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1 October 1995 to 1 October 2014 Leaving the Ministry

Positively Speaking

The sun has been burning off the fog for about an hour and a half. Heat and light dissipate that which has obscured the landscape of broken down pier, tidelands and distant water.

Making decisions can be like fog burning off.

For a long time I didn’t even see it. I was so busy providing service, doing my job, raising my kids, the facts were shapeless shadows or invisible life forms. And I believed in the authority of church leadership.

In ministry, one hears of a service opportunity, discerns it’s merit and favor, and whether it has your name on it.  The price tag attached to it is what you have to live on. You rarely work at what would be called “Fair market value”. You yourself do not have a price tag.

I came to the Island by mistake on account of ministry. I sat in a living room and said to myself, “If they offer me $1000 month, I’ll know it’s of God.” They offered $800 month (for this full time position) with a promise to increase it after I’d completed my final classes. The first year they would consider an internship.

“Well,” I thought. “That’s close.” God is never just close. God is exact. I threw myself into the job working sixty hours a week most weeks. Home visits, leading programs, hospital visits, designing worship experiences, developing lay leadership, preaching every single week. It was a shock to my kids. After being home full time for the previous four years, and with the Dad in our family leaving…that’s another story.

It grew too fast. The old timers were dismayed and disgruntled. “I don’t know what to do with all these new people”, one eighty year old exclaimed. Having just gone through five affairs and divorces before the new started, the church was shaken to it’s roots and wounded people, historically old timers, were walking around like they’d just had a skin peel, or been skinned. They didn’t want to hear about love and healing.

You can’t pour new wine in old wineskins. The wineskin bursts.

1 October 1995 – The church was packed. Although only 24 people would ultimately be allowed to vote, the screen to the ante room had been pushed back to accommodate everyone. There were over one hundred people present to defend or support my work and my presence.

Two weeks earlier, the treasurer had finally confessed to another congregant that she had embezzled two thousand dollars. I’d known it for about six months but couldn’t get the church officials to do anything. They said it was too late to do anything. I can’t think of anything sadder than helping someone live a lie when they are ready to do the right thing. But six months later, the books were suitably doctored and an ‘audit’ declared everything was in order.

The kids and I were cast out. No severance (the higher ups said it was too late to do anything. Seems like they lived in the land of ‘too late for anything”) no home, no job, no future.

Ten years from now I will write about the ensuing twenty years of living hell. For now, I am putting the memories in a plastic baggie and zipping it tight to contain the odor, that I might focus on the present.

Ah… the fog has collected once more, dimming the morning solar stream. Things in life can seem clear and then re-fog. But you can still walk forward knowing eventually it will clear.

1 October 2014 – The landlord circles at 3:00 PM on the afternoon I am to leave the premises. I am not fleeing. I am planting a new future.  My heart is full of Joy and Strength and Resolve. I have developed   THE GRAND ADVENTURE, as I’ve come to call it. Only one decision was necessary. I have to leave the ministry. I have to have a price tag on myself. I made that decision. I have a self. I have worth. I have value.

The fog is creeping toward shore now. .The muted orb of illumination is strong enough and high enough and the day is old enough to see a bit more clearly, now. So too my life.

Many in ministry have no real faith. I will have real faith but be a business woman. Everything will be fine. And I will live happily ever after. Miracles still happen.

Soon, I will write in this place of THE GRAND ADVENTURE. You can read a bit at my blog

For now, just know I encourage you to do the most bold, most positive, most nurturing thing you can do for yourself. And let the rest of world slip by unnoticed.