Today the church my husband has served for almost 11 years voted to end his ministry. He had done nothing wrong—no adultery or lying or betrayal or anything amoral—and so I am still surprised, and wondering, really, what this vote was all about. I have my theories, and as the minister’s wife, I know much, not because my husband confides in me but, because, the congregants do. Like my husband, I keep those confidences close. But after more than a decade, I am able to pull pieces together, work the perimeter of the puzzle, and gander my guesses on the motivations of the small group of individuals which led the charge for his ouster.
But… the theories will have to wait for another day, another post. Perhaps a novel, for there is much fodder in these experiences—I sit in a unique perch.
What I am left with is a myriad of emotions. We moved to Maryland to serve this church. We uprooted ourselves from Massachusetts to hedge our future on this spiritual community. There are a tremendous number of good people in this small Unitarian Universalist church, and we have made some life-long friendships. But there have been tremendous hurts and betrayals as well. While I will not go into specifics, I can say they involved many of the seven deadlies, and at times, were directed at me, my children, or other congregants.
My emotions include the usual suspects—sadness, anger, bafflement, contempt—but what lingers most is disappointment. The human condition is so… human. Living is a constant battle of tamping down the dark side inherent in each of us. My disappointment stems in some individuals’ inability to recognize their contribution to the morass of the church.
I am glad to be rid of the negativity. It has seeped into my pores the past two years or so, insidious. Going to church began to feel like a bad commute. Not the singing, not the sermon or service—those always lifted me—but the times in between, when people clumped together, scheming, plotting, rumor-mongering over coffee. I will not miss those who lacked the courage to be upfront with my husband, with me, with themselves, for in their zeal they have managed to achieve their goal—and divide a community in the process.
Is my husband perfect? By no means. He is human, not a God, but the expectations laid at his feet would cripple any person. Once in my life I considered becoming a minister. I see now what a failure I would be—I could never act with the grace and good-will and even compassion my husband provided. My lips would be chewed raw from all the words I would swallow back. Perhaps I would fling the F-word from the pulpit. My man behaved with integrity, which is more than many of those around him did, and I am so very proud of him.
And so very proud of those who speak their minds, act their convictions, and do so not out of malice but with an honest heart. Of course, I am writing this, I have been writing this for two years, the stories need to be told, not out of malice, but out of the need to open the eyes of others to what it means to minister, what it means to find forgiveness.