Sunday, July 27, 2008

Church stuff

I don't think I ever explicitly stated it, but one of the reasons this spring and summer has kind of sucked rocks is what's going on at church.

The wonderful minister we had - who helped us pick up the pieces after the split - left. (He and his wife decided they had "irreconcilable differences" and he felt that, since she had a stable job here, the honorable thing to do after the divorce was for him to move away.)

So we've been limping along with "guest" ministers. Some have been better than others. But it makes me sad...I almost have the feeling that this congregation is winding down, that the state leadership may be sending us the message of "better to have them disperse than spend any more effort on them" and that makes me sad.

I don't know where I'd go. There's another Disciples church in a town to the south of me, but it's nearly a half-hour drive, and I'm not sure I'm up for an hour's round trip to church every week (or more, if I participated in other activities). There's a Presbyterian church (actually two) in town, but I don't know...

I'm hoping maybe I'm misreading the situation through a tendency to be pessimistic. But the pews are pretty empty each's like a lot of the people who are members are staying away because of "'s a guest preacher." And I don't think that's very good or very helpful.

At any rate, we get our interim today. (And there have been noises made about "Maybe we can persuade him to become permanent). Interestingly enough, he is the same interim minister who was here when I joined, nearly 10 years ago. (The church has had, I guess, I lot of problems in the past 15 years...apparently they sent away the minister before the current interim's first term and no one likes to talk about why he was sent away, and then we got a minister who helped precipitate the church split, and now this.)

Actually, some of the people take on a very hangdog attitude about this run of problems. They are actually saying "I don't know what we're doing wrong but..." in a very Old Testament sense, in a very "God is punishing us and we don't know why" sense. And it makes me sad and nervous...couldn't it just be we had a run of problems because people are kind of messed up, and that messed-up-ness sometimes spills over into the pulpit? I'm sorry, but when I look at this congregation I can't believe that there's some huge secret sin that God is punishing us for...we are one of the most giving congregations I've belonged to, one of the most civically active. We haven't shunned people or formed cliques. We haven't put individual wants above the needs of the community. We don't have dissent in the ranks, or what there is, is minor and is usually addressed by sitting the two people down and talking with them.

I don't like the siege mentality.

I'm more prone to shrug and go "Life sucks sometimes and it looks like we got some of that 'suck' on us" instead of saying "I don't know what we did but God is punishing us."

Because I'm inclined to believe that God doesn't keep secrets. If you're doing something wrong, He will let you know precisely what it is. It seems unfair to me to speak of a God who forgives sin and then say, "Yeah, but He's holding back on us with this one and we just have to keep guessing what it is."

The other thing (I will admit openly) that irritates me is that there are a lot of people who are members who don't attend regularly - not for reasons of poor health, or travel, or small children at home. I was raised that you went to church on Sunday. Even if there was a guest preacher that you suspected might not be that great. Even if someone in the congregation had said something last week you took offense to. Even if you were tired and had worked hard all week.

At one time, the women's group I belong to was pushing for us to have a call-list - where the "faithful" members kept tabs on six or eight other people, and if they were absent for more than three weeks in a row, calling them to be sure "everything is ok." I don't like that idea. Partly because I don't like doing what I perceive as interfering in other people's lives, but partly because I feel like I shouldn't have to take my time and effort to try to force someone to do something they should be doing anyway.

I kind of demurred and commented that because I was "home so seldom" (well, dang it, it's true) that I should be left out of the calling tree, because some weeks I'm away from home between 7 am and 9 pm three or four days, and exactly WHEN would I call my people?

So I don't know if they ever got the calling tree up and running, but the idea irritates me, I will admit. As much as I hate seeing empty pews, I think that bugging people to attend isn't going to help matters.

So anyway. We get our new interim today which I hope will bring a bit of stability to the church, and maybe bring a few people back. But it makes me sad to think of all the empty's a wonderful congregation and I don't want to see it die because the powers that be think it's not worth helping to find a new minister, or because there's not enough money, or something.

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