Moseying a Little Farther Down the Path

We’ve moved, Hubby and I.  After being at Little Church Around the Corner for five years, the call came for reappointment.  What a shock!  Neither asked for a move, but the Bishop, Cabinet and – most importantly, God – had other plans.  We’ve moved to the shores of one of the Great Sinkholes.  We’re very near to two of our children.  We live in a rural area populated by farmers and folks-of-the-land.  In spite of the shock of the call, homesickness for LCAC and my old church family and stress of the move, it’s good.

I’m serving a Charge of two smaller churches. comparable to each other in size.  The pastor I’ve followed has been a good friend and colleague for over 20 years.  He was here for quite a while so there is a lot of grieving and “getting to know all about you” going on.  We’re trying to give each other some space.

This will be different. I haven’t served a multi-point charge in years.  But, it’s good.

Let the journey continue.

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Heretic: You Have Got to Be Kidding Me

Update:  It seemsMr. Fella is making the rounds of the church folk, trying to solicit sympathy and support for his cause.  I guess the ‘misunderstanding’ had to do with something about the “Second Work of Grace,” aka “The Baptism of the Holy Spirit.”  I honestly do not recollect this conversation, but evidently he proclaiming me a heretic because I don’t have the same beliefs as he.  He’s even consulted “three other pastors” and have gotten their written opinions as to my heresy that he’s showing around.

You have got to be kidding me.  I’m pretty sure this guy has a undiagnosed Personality Disorder, but really???  For someone who does not want to make a commitment to the church?

I know he’s made the rounds of all Small Town’s churches and has left (by choice or by being asked to leave), but really?  What’s the common denominator here?

I’m sticking to my guns.  I’ve been here five years.  He and his family left before my arrival.  If folks don’t know me and trust me by now and if they have memory loss from the last mess he made when he left, so be it.

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Negotiating with Terrorists

Dilemma.  Pressure.  Wrestling.  Discernment.   Those words accurately describe the past three weeks.

There is this fellow and his family who have recently “come back” to the church I pastor.  He and his wife grew up, were loved and nurtured and married in the church.  His father still attends here; his mother was an active member.  Her parents are both very active members.  She’s still on the roll; he is not.

They left the church after a tiff with a previous pastor.  He wanted the pastor’s approval to do evangelism.  Free gratis.  No accountability.  All the people he would ‘evangelize,’ he would send the church’s way – if he could have free reign to do what ‘God had laid upon his heart.’  My precedessor, being the kind of guy he was, would share control with no one and this man and his family (two kids by that time) left the church, making a really big mess when they left.

They’ve attended every Protestant church in our area (and there are more than five).  He has found fault with every pastor and congregation everwhere they’ve gone.  They did last more years at the Free Church, but were asked to leave because of the conflict he’d been creating.

So they’re back.  And the inevitable has occured.  After six months of working me and the folks over, he’s decided he just “can’t sit under my teaching.”  And I’m not even sure what he’s talking about.  Really.  We can’t have a discussion because it’s all about him – his theology, his beliefs, his way of doing things.  I can’t get a word in edgewise – he talks over me and interrupts me.  He has no idea, short of my sermons, what I even believe.

He threatens to leave and take his family with him.  He has no boundaries.  If he shows up at my door unannounced, he doesn’t take “This is not a good time for us to talk.  We’re eating dinner.  Would it be possible to come back later?” as an valid answer.

He got angry with my husband because Hub wouldn’t discuss church matters with him.  Called my sweet, gentle spouse every name in the book and accused him of a lot of things. He’s gotten angry with me before because he wants me to ‘fix’ the relationship between his father and his father’s next door neighbor (who used to attend the church, but doesn’t anymore because she feels uncomfortable after being confronted by this fellow after church one Sunday).

I have refused to take his calls.  I know where this is all going to end.  He’s already tried triangulating church folk into taking sides.  Some of them have been leaning on me to make nice with him because they add four to our dwindling numbers and more money in the coffers.

When he calls his messages have hooks in them – “I have to take of the people I’ve been called to shepherd … my family,” he says.  “Our kids are missing the youth group.”  “My wife misses worshipping with her parents …”.  “I miss going to church with my dad.  He’ll stop coming if I don’t come back.”

