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Thursday, February 21, 2008

i'm not threatening to leave this time

Church issues just go on and on and on. But I'm not threatening to leave. That's childish. Related to my family of origin. I will stick this out.

A helpful quote for the sticking it out:

[There is a] grounding, earthiness, and necessary pain that only real involvement within a concrete, parish-style family can give you. In parishes, as we know, we do not get to pick who we will be standing beside as we worship and celebrate various things together. A parish-type family is a hand of cards that is randomly dealt to us, and precisely to the extent that it is truly inclusive, will include persons of every temperament, ideology, virtue and fault. Also, church involvement, when understood properly, does not leave us the option to walk away whenever something happens that we do not like. It is a covenant commitment, like a marriage, and binds us for better and for worse.

Accordingly, if we commit ourselves to a church community and stay with that commitment, we will, at some point, have the experience that Jesus promised Peter would befall every disciple: Prior to this kind of commitment you can gird your belt and go wherever you want, but after joining a concrete church community, others will put a belt around you and take you where you would rather not go. And Jesus is right. What church community takes away from us is our false freedom to soar unencumbered, like the birds, believing that we are mature, loving, committed, and not blocking out things that we should be seeing. Real churchgoing soon enough shatters this illusion, and gives us no escape, as we find ourselves constantly humbled as our immaturities and lack of sensitivity to the pain of others are reflected off eyes that are honest and unblinking.

We can be very nice persons, pray regularly, be involved in social justice, and still not be fully responsible. It is still possible to live in a lot of fantasy and keep our lives safe for ourselves. This gets more difficult, however, if we start going to a church, most any church, especially one that is large enough to be inclusive. To be involved in a real way in a church community is to have most of our exemption cards taken away.

Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing. The Search for a Christian Spirituality, p 61,62.

That's right Cecily. Stay because you will grow. Stay because you'll learn how lumpy and bumpy you are and you might even change. Stay because it is right and good. Stay. Just stay.

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12 Comments:

At 6:28 pm, February 21, 2008, Blogger Mike S said...

Whichever road you choose, choose wisely as there are many roads and many travelers. Best of luck:)

 
At 11:40 pm, February 21, 2008, Blogger Sandy's Notes said...

In real life, when there are people that abuse us, are mean to us, and just don't treat us with respect, we put a stop to it as quickly as we can, sometimes it means to walk away. We all have a right to be somewhere, to enjoy the assets of what that place has to offer. It doesn't mean however, that we have to put up with being treated poorly.

In my opinion, some churches want us to feel that we should not give them up, that being faithful even during hard times makes us Christ like. It's not a choice to leave because we would be considered lost. Personally I think they have to feel that way, they have a business to run; they just interpret it a little differently.

Again, my opinion, if you have faith, if you believe in a God, Buddah, Christ, etc., then you take that with you where ever you go. Whether it's in a church setting on one block or under a palm tree on the next, your faith stays with you, it will never leave you, it will always comfort you, you will always do something good because of it. No building has that kind of power.

 
At 6:43 am, February 22, 2008, Blogger Cherie said...

I have to say I'm leaning more toward Sandy's way of thinking than with Rolheiser's quotation.

I might add that what he describes also applies to families, fellow employees, neighborhoods, and group of people we live and work among on a regular basis.

We come up against our flaws whenever we are around honest people - or even just blunt people. I've got a mean, nasty neighbor lady who had shown me more of my ugliness than I care to know, but I do know because of her.

So, Cecily, I hope you understand that there are many ways to grow and that you don't have to subject yourself to the unpleasantness of 'issues' on purpose. They'll find you where ever you are.

An old German missionary once told me, when I Tom and I were having 'issues' with our church long long ago: "You'll know when to leave."

You'll know, Cecily. And you'll know how long to stay.

Wishing you wisdom as you face this facet of life. Been there - more than once. Have stayed and found things got better. Have left and found the same thing.

Sigh....no easy answers, huh.

 
At 7:02 am, February 22, 2008, Blogger Deanna said...

I was churning a bit about how to put my opinion wisely, but Cherie and Sandy basically said it.

I'll only add that, while I once went along with the church covenant idea, in which we're given the perspective that church is like marriage, I no longer agree. Marriage is marriage. It's a unique state of being, between two people. Church has its significant place, and a lot of what's involved has already been stated. But I don't find the Bible saying that church is marriage.

 
At 7:26 am, February 22, 2008, Blogger Deanna said...

Okay, so, I felt the need to come back and say I hope my comment isn't coming down hard on you, Cecily. (Don't you love these opinionated bloggy people?) I also don't mean to imply that you're doing the wrong thing to stay where you are, or that people believing the covenant church idea are on the road to hell. Differences abound, and God works through them all.

