-Rev Melissa Fain-
I'm going to throw down some terms in this post, but don't worry, I'll define everything as I go.
I'm secretly a gal who loves the Liturgical Calendar. This is basically the Christian Calendar. Most Christians follow it to a very loose degree by celebrating Christmas and Easter. I go one step further and include lesser known Christian times: Advent, Epiphany, Lent, and Pentecost. You don't need to know all those words, but here's a very crude summary:
Advent- Preparing for Christmas
Epiphany- Celebrating the three Magi after Christmas
Lent- Preparation for Easter
Pentecost- Celebrating the Holy Spirit
I want to spend some time on Lent, because ironies of ironies, we are smack dab in the middle of it.
Lent isn't exactly giving something up.
Shrove Tuesday is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. If you want to know what those two things are look to New Orleans. Shrove Tuesday is historically the time when you used up your yeast, because in the Christian calendar, Lent is a time to fast. This has morphed to the celebration we know today as Mardi Gras.
Ash Wednesday is when Lent officially begins. Many in the Christian tradition will go to an Ash Wednesday worship, where they will have ashes put upon their forehead in the shape of a cross. Those ashes, are supposed to be the burnt remains of the palm fronds used in the previous Palm Sunday. It is death. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.
I have a very difficult time visiting non-denominational churches during the Lenten season. Lent is sacred. It must exist if we are to fully understand the scandal of an empty cross. New life will always be preceded by death.
Lent is choosing what you're not taking with you
So you gave up Facebook for Lent. How's that working out for you?
Snark aside, The superficial giving up has never really sat well with me. Sure, we can give up chocolate for 40 days, but is that really preparing us for what's coming? Lent is about preparation. Sometimes that involves giving something up. In my mind, unless you're fasting, it should be something that doesn't get picked back up after Easter. If Facebook keeps you from Jesus than why are you going back to it when Lent is over?
Lent should make us consider what shouldn't be brought before God's eyes. Our desire for the easy answers keeps us from the hard truths. Lent is a time where we kill what shouldn't be given new life. We sacrifice sin. We give up that which takes away from life.
Lent is also choosing what you're picking up
Endurance, relationship, hope... Maybe it's not Facebook that's the problem, but how we use it as a people.
I don't think many are preparing for the Easter that's coming this year. I think many congregations have chosen the band-aid approach to all this. I've read multiple posts across multiple platforms that basically read, "This Lent is too real for me." That's because many of us are only okay with superficial death. We don't want to admit that something cannot be, and because of that, nothing new can take its place.
You cannot worship on Easter the way you planned on worshiping. Now, you can either mourn what cannot be and find Christ in the digital wilderness, or you can try to hobble together to create a golden fraud in the meantime. This is going to sound backwards, but now is the best time to be mourning! This might be the Lent-iest Lent ever, that might roll into the most un-Easter-like Easter, but maybe we can prepare for that. Maybe this Easter can be a time where we can pause and reflect. Maybe as we mourn what cannot be on Easter day, there will be some early risers who will find the tomb of their beloved worship is empty. Something new has taken it's place. BUT- we must lay to rest what cannot be.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
To all the families of those who have recently passed away, I am so heartbroken for you. You deserve a funeral. You deserve your loved ones friends and family to give hugs and look you in the eye when they tell you they will be missed. It is not fair that you must process without all of them sitting next you; lamenting with you.
Damn this virus. Damn how it has made our lamentations more difficult. It's not fair, and I'm going to push into that invisible cruelty. "How do we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?"
Roger was relentless.
Everyone that I've ever met has given me something. They're little nuggets that I can either fertilize or polish.Some haven't even realized what they've given. me something, because I've quietly taken their connection, torn it apart, and used to it to grow something else.
With my descriptive language, my use of illustration, Roger and I didn't always get one another. I play with the written word, while he built with them. He thought very highly of education. He used it in everything he did, from preach, to tweet, to try to save the church.
That's right, he tried to save the Church. All of us have failed so far. All of us have made attempts and those attempts have backfired, but Roger was relentless. He kept trying. He kept pushing. He wanted people to know what they didn't know, and he wanted to know it all, even though he already knew- that was impossible. As I watched minister after minister give up or give in, he kept going. He kept trying. He kept fighting.
What can never be.
I believed some day he'd say he knew me, and was part of my theological formation. Partly, like the Church, he wanted to save me, and he wanted to save me by putting me somewhere where I could save something too. Partly, I believe he saw something in me. Something worthy of redemption.
