Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Letter

I have received a letter from a couple in my congregation, informing me that they won't be back.

My reactions to this letter have interested me. First, I was hesitant to read it, fearing the possibility of painful/ ugly content. (These folks have sent such a letter to someone who has been supportive of me, when she offered to loan them a certain book she'd hoped might be helpful.)

Then, when I did read it, I felt sad. The letter was very kindhearted, and mentioned things about the church and my ministry for which the couple is grateful.

The letter betrayed more ambivalence than I had previously heard from them.

It also expressed their feeling that, in a congregation that is largely supportive of me, they fear how people will feel about them.

I have been wondering about some way of wishing this couple Godspeed in a way that does not say, "don't let the door hit you on your way out." Last night a colleague suggested a letter from the church council expressing gratitude for the gifts and ministry the couple shared while they were with us. That seems good and appropriate.

16 comments:

LittleMary said...

indeed, good and appropriate (and, in your mind, don't let the door hit your ass!)

August said...

((((hugs))) And - the letter from the council seems like a great idea.

Anonymous said...

Heartbreaking. The letter sounds like a good idea.

Suzer said...

Oh, I'm so sorry, Cecilia. It is so sad that this couple has apparently let their prejudices overcome the Love that Jesus taught. I do hope they will find another church home where they will be comfortable, though I suspect that what Jesus really might want from us is to stick around and be challenged. However, I too have left a church due to difficult circumstances, though not at all the reasons that this couple apparently has.

Peace be to them, and to you. May their eyes and hearts be opened. And may whatever pain of rejection this may cause in your heart heal with time.

Cheesehead said...

This is sad all around.

And yet...it might be the Spirit at work. Don't know if it is or not, but it might be.

A family left St Stoic soon after I arrived over the whole gender issue (which is not the same, I realize) and it turned out that their leaving allowed some people to be happy that I am a woman in ministry without wondering how so-and-so felt about it, and removed a couple who could have no doubt been a very negative, constant presence.

But still...

Songbird said...

I'm sorry about this. Have you read the new BBT book? I loved the chapter on blessing (others/things, etc.), and hard as it is, it occurs to me that this couple needs a blessing. And the letter could be just that.

Processing Counselor said...

How sad. I agree with the letter. It's a shame that people can let their preconceptions overcome what if right in front of them. You sound like such a wonderful pastor/person.

Cecilia said...

What's the name of the book Songbird? The last of hers I read was "Leaving Church."

Pax, C.

Sara said...

I'm sorry Cecilia. It's got to be hard. A nice letter from the council sounds exactly like what is needed. They are hurting as well. For what it's worth, you can be my pastor anytime!

Mary Beth said...

Agreed. The letter sounds like a good idea to me.

Jan said...

I've been thinking a lot about this couple and their letter to you since I read it last night. I'm glad they could appreciate some of your ministry but am so sad they couldn't stay. You are so courageous, I wish I could be a member of your parish.

Jane R said...

Whew... The rubber is hitting the road, in many small and daily and heartrending ways...

The letter from the council sounds good to me too.

Keep us posted, keep on keeping on, know that we walk with you.

KJ said...

When others are sincere and open about their fears, I assure them that I too had the same fears, and it was about my self. We get it! If it took us years to believe we could be fully transparent about our sexuality, then why would we be surprised that others need that time too? And even if their response is unloving, does that abrogate our call to love in return? It's a bitch, and something we cannot do on our own!

Recently, I was at the funeral for the mother of a closeted friend. He commented to me that former friends from the evangelical church seemed to be treating me kindly, even genuinely interested in how I was doing. "Time and the Spirit," I told him. (BTW. I was the only one, besides the pastor, wearing a suit. What's up with that?)

Of course, we are not all called to the same ministry. I don't suppose that God is the God of differences, but it is because of the differences, the Body of Christ is present in numerous ways that avoid homogeneity (No pun intended. Really!). As soon as I came out (Ten years ago this week!), I realized that I was ministering to those whom I would never have met if I'd "stayed put", and those whom I'd left behind, had ministry to those whom I'd never have contact.

So, with God's help, I generally manage to speak peace towards those with whom we have such great differences, but they don't always make that very easy!

Saintly Ramblings said...

All ministers have the experience of people who leave their (both the minister's and theirs) church over an issue of some sort. My response has always been to wish them well in whatever path the Lord is now calling them to walk, and that they may find a congregation in which they can settle.

There's nothing that says people have to stay with one church for ever and ever, Amen. Just as ministers experience the call to different churches during their ministry, so do many people in our congregations.

Wish them well. Pray that they may follow the Lord's directing. And don't fall into the trap of thinking that somehow they are leaving God behind. For in truth, our God is present both with you and them.

SueM said...

so sorry you got this response. It is their problem - "they're worried what people will think about THEM." Hmmm - perhaps they have a teensy glimpse of how closeted and uncloseted gay people feel? ( but diluted a hundred fold - so not really!)

Maybe they should worry about what Christ will think of them instead?

Treat them really, really nicely!

SueM said...

so sorry to hear about this though.