I don't know why I decided to visit her. My fate was sealed. I was leaving, and it frankly didn't matter what I did by that point. I no longer owed anyone, anything. Actually, now they owed me. Two months of full pay, the opportunity to stay in the parsonage until February, and money to help move. Thinking back on it all, I still feel dirty. I wanted to enjoy the new life that had just been born. Instead I'd cry at random times during the day, sometimes while holding my baby girl.
Still, only a few days after it all went down, I went to visit a congregant. Even though the vote was private, I knew where she fell. All the Elders voted to let me go. I also knew, many of those votes were manipulated and strong armed. "It is the only way to keep the church together." (It led to a church split.) "Deacons don't have votes." (They did.) "This is family." (That one was true.) More alarming was the communities words, "Oh, I see it happened again." I would eventually learn it happened in some from to almost every minister post 1980. Why 1980? That's when the church split over charismatic differences. The split eventually failed, but the damage remained. Researching their history I heard and read of ministers damaged and broken by the church.
They always tried to oust the minister privately, but they couldn't do that with me. I came broken. Seriously, right after I took the call I broke my ankle. Then, once I was on the mend, I got pregnant. Everything hit the fan just as I was in a place to be well.
I knew my life would take certain turns after I left that town. In the beginning, there would be morbid curiosity. We like to look at a car crash. There is something that causes us to drive just a little slower than we need to so we can crane our neck back and look. I knew immediately following the event I could have capitalized on the gore. At the same time, I knew I needed to stay quiet; to let the event sit. I wasn't called to speak of woundedness. I was called to map the road to healing. I'm not called to be the poster child for the Flashy New Church™. My experience is not one that is comfortable, or easily branded. I'm also not unique. This one probably breaks my heart the most. There are broken ministers, congregants, and churches all over the United States.
The problem is, and yes you can call this a problem, we are stuck on the car wreck.
"Wow did you hear what so-in-so church did?"
"That was horrible!"
Then out of sight; out of mind.
No one talks about the car crash when they get to the grocery store. By then, you are more worried whether you are going to get the right brand of snack cake. Once your home, it might only be an interesting side note to tell anyone home Then it's forgotten.
Meanwhile, someone is still suffering. Someone is possibly mourning. Everyone wants to tell their story, but no one wants to listen to recovery. Recovery is boring. Recovery is only interesting if something flashy happens. We want a good story. Who can put the church's problem in a click-bait title, where the problem is solved in exactly three steps?
The answer will be simple to understand, like, "Eat less; exercise more." Doing the answer will be blood sweat and tears. Sometimes, literally. Getting the answer will be like getting pregnant, and following the answer will be like carrying that answer in your gut for nine months. It will be about ripping you apart to get to God's grace and love. It's about getting to the wilderness, and being tempted. Then, when that flashy choice is given, turning it down. It's about knowing everyone has moved along, and you are now without support. This is the right way to deal with being sent down the wrong path. If that's not enough for you: here's the one liner. The obvious line that will get us on track is this:
The answer to the church is getting to know the community they serve, and acting in that community with Christ's love.