I believed he wanted to be part of what I was, and what God called me to be. I ended up not playing by his rules, and we parted ways, but I still believed he waited. Now he's gone. The man who just kept trying has left a legacy in the people he's left behind. We have a mandate to be better, to do better, to rise above our mediocrity. We have a call to go and do. Roger won't be part of my story if there's ever a point I break through the noise, but I can say it for him. Roger was part of my story, and I'm grateful for his inclusion.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
Last week you made yourself a cup of coffee, you rolled up to your desk in your PJs, and you lounged back to watch your specific church do worship.
It felt fake. That God feeling you felt in the sanctuary didn't translate. Well... there might be a reason for that.
Worship is more than what is presented to you.
Probably your whole life you've lived in the lie that having everything worship related pre-planned and laid out for you was all you needed. You didn't need do anything but show up.
Your space was built for you.
Now, only 1/2 the work can be done to prepare you to meet God. You are the power chord, the livecast is the outlet. (very very quick side note- not all livecasts see themselves as conduits or outlets, so not all outlets will produce a connection.) If you have not prepared your space to meet their space, you will not find a connection.
"Nothing before God's Eyes"?
That little sign above (which is a copy of a much larger sign in my basement) is a reminder of the beginning of the 10 Commandments: "Your God is a jealous God, you shall have no other God's before me." This commandment is literally talking about what we put in God's temple. Another way to see this could be, "Don't put other gods in my temple!" or from our perspective, "We shall have nothing before God's eyes."
Are you scrolling through your phone while you watch on your desktop?
You've brought something before God's eyes that is not your worship.
Are you not intentional about your half of the worship space?
You've created a space where you're bringing unneeded things before God's eyes.
Have you not changed your clothes for God?
You are bringing that before God's eyes when you "tune-in."
If God can be anywhere- God can be online.
When Fig Tree Christian did their second livecast ever years ago- we made that sign.
Why? Because look at your power outlets. They are worthless without connection. Your half has to be as intentional as my half.
I've read so many disheartened ministers trying to do it all. I've read so many disheartened congregants already missing their live space. Stop. God is real. God is online. Take a breath before you log on, and create your half of the space.
SHARE THIS POST! SHARE IT LIKE CRAZY! I don't need people at Fig Tree today, but God does want you in worship, wherever that might be. Find your space, to connect to their space, and you will find God.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
I started writing this up on Friday, because I had this sixth sense about what was coming. Call it an intuition. First, I knew how brick and mortar churches have talked about digital worship experiences already, and second I knew how those who recorded their worships did their recordings.
My intuition on the churches that already did livecasts was everything was going to be exactly the same, but with 5-20 people present. Even though most people would be watching via video, the minister, musicians, and everyone else would just pretend their congregations were not viewing from a camera, but were actually in the audience. It was exactly what I expected.
My intuition on the churches that had never done this before was not what I was expecting. I was expecting a minister, sitting in front of a laptop or phone, delivering a wooden sermon to a camera, (because a live audience really does add something to the delivery of a sermon). I was half right. No one considers camera angles. Looking down at your phone means you are forcing the congregation to look submissively up at you, but I digress. I also saw attempts at big church production value with a small church budget, Not only were they forgetting where the congregation was (hint, hint, behind the camera) once again had an entire room of one person delivering to no one.
What are you doing? Do you think this is what online worship is? No wonder you think it's a waste of time! I get it now. I wanna help. Let me help.
Ways to be a digital church
One last note:
You need to know a couple of points before you continue:
TL:DR- Find where God is already present, and show the people God. Anything else is wrong.
I want you to read the above Tweet. Really read it. Soak it in. Let it sit. When you've had ample time to understand what she's saying, continue reading here.
That Tweet became the final piece for me to understand Zombie Church. I wanted to write this post weeks ago, and connect what I've been saying to Undead churches, but her account is private. It would have been crossing a boundary to share her Tweet without her permission. So, I messaged Jen Coles and asked for permission to share her words. Just recently she gave it and now I can finally continue.
The Fragile Nature of Brokenness
What I'm about to share is deeply personal and raw. You will see me differently after reading it. Trigger warnings for sexual abuse below.