This fella has already told me he will not join the church as a member because he believes that you don’t have to be a member of the church to do ‘ministry.’  His idea of evangelism is to take people hostage and beat them with a Bible.  He wants the church to buy a closed cafe in town, so he can set up a ministry center.  No accountabililty and no commitment.

Long story short.  I have my answer.  The Israelis and I have at least one thing in common:  We don’t negotiate with terrorists.

Let him start his own church.  And I will continue to pray for his wife and children.  God help them.

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Sometimes I Wish …

… I could get in the car and just drive and keep on going,

without a care in the world.

Away from people, situations, circumstances

to a place where there is only simplicity and peace …

… and me, just me.

A place where I don’t have to think, or defend myself,

or have an explanation for things out of my control.

A place where I can be alone, at rest, at peace, unguarded –

with my needs provided for without cost, or barter, or guilt, or stress.

A place where my wounds can heal.

Keep dreaming and wishing.

 

 

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Mean Kids

What is it about picking on someone?  Why is it easier to critize than compliment?  Why be snarky when you can just be quiet?

As I’ve grown older, my hair has gotten darker.  I was a tow-head when I was younger and have been a natural blonde most of my life.  Over the last 20 years I’ve gone from an ash blonde to a non-descript brunette shot through with gray.  I decided I’m not going to grow older gracefully, so I made an appointment with my hair stylist and had my hair colored back to an ash blonde and had a few highlights added and had it cut in a bob.

I like it.  My husband likes it (not that it matters – it’s my hair!)  But some of the church folks have been downright ugly about it.  “What does your husband think?  Did he give you permission to do it?”  “I’m sure a person your age should do that.”  (My age is 53, thank you very much).

It’s not like it’s a big change.  And changing my hair color doesn’t change me.  I’m still the same person you’ve known for four years.

Were you a mean kid in school?  Did you find enjoyment in picking on others who didn’t think the same as you?  What are we going to do when someone REALLY different comes through our church doors?  Are you going to pick on them too?

 

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Are We There Yet? My Guess is … No, Not Yet

It’s been an busy time here at Little Church Around the Corner.  They’ve seen new people come and new people go.  They’ve even kept some new people.  They’ve been told they are warm, caring, supportive and loving.  But they’ve also been told, “You’re not exactly what we’re looking for.”

The Leadership Team is awesome, but they wear  blinders.  Their goal is “to see people being born again.”  And they said they’re not seeing that.  I’ve tried to explain that most conversion experiences are gradual and not everyone has the “a-ha!  I’ve come to Jesus!” moment.  But they remember the past and want to live in the glory days of the ’50s & 60s’ when the church grew enormously.  They’re “so disappointed that’s not happening.”

What can I say that I haven’t already told them?  Change is so hard and disconcerting, especially in a small church in a small town.

“We don’t want to change.  Why should WE change?  Isn’t it up to THEM to change?  We are who we are!”

And when I tell them the Church has alway changed but the message has not, they look at me as if I’ve grown two heads.

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Utter Sadness

This is what the Lord says:

“Stand at the crossroads and look;

ask for the ancient paths,

ask where the good way is, and walk in it,

and you will find rest for your souls.

But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

I appointed watchers over you and said:

‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’

But you said, ‘We will not listen.’

What do I care about incense from Sheba

or sweet calamus from a distant land?

Your burnt offerings are not acceptable;

your sacrifices do not please me.

Therefore, this is what the Lord says:

“I will put obstacles before this people,

Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters alike will stumble over them;

Neighbors and friends will perish.”

Jeremiah 6:16-17, 20

Why is it, that when people do not want change in the church, they contrive to bring everyone else down with them?  That’s a rhetorical question, BTW.  I am well-versed in Systems Theory.

I am so incredibly sad today.  It seems that Little Church Around the Corner would rather choose death than life.  It is more about “the facility” – the wear and tear that comes with usage; and, the “irreverence shown to the House of God” than it is about people, needs and ministry.

They have chosen death.  My heart is broken.  I will faithfully carry out my pastoral duties of Word and Sacrament and visitation while I’m here, but the work of ministry and leadership will need to be done by someone else.  I cannot keep doing this to myself.

 

 

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