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Church Politics and My Spiritual Search

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

Before I suspended my blogging, I mentioned that I was on a spiritual retreat called the Walk to Emmaus.  I was so moved by that experience, that in the years since, I have served on a Walk and now serve on the Garden State Walk to Emmaus Board of Directors.

I have served as the Secretary for the Emmaus community for the last 2 1/2 years and have been trying to use my technological and organizational skills to improve communication in the community through Constant Contact, detailed meeting minutes and (gulp!) action items.

I also sponsored my brother to go on a Walk last year – I thought it was just the lift he might need during his cancer battle.  Instead of being moved by the experience, he ended up moving others with his story – God works in his own way (I’m just glad I was a part of it).

Prior to volunteering with Emmaus, I also did a TON of volunteering with my local church.  I was the leader of a women’s circle, started my own scrapbooking ministry, played in the bell choir and served as the chair of the Staff/Parish Relations Committee.  I went on to also serve on several other committees including Trustees (where they asked me to chair – TWICE – but I turned down the position).

But today…I feel disconnected from my local church.  I no longer serve on any committees and haven’t attended a worship service in months (although I continue to attend adult Sunday School every week).

How did this happen?

This time, I can’t blame my changes on going back to work.  I guess I really can’t blame anyone, really.

During my time as the chair of Staff/Parish, I was very stressed.  VERY STRESSED.  In fact, I actually had a panic attack that caused me to end up in the emergency room with chest pains.  Why?  I felt manipulated into doing things I didn’t agree with because of pressure from others.  I sat in meetings where other folks literally got out of their seats and screamed in my face.  I left several meetings in tears.  Not very “churchy”.

I also had to pull my son Matt out of the church youth group because he was being bullied there.  In several different incidents, the other children stole his iPod, played keep-away with it, held him down on the ground with his arm twisted behind his back and on one trip, pulled his seat belt from behind on the church van so that he couldn’t move.  The leaders did nothing to intervene and so since we didn’t feel he was safe, he stopped going.

In addition, we have a new pastor whose preaching style just doesn’t resonate with me.  He’s a super-nice guy, great with pastoral care and very educated – brilliant, even.  However, to me, his sermons seem a bit scattered, unclear and at times, are aimed very far below the congregation’s spiritual knowledge.  With our previous pastor, I learned new things all the time.  She was able to show us new perspectives on the same scriptures.  However, since he took over, I have not learned for years.  I find myself cringing during church services and constantly checking my watch, praying for time to go faster.

Now, I realize that worship is not meant to entertain.  My spiritual growth should not be dependent upon church leadership.  It is my responsibility, not his.  I get that.  But let’s face the truth – the most successful churches are those with good leaders.  Leaders that teach, inspire, pull the congregation together – leaders that others want to follow.

I’d like to say it’s just me that feels this way, but we have lost many members of our congregation in the last few years – some whose families have been in this church for generations.  I have shared my concerns in many different ways – I have not been silent about my concerns.

So why haven’t I left like so many others?  One day a few months ago, I walked up to the Sunday School wing to drop my kids off.  I saw my children’s handprints up on some artwork on the ceiling.  I thought about all of our memories at this church and the people that are our church family.  And I decided to give it a little more time.

But our church family is broken.  I feel like I hardly know anyone there anymore.  Going has become a chore.  I’m no longer reading my Bible like I used to.  I still pray everyday, but I know something is missing.

God intended us to worship together – to gather in his name.

For me, this is especially important because my husband is a staunch atheist.  I don’t have much freedom to worship or pray at home, so that time at church is even more important. But that’s a post for another time.

For now – I’ll stay in prayer and lean on my Emmaus family…

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