When I was much much younger, my mom and stepdad took me to the hospital to see if I'd been raped. (As far as I'm aware, I hadn't, but my stepdad was grasping at straws, and he was a bad man..) They were trying to keep custody of my sister and myself. It was for those sweet child support payments. I would hear stories years later of my stepdad approaching my father and telling him, "We'll let you take the kids, and you won't have to fight it in court. All you have to do is keep paying the payments."
This all led to my first remembered sexual experience being me lying on a cold metal table. The doctor coming in with someone else and asking ME, an underage minor, if he could educate the other doctor about my private parts. I was a little girl suffering with mental abuse and neglect at home (yes, related to the same above stepfather) and I was afraid to say no. So as the doctor checked me to see if I'd been raped, they treated me like a lab specimen- naming off my parts that I didn't even know I had at that age.
To top it all off- after they'd finished, they took me to a room and questioned what my dad had done. I honestly told them he'd done nothing. I felt the moment gave me the space to tell how bad my stepdad had been. I began recounting stories of his late drunk nights. I began telling how he'd threaten to murder me. But I never really told, because that's when my stepdad threw the door open, called me a liar and dragged me to the car. It was no wonder, when months later the judge would have my sister and I in a private room asking for our testimony, I'd stare at the door wondering if he was on the other side. (Adults don't get it.)
We are not specimens.
I was turned into an object at 8 years old, because of an asshole that wanted money, and a jock that wanted to show his buddy girl parts. From the brokenness that already littered my tiny existence, new brokenness arose from being turned into a specimen.
Adults really don't get it. There are two terribly wrong things we do to victims of any kind of abuse.
To ignore. Most of us can just continue. Out of sight; out of mind. If we pretend the atrocity didn't happen, then it didn't happen. Only, the person who suffered the abuse can't do that. It did happen, and they're bleeding out, and no one seems to care because everyone has decided it didn't really happen. In church, this is part of Zombie Churches, and broken systems as a whole. It's a "flee" response built into our DNA. We see damage and our first instinct is to run. We can't run anymore.
To kill and examine. "You may be a wounded healer; just don't bleed all over them." Those were words spoken to me directly after my ordination. I took them to heart. My passion was drained out and taken away. I pinned my experience to a dissection table, and explained the parts. I was no better to myself than those stupid doctors years before. But I did it for every one else. If I turned myself into a specimen, then the others didn't need to be in my place. Fine! Kill me! Autopsy me! Now save them! Only, my failing was in believing they would want to go save anyone else. They want us all dead. If we're dead they could be sad for a moment, while they examine the corpses and move on. Just don't bleed all over them. Blood is a sign of life, and they don't want us living.
Read that tweet again.
Read the tweet again.
Read the testimonies of Kristy and Jessica again.
Read my stories I've been sharing throughout the years again.
I'm sorry we're bleeding all over the place, but we're still alive. It happened and it's happening.
If you examine our stories and walk away, you're treating us like specimens. You're breaking us further. You're making things worse.
If you ignore and walk away, you're treating us like we don't exist. You're breaking us further. You're making things worse.
For God's sake, stop acting like there's nothing there and the need isn't urgent!
Help! For God's sake, help!
-Rev Melissa Fain-
3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
Mark 4:3-9 NRSV
Watching people hurt sucks!
When it comes down to it, we don't want people to feel pain. I believe if most of us could take away pain with a push of a button, we would. No more tears. No more heartache.
There's a catch- there usually is.
Pain serves a purpose. Pain let's us know our body needs help. Pain also serves as a warning that something bad is happening, and if not reacted to immediately would continue to happen.
Many are now probably amending their idea, and push the button to end senseless pain but not all pain.
I get it. I'm right there with you. But we tend to lump unhealthy and healthy pain together, and avoid them both equally. If we embraced healthy pain, we'd all be healthy. (Well, many more of us would be healthy. Never speak in absolutes. Crap, that's an absolute. Try not to speak in absolutes.) You get what I mean.
Planting hope is easy, but growing hope is a painful process.
Back in my youth ministry days, I used to do this activity. We'd sit in a circle, and I would pull out brand new Play Doh from a container. I'd announce the Play Doh was God's plan. God wants us to build something. I'd mention something it was supposed to be. A heart. A cat. Just something that would be relatively easy for the group to make. Then I would pass the Play Doh around the circle. My only rule was everyone had to touch it as it went by.
