We have been attending a small, rural, nondenominational church for the past two and a half years. It was nice going there when we were under the assumption that these were a committed group of believers who lived their faith and welcomed "outsiders" like ourselves. I mean, most of the members are probably related somehow. When we first attended, the church had no pastor and was actively searching. A few months later, members almost unanimously voted to call Pastor D. Although he and I have a few differences in beliefs, which I for the most part keep to myself, he has challenged me to think about what I believe, and what it means to be a Christian. He and my husband have gotten to be good friends. He spent several days helping to build the addition on our house. I truly believe he is concerned with the spiritual well being of everyone in the congregation, and he is intelligent and compassionate.
So I was deeply saddened yesterday when he stopped by to announce that he had turned in his resignation on Sunday.
Not that I was blindsided by the announcement. Russ had talked with the pastor last week and found out about some disturbing things that have been going on among certain members of the church. He shared this news with me in a 5 am discussion Sunday morning, and we decided then not to attend church that day.
We so wanted to believe that we had found, for the first time, a church where we fit in, where people acted according to Christian standards without bickering over details. Where love prevailed. They'll know we are Christians by our love, right? Wrong. These same people, who outdo each other to appear pious and reach out to others, are a bunch of self-serving, backstabbing, two faced, egotistical fakers. Apparently they don't want their pastor, the leader whom they appointed, to rock the boat, to challenge them spiritually. They don't even want him preaching on Easter and other certain Sundays! And the sweet honey voiced woman who leads singing praises, she and her uber righteous servant of God husband, have called the pastor Satan's helper and spit in his face. Literally. They have helped to create deep division within the congregation. And what for? Self-righteous bitch.
My first reaction is to leave, to seek fellowship elsewhere. I told the pastor yesterday I have misgivings about associating with that church anymore. He understood but he is concerned with the health and future of the congregation, and that we should consider staying and showing our support for what we would like to see in this church. But there are certain people right now whom I don't know if I could look in the eye and say "Peace be with you". And we're not even full members yet; how much influence do we have? I don't know. Personally, I've been considering the Quaker path seriously and I would like to check out a meeting; however the closest is fifty miles away and I don't know how I could justify driving that far, consuming gasoline, in order to find fellowship.
I think a lot of what's going on is indirectly a reaction to some events that have affected people in the congregation lately. Our lay worship leader and elder member has had serious health problems lately and has been unable to participate in a leadership role; that leaves a huge hole that maybe others are scrambling to fill for their own reasons. There have been layoffs, among those affected, the chief instigators of division. Maybe what they are doing arises out of chaos and uncertainty, maybe in their need to find something solid to hold onto they have taken a few differences with the pastor and turned that into a radical belief system.
I am praying; praying about my family's spiritual life, praying for healing in the church, both spiritually and physically.