I tend to get testy when someone religious mentions the word inclusive, because in my town I hear that word most from a congregation where my thoughts and opinions are blatantly not welcome.

So, now, done venting...

 
At 7:33 am, February 22, 2008, Blogger Cecily said...

Oh no... that set the cat amongst the pigeons! Thankyou all for your kind thoughts... how can I quickly create an accurate context for the quote and what it says to me?

First, the quote does not say 'accept abuse'... and we are not. I can't write in detail here because a person or two from church occasionally visits this blog, but we are pursuing established channels for addressing abuse, and yesterday I spent two hours with the pastor discussing various things, including what I consider abuse and the need for it to be addressed.

I do not have such a marriage commitment to my church that I will stay no matter what (and for what it's worth, growing up in a family of abuse, I do not consider the marriage covenant to cover and condone abuse and I say get out of a marriage that is abusive also). But in the context of God speaking in various ways and means through lots of readings and thought, this quote spoke to Frank and I about the positive result of staying through those times of rubbing up against people the wrong way. Too often people just run away from even small issues because it is the easier thing to do. My father left anything he disagreed with. I don't think that is healthy for either party.

Also, we would like to see the church/Church (ie City Baptist and the church world wide) change. If we leave without addressing issues, then this kind of behaviour will be tolerated forever. We would like to stay and say 'hey, this is not acceptable, we need to change' because churches are known for their abuse and misuse of power worldwide. This is not right or good.

We do not have baby faith that says 'stay and be told what to do'. We have seasoned faith that says 'weather out the storm and learn while you're in it'. That is what the quote says to me.

And in truth. My issues are not all abuse issues... that is a small part of the problem. The problem is that my thinking on the way church should operate is streets ahead (or on a different street completely) from my particular church's thinking. That is an uncomfortable place but not a bad place... the church needs to change, I am not the only one who feels this way, so we need to be patient and let the rest catch up or adjust. I find this a hard space to be, but not an entirely bad one.

 
At 7:40 am, February 22, 2008, Blogger Cecily said...

And I do truly say thankyou for your thoughts and responses, because there is truth in each one... it's just fitting each thought together into a balanced, honest whole. I read your comments to Frank and he loved the discussion here and very much appreciated it.

So thanks guys and gals!

 
At 11:47 am, February 22, 2008, Blogger Mike S said...

The most effective change usually comes from within. Perhaps you and others who agree are meant to be the seeds of change for your church. Somebody has to be first with suggesting change, and a 'seasoned faith' has a better chance of prevailing than lesser faith:)

 
At 12:05 pm, February 22, 2008, Blogger Sandy's Notes said...

Well then, you didn't tell us that some of your church family members would be reading. In that case, I love church:)

 
At 7:21 am, February 23, 2008, Blogger Deanna said...

Thanks for spelling out your thoughts more, Cecily. I can sure appreciate your individual perspective on wanting to hang in there. I want people to hang in with my church, too, even though I know we're not always the rosiest-smelling bunch. For me, coming from a childhood where church traditions must be adhered to, no matter what, I feel freedom in suggesting to myself or someone else that they can leave a place. And maybe abuse is one of the best ways to gauge when that's necessary, for marriage or church. In any case, there are endless possible scenarios, and we just need to try and be wise.

Sounds like you've got it together, baby!

 
At 9:56 am, February 23, 2008, Blogger Cherie said...

Cecily, thanks for sharing with us what this quote means to you. It helps me understand.

I am all for sticking around to effect change when there is hope and support for that. In fact, like I said, I've been through such a thing in a church and it was one of the most satisfying, humbling seasons of my Christian life. I hope that you, Frank, and others who have insights, love, compassion, truth and determination can be sources of enlightenment for others.

That being said, I've experienced the opposite as well: the church split and no one was happy. The biggest loser was the truth. What is left is two little churches limping along, not speaking to one another, standing firm in their 'rightness.'

It takes maturity for change to occur. Maturity, contrition, humility, and an honest desire for what is real and True, God's True, not man's.

Sounds to me like you and Frank have a good handle on things. You are willing to wade through the difficulties in order to get to understanding.

And I'm with Sandy - uh, I LOVE church! (I really do - and I miss it.) I'd love to be there by your sides helping out, for it seems like you are quite an asset, you and Frank.

Go forth in love, Cecily and Frank. And remember, sometimes blessings come in disguises.

 
At 5:59 am, February 26, 2008, Blogger Pam said...

This was a great discussion, Cecily, and very timely as Joe and I are in the process of trying (again) to find a church. I won't bore you with the details for why we've been without a church to call home for a while, but we definitely grew weary, both in staying and then in searching. But we miss it and are looking again.

 

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