I feel it's important to add, this was always with middle school youth. You can tell them to make a ball, and two people in you have this perfect ball that would make Leonardo Di'Vinci proud, just to have the third in the circle squash it. I found it hilarious, while almost all the youth in the circle were in mental anguish. (See, I didn't use absolutes.)
The point of the activity was two-fold. First, our fingerprints are necessarily all over God's plans. It's part of the activity. Unless we're willing to take hold of what God gives us, it simply sits as an unrealized idea. Nothing can happen unless we're part of what's happening. Second, being part of anything naturally means failure and failure almost always hurts.
"Saving" us from eminent failure
There are two levels of pain here: There's the pain of the person you see with the hope, and there is your pain in helping that person.
Don't be mad at the animals in the Little Red Hen, because most of us are those animals. We live in an immediate culture, and that immediacy has made us lethargic and took away our desire. Our intelligent selves have streamlined life, took away pain, and destroyed passion in the process. This was the piece I was missing every time I talked about immediate gratification: the death of passion.
Now I'm back to Brueggemann and the Prophetic Imagination. (If you've been following over the past few months, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, go back and read January and February's posts.) Comfort is the killer of God's call. Comfort are the birds, path, rocky ground and thorns. Under the guise of ease, God's plan, or hope, is often destroyed:
Let me say it: It's not fair. It's healthy to name the truth in this case.
It's not fair that anyone who is writing about taking God's plan are all telling these bouncy stories of success, where their only trial involved praying for a week and everything magically appearing in front of them. Those books and stories are used as ammunition to destroy those who don't just magically get everything they pray for. They're used to further demoralize those who have had their words stolen by birds, trampled by strangers, and strangled by thorns.
It's not fair that all the power is held by thorns. It's not fair that God is calling those with no power to change a broken system that has all the chips. When the thorns offer power it's only to further the growth of more thorns. You can't take their power, because they ask you to leave God's hope at the door. Taking a piece of their power turns you into a thorn grower. So you sit in the wilderness with nothing, completely demoralized, and lost.
God can work with nothing. Back when I first began, I knew what I had. I didn't have a single thing. Nada. Ziltch. I was ashamed of this fact, and didn't know how to verbalize that deep inner call with the nothing God gave me. It often left me speechless when people would ask what this whole Fig Tree thing was. In reality, I should have been excited by the void. It was fertile ground for God's' plant to be whatever it was supposed to be. What was Fig Tree? A seed. A tiny hope. An unknown that has the potential to be anything God wanted it to be. I didn't trust God enough to express this desire, because I kept waiting for something. Anything. That's my failure. I couldn't trust. What am I doing now?
I'm at a place where the story hasn't reached it's best selling conclusion. I feel when I've reached the end of a chapter to Fig Tree's epic story. The Zombie Church section was one of those moments. Now I'm just sharing the awful truth: Hope is painful. Hope is work. Hope if filled with heartache and loss. I'm sharing because all of these things are healthy and someone, anyone, needs to say it. We are a sacred remnant. Hope comes from the ashes of the refining fire. What I love about Jesus' parable is the mass of it all was never considered. Yes, some of what God has given has been gobbled up by greed. Yes, some of what has been given has been planted in shallow graves. Yes, some of what has been given has been destroyed by those who fear it. But that sacred remnant still remains. God gave so much, so something would still remain to save us all.
That hope has been secretly growing in the wilderness away from everything else.
That hope has been growing deep roots that are years old in the making.
That hope might not be Fig Tree Christian when it's all said and done, but that hope will save us all.
"Let your 'yes' mean 'yes' and your 'no' mean 'no,' anything else is from the evil one."
Dear Commission on Ministry,
You have requested an official letter making my intentions, and the intentions of Fig Tree clear.
I've left the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Fig Tree Christian left the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
There. Now it can't get any clearer. You wanted to give me an opportunity to change my mind, but authenticity means that opportunity never existed. I've spent a month telling people to let go. I've used myself as a living example. If I, all of a sudden, take it all back, what have I become? My words no longer mean what I say they mean. To change my mind now, would let everyone know I don't speak the truth. My yes would mean yes as long as certain factors are not in play. No one, in that situation, could trust that! No one, in that situation, should trust me!
Therefore, if you think I have value don't want me. Don't wish me back on the inside. No one was supportive while I was on the inside anyway. Only pretty words that built imaginary castles. I'm not going to play pretend like platitudes could build real foundations. We shouldn't rewrite history to paint it any other way. If you want to be supportive now that I'm on the outside, more power to you, but I don't hold any of you accountable to me. You are as free of me, as I am of the Denomination.
Rev Melissa Fain
PS- This is a post written on Fig Tree Christian and shared to Facebook. This is not a Facebook post, and neither are any of the others. I specifically bring this up because I think you're missing why all this has happened. I'm not leaving you. I'm finally going to them. I only word it that way above because the action of going somewhere has an obvious counter action of leaving somewhere else, and you have specifically asked me to be that blunt with the counter action. In reality it doesn't matter whether my personal standing in the CC(DOC) lasts until next year or February 28th. Either way, I have to work for them. I have to speak for them. I have to build for them. You have your buildings. You have your voice. You have your work. There is nothing I can do for you.
PPS- I gained some clarity over the week. You're also worried about me. You think it's dangerous to leave a denomination. You think it's foolish without that structure and accountability. You're right. It's like I'm going out into a storm with a dinghy, and without the support of the coast guard. I'm glad we are both aware that I'm not doing something safe or comfortable. Stop asking what I'm doing, and start asking why I'm doing it. You'll discover it's not about me. It's them. Yes it's dangerous. Yes I'm still going. I'm going because God is calling me out.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
This post is not meant to be read first! Please, please please! Read these before you continue:
Zombie Jesus: God is not Undead
Zombie Church Apocalypse
To all those killed by zombies: Canceling
To all those who are ghosted by the church
DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER!
Reading anyway? Well, I've read enough "Monster at the end of this book" to know you would. Well, here we go...
When I was a kid, my dad, sister and I were enjoying some chips and salsa. My sister and I made an off hand comment that we should make our own. Dad, being the creative man he is, asked if we wanted to actually do that, and we both reaffirmed our desire to make our own salsa. The next thing we knew, we were clearing a plot of land to grow our own ingredients. Dad made sure we understood, everything on the land had to go, or it would grow up with the crops.
Now, we were elementary school kids. Honestly, we thought we got everything out of that plot. I’m absolutely positive if I (Adult Melissa) was able to look at my own work clearing the ground, I’d give a “really” look to my younger self, and point her back into the mini-field. We didn’t get everything, and that was made clear as grass and weeds began to grow up with the tomatoes and peppers. Every day I’d spend some time in the garden pulling what didn’t belong.
The salsa ended up being the best salta I had ever eaten. Dad had successfully taught us value. A lesson I still consider today as I am a creative woman.
That’s really beside the point. The point is the land. If you haven’t been reading Fig Tree posts since the new year, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER! What do you think I’ve been doing?! I do not take pleasure in spending weeks talking about death and dying. Who do you think I am? Ask a Mortician? I was clearing the ground. I was making the land ready for something new. If you haven’t done the same, leave. It’s not that I don’t want you here, it’s that you don’t want you here. I get it now, but to continue, so should you.
Summer is coming (my butt!)
Oh God! Sweet merciful God that has infinite patience for my impatience! I get it now!
Years ago I attempted to launch Fig Tree Christian in the dining area of a Cajun Restaurant. I passed out thousands of flyers. Yes, thousands! On the flyer was a daisy with the words, “Are you ready for something new?” It’s the banner image today. I posted online numerous times, and leading up to the launch I had this feeling, “What is about to happen is what is supposed to happen.”
Seriously, nothing happened. No one showed up. It was an epic failure, and I was left to contemplate what it all meant. I had this deep yearning to do God’s work, and I deeply felt that work was as the minister of Fig Tree. Why would it all start by not a single person feeling called to be part of it all? My initial gut reaction was realizing it wasn’t ready yet. I’ve come to realize it was more personal than that. I wasn’t ready yet. If Fig Tree had launched back when I first made the attempt it would have naturally reverted to everything that already existed. I had traditional church built into every fiber of my being. By “traditional” I’m not making a comparison of guitar or organ. I’m saying the skeleton of modern worship, which whether you have praise or hymnal music is pretty much the same. The congregants sit as a group of people lead songs and prayers. They request money and one person gives a message that connects to the Bible in some way. There’s also communion, sometimes weekly and sometimes quarterly or bi-annually. Then there’s this cadence to it all. There are ways people pray that have a rhythm to it. Implicit and explicit body language- all of it so much a part of my worshiping body.
I had to kill it, or more aptly, I had to sacrifice it to God.
