Thursday, January 10, 2008

But I Don't WANT To Go To Church on Sunday.

Interesting e-mail exchange with the new unofficial worship pastor (because God forbid we actually hire one). I told him I didn't want to be back on the rotation after all because I am still struggling, and because of how I feel about the church in general, Bethany in particular, and Tim in really particular. He said one of the first actually thoughtful (as in using the brain) things that anyone has said in this whole process:

"I hear what you are saying and you may have every reason to want to pull away from the church, God or whatever."

What? You're kidding! Doubt and anger might be, you know, valid? What a concept!

I call it a process, but that's too formal a word, and that's part of what makes me so fucking mad. There hasn't been a process. I left, for somewhat nebulous reasons, after the first Sunday of April 2005 when I realized that a) I shouldn't be playing for Communion if I couldn't take Communion, b) Tim was never going to listen to me even if I said the exact same thing once a week and put it on a poster in his office in big red letters, and c) no matter what else changed, I was still going to be a girl and Bethany don't do deaconesses, so leadership of a mixed group was going to be right out.

And there was a great outpouring of prayer and support for me in my time of trial, and people surrounded me with love and offered to help with Peter and pray for me and help me have a coherent conversation with Tim. Wow ... it's kind of hard to imagine how differently the last 2.5 years might have panned out if that had happened.

Instead, it was just the occasional "We sure miss seeing you up there!" Which was nice, in its 3-second little way, but I can't help but think it is odd that a person could go from my level of ministry to barely attending services without anybody noticing. I can't help but think that if I didn't take the kids to Sunday School and put money in the offering plate, it would have gotten noticed a little sooner.

So, here it is, almost three years later, and of all things a quick e-mail about the worship team schedule produces the first truly human response to my leaving. (Now there's an odd thought. I typed "human" when I think I meant "godly", but I think maybe I did mean what I typed. Another essay for another day.) And he even has the good sense to acknowledge that a little distance might be understandable. Not sure what to make of that.

I guess what I'm coming down to is that regardless of my struggles, regardless of how I left and what I said then and what people chose to believe (which are not the same thing), they have lost the right to swoop in and make me come back. We are so good at "lovingly confronting" people when we have our little step-by-step instructions. But after nearly three years of floating free without notice or concern, I no longer feel obligated to submit myself to those instructions. Tim is only my pastor in that he is the pastor of the church of which I am a member -- he is no way my pastor. He gave up that right long ago. The deacons and shepherds who watched this servant bow and buckle under the strain of unacknowledged leadership are not my deacons and shepherds. I may claim a few of the church members as family, but I can hardly say the church family as a whole is my church family. They like what I wrote, but what I wrote and who I am are practically separate realities now. In what way am I under their jurisdiction?

I still need to sort out what I do and don't believe, and to what extent I can worship or pray or study. For now though, I want to do that as separately from the church as possible. I don't think it has particularly helped me in the last several years.

They say we shoot our wounded -- how much kinder that would have been. How much more cruel for them to bend over my bleeding, aching body and say, "It's so nice to see you today! We really miss having you carry your part of the load. Hope you can come back some day!"

This is not my army now. They will have to march without me.

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