Saturday, October 8, 2011

a year later

Weird, blogspot says this is my 800th post. That's kind of poignant because this is going to be a big entry. Not a long one, but I just want to speak to the fact that a year has passed since we left our church that we'd been at for twelve years. A year ago I was entering the darkest pain I've known since my parents disowned me. Our church laid off the chief musician artist-in-residence. When anyone is fired from a church it's a horrible thing and the people who do the firing always acknowledge this. But in every instance the firing makes things easier for the people who are the Big Bosses of the church. No one is ever fired for going along with what the main pastor person/people want, they're fired for having too much conflict with the leaders, in whatever capacity that means. Every single time. I'm a preacher's kid and my husband is too and we've seen this tens and twenties and thirties of times. Never thought it would happen in our church home. Sometimes I wonder why I let my guard down and I always think immediately afterwards that I'm glad I did. I don't want to live with my guard up. I've worked to lower my guard and everything is more beautiful and it hurts more this way.

So a year ago our friend Phil was fired and as we began to learn the reasons why this happened, which boiled down to the pastor wanting to change the vision of the church, my heart started to break into pieces. This isn't how church is supposed to be. Plans and vision aren't more important than the people in the church. Yes, it's how the western Church acts and is widely deemed acceptable, but my intuition and also Spirit told me that it wasn't right. The Church is where we bear each other's burdens but history with church hasn't been that people really come forward with a lot of transparency and vulnerability, but that IS when real Church happens. We bear one another's burdens and it is an honor and it is beautiful. I don't know how much of this is a Christian culture thing, but it is really rare to see people be forthcoming with their struggles in a church setting because struggles are embarrassing, sometimes really embarrassing. I feel that rather than confront these things in ourselves and ask for our church family to gather around us to help us, we don't talk about them and get busy doing other things, and that's when church starts to operate like a business instead of a family.

When I was in the very dark time following Phil's firing I was scraping around for hope and was so scared that I'd never find any. I cried so much that David asked if I would get dehydrated and the kids stood at the foot of our bed and had these big eyes and touched my ankles and I told them that I was going to be okay, I just had to feel my sadness and I was grieving our church and I was grieving what had happened to Phil and Robin and Flora and Chet.

Now that it's been a year I wonder if the church family we left is happier without Phil's ideas and personality posing conflict with their ideas and personalities. We are still living with this pain every day. I wonder if they feel any pain, but I don't know if I really want to know. I will ask them directly if I feel like I'm in a place where I need to know and if I can handle their answer.

I wonder what would have happened if the people who felt Phil should be fired had gotten the congregation's opinion first. That is the kind of church I need to be at, one where the hierarchy doesn't play so strong a role. And I didn't know that while I was part of that church. I trusted the leaders a lot. And I'm glad I did because I loved that church so much, they were truly my Seattle family, especially since my parents disowned me. They helped me through the initial part of that and were a wonderful support. I felt so provided for; I was provided for. That bond with them made the firing that much more painful. If they could let go of Phil that easily, how much more easily could they let go of the rest of us? We met with the leaders in different assortments and varieties five times over the next few months, and when they told us that they would be glad to send us to another church, without our asking for their blessing, I had half of my answer, but not the full one. Then when I told the leaders that my intuition was telling me that something wrong had happened, an elder told me "your intuition is wrong," and I had my answer. I had to go. I couldn't be part of a church whose leadership would tell me my intuition is wrong. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through our intuition. S/he tells me stuff and sometimes tells me to tell others and I really wish s/he wouldn't because it's a giant pain in the ass, but s/he really gets after you about that sort of thing — not exactly pushy but s/he won't leave you alone about it. So I kept going to them and telling them what I needed to, and at our final meeting (the night before my birthday actually) I had my answer. I had told them everything I could and it had been revealed to me that I needed to go. I wrote a letter saying how much they had meant to me and our family and how grateful I was for how they'd been part of our lives, and I told them why I couldn't be part of the church body anymore, and I had a strangely horrible and wonderful birthday. I felt free but so scared. I didn't know if I would ever find a church or faith community or whatever that would want me, really want all of me. That was the hardest stretch of time, and a year later I am still feeling it. Phil and his family live with it much more closely than we do. Their pain is so vivid that I can feel it when I'm around them or when I talk to them on the phone, even if we're not talking about what happened. I'm feeling it now as I'm typing about it, the heavy shattered feeling of being disposable. I don't think the story is over, not even close to being over. Big and good things will happen and I have no idea when or how. We need to feel this pain and move through it. I want to honor it by writing this and giving shape to it. It needs to be spoken to. It may be the most spiritually traumatic thing that will ever happen to those of us who have been affected by it. For the people who made the decision it might seem like a very distant memory and not anything they really think about much, I really don't know, but I do know that many of us still feel immense pain every day. These kinds of wounds take a long time to heal. My counselor said to give myself twenty years to really feel resolution. It may happen sooner, and a significant amount of healing has happened for me, but hardly any has happened for others.

So I just wanted to speak to these huge events that most of us who were there for them would rather forget because they're actually still happening; they are affecting us. I would like to check in again in another year. I wonder how much healing will have happened by then? I will actively hope for lots.


reborn1995 said...


i listened to your podcast yesterday for the first time. Pretty funny. (Actually it was weird because people never sound like what i thought they would sound like. Maybe that's just me.)

A couple things:

Maybe if a hierarchy did value people correctly, having a hierarchy might not be as bad a thing?

Are you familiar with Celebrate Recovery? That's been the breath of fresh air for me as far as "church" with real vulnerability and mutual-burden-bearing is concerned. It has absolutely changed my life.


Still Breathing said...

Stephy, A year ago you couldn't have written this as the pain would have been too much. You have moved on but part of that pain will never leave you but will make you wiser and more considerate.

God bless you and prayers from across the pond.

LKT said...

Hey, Stephy.

All of this feels really close to me, too close to really talk about right now.

So this is just to say thank you for writing this and for letting your guard down and for trusting your intuition.

Callie said...

Having been through similar situations several times, I get how much heirarchy sucks. Thinking of you and your friends and asking for grace to face the pain and comfort in the midst of it.

Benjamin Ady said...


I just read this. thank you so much for your beautiful honesty.