-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Before I really get into it today, I wish others have the same urgency I have. I also wish there were more people with the creative energy to join up with what I want to do. Every passing day feels like I'm failing, because what needs to happen isn't happening. More are hurt the longer this takes. I'm not sure you could understand the kind of sadness I feel at making something good. It's sadness in knowing I can do something, but also knowing no one wants it. There are few things as heartbreaking as knowing ones value, and knowing that value is not being used to it's full potential. My husband sees it. While I am sad, he is frustrated. That frustration doesn't help me, other than knowing my value could be cut down and replaced with something else. Then, once again, I'm sad.
Where my prayer has been.
Something very strange happened last Sunday. I was thinking about a project I've been working on for years now. And, by years, I mean years. It has been growing in my brain and evolving since I was a young child.
I've recently reached a point, where I've considered just giving it up, and by giving it up, I mean giving it all up. Like I said before, I feel rather defeated as of late. I don't feel bad telling you that, because feeling defeated is a human feeling. I'm not a god, and I don't play one on TV. I'm mortal, and as such, I'm allowed to feel mortal feelings. Being honest with my emotions is part of what it means to be a Pastor.
My most recent prayer has been two words and mirrors Psalm 13. "How long?"
Those two words are filled with meaning though.
How long does your children need to suffer the abuse of their own Christian family, without action?
Our theologies are weaponized from all sides, and they are striking out. Meanwhile, more people are leaving faith all together over our ambivalence towards the pain our faith tradition doles out. It feels like Christians are either the ones hurting, or the ones ignoring that hurt. How we have failed as faith.
How long are we going to pretend we are seeking solutions when we're not?
We haven't had our woman theological darling since Rachael Held Evans. She passed away in 2019, leaving this hole, that has slowly been filled and dismissed. Meanwhile, we are ignoring the new alter that has been erected: Online ministry. We are all drooling at the potential, and wanting to take the pulpit, no one is seeking what that actually looks like. All I can do is sit back and watch the Fundie-Progressive fight, knowing neither side has really done anything.
How long am I to keep going on this path?
This might shock you, but part of praying "how long," is also praying, "if it's not going to do what I believe you want it to do, destroy it."
I know, personally, as long as there is a need, I will keep going until it breaks or I do. If God destroyed Fig Tree, that would not be a curse, but a blessing. Not because I want it destroyed. No. I want what I'm doing to have value and meaning. It would be a blessing because it would be God telling me my job has finished. I weary. I could do this for 30 more years, if I had more than the meager supplies that I have. If I wasn't buried under the student loan debt of a minister who will never work in an institutional church again. Yet, it continues, and the same weight, that was easy to carry a decade ago, now feels overbearing, because I've mostly been carrying it alone.
Do you see?
God talks in many ways.
Getting back to last Sunday, I once again prayed, "How long?" I was talking about a plethora of things. All the ones listed above, but also that project I've been attached to since I was a kid.
It was while talking about Tolkien and his writings that my husband said something:
"Anything of value takes an incredible amount of work and time."
It just felt like it was more than my husband talking.
It was like the answer to my prayer was, "It will amount to something, so don't give up."
And before you rally around this answer, realize Tolkien was paid full time wages for his work his entire life. He had the ability to focus on his passion projects while also being comfortable in life.
And really, that's the problem with most ministers today as well. They are not living in it. There is something very sanitized about their messages, that lack the reality of life.
I actually had a dream many years ago (a literal dream) where I met God. She was steering a wagon, and invited me to sit next to her. As we were talking, people came up to her with prayers. I watched as she answered prayer after prayer. People would ask for things, and she would grant their requests. So I asked for everything I needed to make Fig Tree a reality. She told me no. I was shocked! I pointed to all the people she said yes to, and asked why was she telling me no. Her answer, "It doesn't mean anything if you don't earn it yourself."
I must admit, I was a bit salty waking up from that dream. Now I wonder, "How long?" At what point does my work has enough value?
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Today marks the 10 year anniversary of when I first began this journey with God to create Fig Tree Christian. Ten years ago I would have imagined it would look much different than it actually does. By this point, I imagined there would be an actual team I'd be working with. You know, people with the creative desire to figure out what Church will look like in the future. I imagined I'd be planning out videos and Bible studies.
I guess the biggest thing I hoped was for "we" instead of just "me."
That being said, what I hoped would be a celebration ten years in, is not a good day for me today.
Understanding the lack of support.
I did not come back to Georgia at a good time.
The Regional Minister at the time called me to tell me he was retiring. He expressed sorrow that he wasn't going to be there to help me. I immediately knew that raised the difficulty. It was the first struggle of many.
The region was also in financial trouble. Churches were already dying, and some had flat out stopped giving.
The region also had a race problem. The biggest church in the region, Ray of Hope, had flat out stopped sending kids to the regional conference center.
That's why Georgia brought in Rev. Dr. Denise Bell. She was good with the finances, and could work specifically with the race issues Georgia needed to work on.
Her focus wasn't on new Church plants. Conversely, she wanted to focus on revitalizing the Churches that already existed over and beyond new Church plants.
We'd talk. I'd tell her Fig Tree needed assistance. She would offer prayer, but explain there was nothing she could give on a regional level.