Not clear enough? Up to this point, my job as a minister of Fig Tree has been to till and pull up a plot of space in my heart. Consider that for a moment. While there were those who had their “soul-ground” destroyed by others, I had to destroy what was left of my own before I could continue. And I fought! I did not go easy into that good night! I attempted negotiation. “God, just give me a space, and I’ll give you my call.” LOL! I attempted to put the church on credit, as in, “God, just give me a team now, and we’ll pull those weeds as they arise. No point clearing the ground first. People are lost.” ROFL!
Now I’m ready to start planting, and I’m ready for people to join me, but I don’t want you here if you’re coming with all your weeds. More than that, if you’re in love with your weeds, why are you even here? There’s numerous churches all over the United States that love your weeds. You don’t even have to work to keep them! Stay away from this, and it’s years of set-up. You don’t belong.
If you are ready for this, but you haven’t accepted something can’t survive first, go back and do the work. I want you here. God wants you here, but you need to mourn. I don’t know, have yourself a little funeral for the traditional church. Write yourself a eulogy. Remember her like your beloved great aunt Ruth. Laugh about the good times, cry over the bad, and cremate what remains.
Then come join me! I’m ready to plant some hope, and it’s gonna be messy, and it’s gonna be fun, and it’s almost time for Spring.
BUT DO NOT FOLLOW IF YOU ARE NOT READY!
-Rev Melissa Fain-
This morning marks one of those milestones one has to mark when they reached them. Milestones can either be earned through determination or hard work, or they can just happen whether you want them to or not. Ordination is the later. I can't undo it. It is a moment in history that will continue to grow farther away. How a minister spends their time after being ordained, tints how these big milestones feel. Let me begin by saying: I thought I'd be somewhere else.
I thought I'd be somewhere else...
You have no idea how passionate I was about Church 10 years ago. I was ready to jump in and get started. I even had a plan! I was going to start in a small church that felt called to take on new ministers. They would help me as I would help them. Then, when it was time, I would take a bigger church job. My kids would grow up in the church. They would be blessed and baptized. The congregants would celebrate as my kids would reach their own milestones. It was a beautiful picture. Very Thomas Kincad-esk.
Reality is a bitch. (Honestly I've wanted to write "bitch" for Thursday's meditation, and "All part of God's plan" was better than "Destiny's a bitch." Now we're here, and you've been caught up. Reality's a bitch.) If you notice my pretty view above all of it was taking place IN the church. I've yelled about churches being really good at using evangelism to only put out pretty welcome mats. Well, I used to be all about those stupid mats. I was the maker of mats. Oh yes, just put out a nice enough sign in front of the building and they'll come flocking in. I even made a few pretty signs in my day! Really. I was such a glorified idiot.
The worst part is in recalling back, that it didn't really matter. It was empty work that gained nothing, that did nothing, that wasted resources for nothing. Don't coddle me on this one. I have 20/20 vision. (Crap, Of course the 10 year anniversary would fall on 2020. I didn't mean it as a pun, but now I guess it is one. Moving on.) I needed to be broken, because I had built myself into the very fabric of those chairs the church bought to replace the pews because they thought they could be moved around. Now they just sit were the pews were because no one considered what a pain it would be to move the chairs around all the time. Those chairs, like my time and resources, are empty. Are worthless. They have gained nothing.
God broke me out...
Yes, I do mean that as a pun. God broke me out of church.
Well, here's where things are a little messy. I don't believe it's helpful to throw around "It was all part of God's plan," all willy-nilly whenever someone gets hurt or loses someone. Let's get this clear before I continue: God did not hurt you, people hurt you. God's not closing doors to open windows. What kind of joke is that? Sometimes God opens doors really wide to have someone else think it's their door, go through it and close it in your face. No, we don't give ourselves enough credit in our ability to mess up God's creative force.
This is me. I am only talking about my story when I write this. I personally felt I was called to walk into brokenness. I wish I was able to see things as a spectator, but I was created to need to live pain in order to understand pain. I also knew the secret to ministry. If I had played my cards right, and didn't talk about what happened; I'd just be ushered into a new congregation where I would start again. Ah, such a beautiful scenario that never came to be because I had this feeling I was never meant to really walk back into church ministry. Oh, I made a couple of failed attempts. I would let them know I was still doing the "Fig Tree thing," like that was only a side project, even though I knew it wasn't. When it all came to a head, and the choice was Fig Tree (ministry to the broken outside the church) or Church ministry, I finally made the right choice.
