'm not interested in debating faith, or church. I don’t intend to defend either. I'm expressing my feelings. My pain. Maybe you've made the choice to live your life without the confines of the church. I get it. I affirm your decision. Please grant me the same consideration.
I’m also not comparing my hurt with what might have happened to others. I’ve worked for years with those who were abused and traumatized, and I won’t minimize it. This is clearly not as damaging, but it’s painful nonetheless.
I’m not looking for “Well, if you think that’s bad…” statements.
I’m not sharing this for sympathy, or to solicit advice. (“Here’s what you should do…”)
This Bubble post came from many days of tears, emotional soul-searching and journaling.
I’m hurting, and writing is one of the way I process.
In other words, this is me…venting!
I share this publicly because I’ve always made it a point to be honest and open about my faith journey, and the influence of church on my life. I’ve been transparent about the many questions and concerns I’ve had over the years when it comes to religion, faith and church.
For example, as we searched for a Church Home, I wrote about our experiences—the lessons, the quirky people, my twisted perspective. This is another part of that journey.
Probably…sadly…a new direction altogether. <sigh>
Finally, this is MY perspective. MY observation and conclusions.
I acknowledge others who were present might see this same incident very differently. (It’s called The Rashomon Effect!)
A local church is made up of folks from a variety of backgrounds. We see, and believe, things through the filters of our experiences, our education, our choices, our personalities. The one thing we all have in common is we are human. That element comes with a myriad of potential problems in the form of our human hurts, fears, weaknesses, triggers, and limitations.
We are many.
We are different.
As a church, we are called to unity, not unanimity. Certainly not uniformity.
Our mandate is loving one another, not compliance.
I don’t expect us to all agree on everything.
We aren't a collective, like the Borg.
We're a community.
Which means we work together, utilizing our various skills, talents, abilities and experience for the mutual good of all. And utilizing our combined abilities to make our world a better place.
Over the years, I’ve made a conscious choice to be affiliated with a church. It’s a choice many of my friends do not understand.
I don’t go to church because I think it makes me holier, or out of a sense of obligation.
I’m not a “better” Christian because of church membership.
I don’t think going to church is a requirement for eternal life—one more brownie point to move me into the good graces of a God who judges based on individual performance.
I go because I value the sense of kinship. The belonging. It really is about community.
I have much to learn, and believe the insights of others can benefit my spiritual progress.
I’m inspired, and encouraged, and supported by them in my times of need.
At times, I can offer others the same.
I value being part of a local congregation!
For me, church isn't about religion. It's about relationships.
And as many of us know, relationships ain't easy.
It requires significant investment of ourselves.
Of course, with great investment can come the potential of great disappointment.
And right now, that’s where I am: disappointed!
Details and specifics are unimportant, but a decision was made by my church that broke my heart.
This was different than deciding what color the carpet should be, or how to budget for new equipment.
We were meeting with another congregation, moving toward a merger.
For nearly a year, we’d met together, prayed together, worshipped together, played together, and worked to become one church.
They were my family, my tribe. They were part of my community.
I loved these people.
Several weeks ago, at the meeting to officially cast our vote to Unify, I witnessed the assertion of fear, tradition, fabrication, backroom politics, and the need to control.
Policy and procedure seemed more important than people.
Finances appeared to be more important than our fellowship.
During the proceedings we heard long speeches about the history of our church (100+ years), concern over access to our substantial bank accounts, and questions about the leadership.
Of course, there were repeated assurances that it wasn’t about the people from the other church.
Personal Note: I loathe this tactic. When making decisions that will negatively impact the lives of people, there’s always some rhetoric that seeks to detach the action from those very people. I see it in politics all the time! Sadly, also in church.
”I like them, but…”
”I have nothing against them, but…”
Then just like that, it was over.
There would be no merger.
Because of the decision by a voting majority—many of whom I’d never seen in church before that congregational business meeting—half my beloved church family is now…gone.
It felt like a part of me had been ripped away.
I admit this merger (or unification) came with problems, and concerns, and questions. Joining two groups of people is a challenge.
But problems can be solved.
Concerns can be addressed.
Questions can be answered.
Instead, the voting majority made the decision to exclude the people.
Our church claims to welcome everyone.
Each week we hear: “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”
With this action, we told a group of people—many of whom had known the pain of rejection by their churches in the past—that we didn’t want them.
Again, I’ve been in church for more than 40 years. I’m not naïve.
We’re human, so I don’t expect perfection.
But I was at least expecting a little more…humanity.
I’m not attempting to vilify anyone; I’m sure everyone was doing what they felt was right for our church. (Even if they never showed up, except to vote!)
And therein lies my dilemma.
This is not who I thought we were when I joined.
This is not who we promote and proclaim that we are.
So I have to ask:
Is this the church I want to part of now?
Can I support a church that treats people this way?
I’ve spent weeks trying to make sense of it.
I’m stunned! I’m angry, and confused. I’m sad and disillusioned.
Honestly, I don’t know what to do.
Until I have some clarity, I’m taking a step back.
I need distance.
I’m spending time praying for those who are gone, and those who remain.
For myself, I’m praying for peace, and the grace to forgive.
And for the healing of my own heart.
Because right now, church hurts.