In 20 years of ministry, I have never had anyone refuse to take communion from me. But this guy quietly told me he was not going to accept what we called The Lord’s Supper. I said, “okay” suspiciously, to which he replied, “I’ll talk to you later about it.” Sure enough, we had supper later that week and he told me he didn’t like the fact that Laura and I did yoga. It did not matter that he failed to understand what we were doing or anything like that, he was just dead set against it. I explained that he has a right to disagree, but I was not going to change what I’m doing. I told him that judgmental things like this were starting to wear on me and I was considering getting out of the ministry. That would turn out to be a prophecy that came true later.
This wasn’t the first thing he questioned me about, and it wouldn’t be the last. I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with me. But, when the focus is “either you change or I’m going to make an issue about it,” it is no longer a difference of opinion, it is an issue of control. Another leader in the church felt the same way about yoga, and she tried to incite the women against us. Consequently, a couple of these women were also Laura’s friends—and then they weren’t. It was the beginning of the end in several ways.
No one ever sat down and said, “Help me understand your viewpoint,” they were just intent on changing my mind. To be fair, it was mainly their fear that the ministry would somehow be hurt, but they didn’t trust my judgment and they didn’t trust the Spirit to lead; they had to take control for fear of what might happen.
When you add to these years of inner circles, secret meetings, and various experiences of exclusion, it finally becomes too much. I resigned from the church and again sought solace in a larger church which really didn’t heal the wounds, it just gave us a little space to examine them. But eventually we stopped going to church altogether. There were too many triggers, too many memories, and the armor we had donned was about worn down.
I also wish I could say our experience is abnormal, but it’s not. The pain of ministry is real. For many reasons, including that the church is an organization, occasionally there is fallout – both intentional and unintentional. People, including the clergy, get hurt and then they hurt each
Be where you are,
Be who you are,
Photo by Nathan Cowley – Pexels
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