A minister in the wrong ministry are chains that hold us captive from God's call.
You might have no idea how freeing it is to just do what God calls you to do! It's not about the paycheck. It's not about the time. It's about the call. If I do something ministry related I don't think, "Are they going to fire me because I just did this?" "They" won't, because they don't own me with a salary. Wow, that's a lot of power for one 39 year old girl to wield. Let this statement sink in just a bit:
While you find your comfort in your paycheck, I find my power in my calling.
Did the people pictured above know what they were helping ordain?
I'm gonna say no. My sister, pictured directly to my right had no idea, and I (the person being ordained) really had no idea. How would anyone else have any clue? I've learned a few things over the past 10 years: I'm dangerous because I can't be bought, and I've already walked through the fire and survived. I'm scary for the same reasons, and I've proven that I'm not after a job, but a call. Now I'm also free.
Watch out. These next ten years are going to be crazy.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
Today marks the conclusion to part one. I’m going to sum up everything leading up to this and include the links as I go:
Why I’m always doomed to failure
I wish I could translate my inflections into my words. I wish you could read my persistence, and know my desire. I know it’s a struggle to break past the antiseptic words to see the messy truth. I’m not setting up some “What-if” scenario. I’m in this terrible space. I could write academically; use the correct verbage, and somewhat hit those in their ivory towers. It wouldn’t change anything. To be accepted by the echelons of higher learning. I’m already using words that are too dense for the average reader, and I feel dirty even wearing them.
I could also write down to earth, and keep it real. I could throw around, “Girl!” and play the audience. Then I must dumb it down to the point of stupidity. A feel good blog is satiation only. In other words, it’s not meant to change you really. It’s only meant to make you feel good about the choices you’ve already made.
Which leaves me here. I have this desperate yearning to get the truth out in a world where no one wants to hear the truth. On one hand I will not write in a language others would have to translate to get to the masses just to be considered valid to those with higher education degrees. That’s the modern day Vulgate. There’s a disconnect between the knowledge and the church because the average person can’t read these dense tomes. On the other hand, if I’m not as empty and sweet as cotton candy, I’d better pack it up and go home. I can’t say things that require more than one reading; things that require meditation. I should pander to a side, get my views up, and get published for only saying things my readers want to hear.
My husband asked me, why am I still doing this? Because I see it, and in just seeing it one is forced to make the choice to ignore or act. Every time I encounter a broken individual I’m encountering Jesus, and I’m being asked to accept Christ into my life. Ignorance is my damnation.
Ghosting: Nothing has happened but everything is happening
Many who find themselves canceled by the church, ultimately also find themselves ghosted. First, what is ghosting?
Ghosting is a newish term with an old action. It is a way to avoid confrontation. Instead of one party engaging conflict in a healthy way, they completely cut off and ignore. No action, positive or negative is taken.
It leaves the person who was ghosted with nothing. They are left wondering why everything happened, and they don’t even get a proper closure to move on. The one(s) who did the ghosting are just fine. They avoided their healthy conflict to give negative conflict to the one(s) being ghosted. That’s why ghosting, the act of doing absolutely nothing, is actually everything.
Reasons the church ghosts
You almost always cannot change a system until you understand why something is happening. Anyone who can is suffering by unbelievable dumb luck. There are multiple reasons churches ghost. None of them are healthy, but we must understand them to be able to change their perspective.
To all the ghosts out there
More than likely if you’re reading this, I didn’t personally cause your woundedness. I wasn’t the one who withheld their vote, or refused to speak up. I wasn’t the one who back stabbed you, and I’m not the person who ghosted you. But I’m part of the problem. I’m a minister within this broken tradition. My hands are covered in your blood, and I refuse to wash it off. I want everyone to see it.
I’m sorry you were wounded by a system that was supposed to protect you.
I’m sorry you were spiritually killed in the process. They won’t say it, but I will.
Either they are a zombie church or their comfort is fattening them up for their eventual slaughter. Do not wish to be them. It is better to be spiritually dead. God can work with death. God can take our dry bones and make something new. We have become like new canvas’, ready for God’s masterpiece. When death has been reached, hope can be reborn.
I pulled some articles that might be helpful about ghosting:
Also, Brueggemann's Prophetic Imagination- always.