If you want me to be mad about that, I'm not.
Others were though. My sister wanted me to seek out the Alabama region, which was only an hour from us. Anything but a region that was going to boldly express exclusion over possibility.
What it means to work from nothing.
One of the big ideas of the past decade came from the late Rev. Dr. Roger Sizemore. He believed in me. He wanted to get me going again. Working with Dr. Bell, they hatched a plan to plant Fig Tree Christian in First Christian Church of Marietta, (Disciples of Christ). Marietta was dying. What they didn't tell me, was the bigger plan was to have the dying church, devore Fig Tree, and I stay as a minister.
I was livid. The death of Fig Tree wasn't going to save Marietta. It was also completely ignoring real people who found real connection through everything Fig Tree had done up to that point.
We left Marietta, and started livecasting in a coffee house. We were one of the very first Churches in the nation to livecast a form of worship back in July of 2016! We were figuring out what online worship looked like when people were boldly telling me that wasn't worship.
I knew I was doing something that needed to be done, but no one could see the potential in it. We got nothing from the region the entire time we livecasted. Could you imagine what we'd be, if the Georgia region had trusted God enough to support Fig Tree in becoming online presence? Once again, I'm not angry.
That's why in 2019 Fig Tree left the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I prayed about it for years, and my prayer was answered with this thought, "Do it now when it holds power."
When 2020 hit, and everyone was home, I realized how much power that move made.
What the region did in return was horrible. They kept us as a church on the website, but didn't include us as an online presence during the pandemic. They had their cake and ate it too. That one I'm mad at. We were used. People who heard about Fig Tree looked for us, and found other congregations livecasting their worships.
So- for the most part, I'm sad.
I feel like, every single day, is a day people are being failed.
We are so caught up in saving dying relics of a bygone age, we are just ignoring the wailing cry of the broken.
I am not online because I think it's fun. It's not.
I'm not online because I want to be famous. That's just stupid, and no one should go into ministry for that.
I'm online because this is where the broken go, and we can't get our heads out of our asses to see we need to be more than copy/pasting our worships.
I'm sad, because no one wants to physically help me reach them.
There I am. I don't peddle beautiful lies; just hard truths. If you hear it from me, it's because I believe it. Know that. Maybe 2032 will be different...
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Just information- this website turns TEN on July 12th! I don't know how that makes me feel. I kinda hoped we'd be further along than we are. I'm not sure what I'll write. I'm in prayer.
This movie was my bait and switch!
In 2006 two movies came out about magicians: The Prestige and The Illusionist.
The Prestige stars Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, and Scarlett Johansson.
The Illusionist stars Edward Norton, Jessica Biel and Paul Giamatti.
You all know I'm going to spoil The Illusionist, but you didn't come here for me to spoil The Prestige. This is basically what you need to know about both: Lower class person becomes a magician and has tricks an upper class person can't figure out. Upper class person then tries to destroy the lower class magician, and people die.
Sometime around 2012 I wanted to watch the Edward Norton version of the poor magician foiling the rich people, but couldn't remember the name. That's when I accidently watched The Prestige instead, and liked it.
Then, for this movie series, I thought, I wonder if that Christian Bale movie about magicians is available for free on TubiTv. That's how I found The Illusionist, and it became the movie for today instead of The Prestige. I find it kinda funny that two movies about a similar subject of slight of hand, could confuse me into watching the opposite movie I'm looking for.
The Illusionist shows us Jesus
I do not think Jesus was just a fancy magician. Let me just get that one out of the way, so I don't get haters online telling me I'm an atheist in disguise or something to that effect. I do think Edward Norton's character shows us the power Jesus held to protect himself from tyrannical forms of government.
There's this scene, where Giamatti's character has arrested Norton's character under suspicion of fraud. Giamatti tells Norton to reveal to him the truth of the trick or he would be forced to take him to jail. Outside there are throngs of Norton supporters. Giamatti adds that the punishment would be far worse if those fans storm the building.
In this moment, Giamatti has set a trap. It's an either/or situation. Either Norton reveals his trick, thus destroying everything he's built up to this moment, or he keeps his secrets but spends the remainder of his days in jail.
That moment feels very much like the moments in the Bible the Pharisee's have used to trap Jesus. More than that, Giamatti feels very much like a Pharisee. I say this, because the Pharisee's had painting themselves into their own trap. Either they could support Herod and keep their shiny new temple with a leader who "supports" Judaism, or they could support Jesus and leave all their power. We need to remember, it was lose/lose for the Pharisee's too. It was also lose/lose for Giamatti's character.
What Norton's character does in response to this trap, is also very Jesus. He steps outside and tells the crowd they were illusions. Now the crowd wouldn't believe him, and he knew that, but it gives a third option. Now Giamatti has no reason to keep Norton, and lets him go.
I said this so many times. The world isn't either/or. When an organization tries to herd you into a yes/no situation, those are almost always their lines they've drawn.
What we see in The Illusionist is what Jesus' danger looked like having those stark choices laid before him in an attempt to destroy him. We can also see how a corrupt system can pit people who shouldn't be on opposite sides against one another. Maybe we should consider that one today. Perhaps?
This Sunday I'll be talking about Apollo 13. They took it off at the end of June, so watch this video to prep for Sunday worship: