Two Things that Happened last Sunday

There are two things that happened in church last Sunday that I would never have expected to happen in our last church and I think are a credit to our new church and the Pastor in residence.

Leavers being blessed

The first thing was during the service the Pastor mentioned by name a couple who had felt that they wanted to try another church in the town. The pastor mentioned this and said they’d been at tenders for about 7 years and that while he was sure they church would miss them, he wished them well and wanted to make it clear that they were welcome back any time they wished.

I think it is a good thing that a couple have a respect for their Pastor to the point that they can have that conversation with him and it shows grace that the Pastor points it out in church and the sensitive way he did and makes it clear that while he does not want them to leave he wishes them all the best.

This is something that I simply can’t imagine happening in our last church. I have seen many people leave the church in the past few years and they all disappeared silently.

An open atheist being made welcome

During coffee after the service my wife and I got talking to a couple of ladies of similar age to us. They both have children, some of which are similar in age to our daughter. One of the ladies is a Christian and had just come back from a Christian weekend away and was positively buzzing with enthusiasm as a result. The other lady was from a distinctly non-Christian household, her story of involvement with the church is that some of her children started coming to the Friday evening youth club at the church and eventually two of her daughters expressed a desire to attend church on Sundays. She and her husband agreed they would let them make their own decision and so she brings them to church on a Sunday morning but she sits in the church foyer and does not attend the service herself.

She admitted that at first it was awkward but the church lets her do that and is fine with it. She was quite happy and unembarrassed to profess her lack of faith and her Christian friend didn’t appear to let it affect the friendship that has obviously developed, although there was mention of some conversion attempts but I got the distinct impression it was not overt and was not a big issue.

I admire both the church’s stance in making this possible and in the lady in questions honesty in being in that situation. There was a level of acceptance and integrity there that I simply could not imagine occurring in my last church. There are definitely people at my last church that are capable of enabling this sort of situation to happen, however I just can’t see the church leadership making it a comfortable situation.

At one point in the conversation I told the lady that she was being more honest by expressing her position and sitting outside the service than someone who attended the service and pretended. It was meant as a compliment to her, but I was fully aware of the hypocrisy within myself as I was saying it. It was a challenge to me to be more honest about my state of faith, especially with those I love.

So what next for me?

Well, I don’t know yet. All I know is that at some point I’m going to have to stop avoiding the inevitable. Yet, I still can’t bring myself to say it straight because I am afraid of the hurt and upset that will result. I would feel immensely guilty about being the cause of that.

Sometime soon there is going to be a conversation about becoming members of the church. I know that when this church writes to our last church that there will be a glowing reference of us as a couple and a family. However, I don’t think its fair or right for me to make the same profession of faith that I did when we became members of our last church. To do so would be to lie and be dishonest.

I think what I will do is tell my wife that I am not sure I can make that same declaration and see what the conversation leads to. She knows I am having doubts as we have touched on the subject before (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/you-have-my-permission-to-be-controversial/).

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We Said goodbye to our Church on Sunday

This Sunday just gone, was the last time we attended a service at the Church that we’ve called home for the past 14 years.

Our pastor was on holiday so he wasn’t around, but I did get the chance to shake his hand and say farewell and best wishes the week before.

This means that, having not attended Church for several months, I have been the last two Sundays.

There are many dear friends who attend our former Church, most of whom know of and even share our concerns with the current leadership. Some know about the various events over the past couple of years that have upset either my wife or myself.

It is a little sad to be leaving under less than happy circumstances, but the move away is not at all related to the situation at church, it is a personal choice that will bring a very different quality of life to us and its for that reason we are moving. If everything at church was perfect, we’d still be moving, and it would be a more emotional wrench.

We are still leaving some very dear friends behind though. Friends who welcomed us to the church all those years ago and friends we’ve made a long the way. In those years I’ve seen people come to the church and I’ve seen people leave. Some have moved away, after many years of service, many more than the 14 years we’ve been around. Some have left the church because they’ve had enough.

Our last service was nothing special, with the pastor being away a church member preached. He’s a nice enough and genuine person but he’s not especially great at preaching. He doesn’t engage in his delivery and I don’t find him intellectually stimulating either. Some people don’t go when he preaches for those reasons.

Since we have dear friends in the church and those dear friends know how much my wife and I have committed to the church over the years, there was no way we were going to get away without it being made known to the rest of the church. So near the beginning of the service we were called to the front and interviewed about our move away. We were okay with this, though we would also have been happy to slip away unannounced. We’ve already arranged for many of our close friends to come and bid us farewell on our last night here in a local drinking establishment, so a farewell at the front of our home church is merely a formality.

However, that all being said, I had mentally prepared a small speech covering some of the things I wanted to say as a thank you to those who have been an extended family to us over the years. Unfortunately, the gentleman who was leading the service is a new joiner, an enthusiastic South African who is a biblical literalist and has his own way of doing things; he has also been the source of some of my wife’s upset over the past year. On his list of accomplishments seems to be the utter demise of the church music group. As a result, the farewell interview was a couple of obvious questions like, when do you move? are you packed? and where do you move? He didn’t probe to ask how long we’d been at our church or what we’d be doing church wise after we’d moved. Things we would also expect to be asked.

So the questions halted awkwardly and then we were prayed for. One of those praying for us is possibly the best friend we have at the church. A wonderful lady who has seen her own share of hurt, not just from this church, but from other churches too; gentleness, kindness and love simply ooze from her pores and we’ll miss seeing her on a regular basis. So I smiled knowingly when she made a point of listing all the things we’ve been involved with in the church over the years during her prayer of thanks for us.

I didn’t get to say my piece to the church, I’m a disappointed about that, but I’ll get over it. I have no idea, if we’ll ever set foot in it again. We may do, but we’ve currently no plans at all to return to this town, so I can’t say for certain.

We’ve waved goodbye to the church we gave much to and which supported us. We’ve waved goodbye to the frustrations and upsets too, hopefully they’ll not return to bother us again.

This week is now a week of looking forward, on Wednesday my wife takes our daughter to her parent’s house to stay for a few nights while we finish up the packing and on Friday we move to a brand new house in a town by the sea and a new life beckons.

I am sure it won’t be perfect and I am sure there will be challenges ahead, but there will also be good things to look forward too. For the last 14 years we’ve lived in a town we moved to because of my work and we’ve not been close to family for any of that time. From Friday, we’ll be a mile away from my wife’s parents, since they beat us to the hop and moved to the same seaside town a month before we did; after we announced our intent to move. We’ll also be less than an hour from my Aunts and cousins. This is a move for us. My wife is very excited about the move and simply can’t wait to settle in and start making friends with our new neighbours. I am a little more reserved about it as I’m not yet sure how this will affect my work so I’m taking it in my stride, enjoying the ride and will deal with whatever comes our way.

No doubt there will be a report from our new home Church and I expect I’ll be going to church more regularly from next week. I’m sure I will cope.