Two years ago my husband and I moved from Pittsburgh, PA to a small coastal town in North Carolina. I will call it Mayberry, USA. We had found this 2 traffic light village from driving through it on our yearly vacations to a nearby resort. The idea of living the life of Green Acres appealed to us and we found a beautiful home that fit all our needs. Our neighbors invited us to join them at their church the first week of our move, which happened to be Christmas so we went to the candle light celebration. In all sincerity, I found it to be the most spiritual event of my life, as being a church goer had just never worked out for my husband and me. I attribute that to his being a scientist and me being a wildlife artist. But that evening felt like God was there, it was profound.
We continued to attend this church and were particularly impressed with the pastor who possessed an intellect that embraced curiosity and questions. His passion for history, exploring the culture of the ancient Middle East was contagious. Before his calling, he had been a 5 star chef at a major resort hotel, but he didn’t leave his culinary skills behind, and the congregation was treated on many occasion to a feast (at his expense) based on the foods enjoyed 2,000 years ago by the people of Israel. His wife was every bit as incredible as him. The next 18 months were a God Send for us.
You have probably figured out where this story is going by now.
The way he was fired was inexcusable and unforgivable . It happened after his first sermon after Christmas (a sermon I will never forget because he really hit it out of the ballpark that Sunday morning) when one of the Owners of the Church (it’s a very small town, everyone is related to each other) read some kind of damning and preposterous Proclamation which I don’t much remember because I had gone into shock. A woman sitting behind me gasped, “My God, they’re crucifying him”, and I began to cry. The man had done nothing wrong other than use his brilliant mind that God had given him.
We have tried to accept the new pastor but this person possesses none of the qualities I think are expected, deservedly so, in the capacity of being a spiritual and religious leader. We gave it six months and watched the church that we had loved so much deteriorate, and in ways I never expected. The Presence we had experienced no longer exists there. Our Trial Period ended on Christmas of 2013.
It’s been very hard to get away from the Owners of the Church. Our neighbors stopped going there after the firing of the aforementioned pastor; we should have followed suit. I have been sent numerous emails, which all feel disingenuous, asking where we are, what are we doing, “we missed you”, friend requests on FaceBook, phone calls which I can’t bring myself to answer. Where have you been? We miss you!
They miss our money. Never in my life have I worked so hard and given so much, never asking for anything in return, simply giving because I saw the need and wanted to do something that could bring about a change in someone’s life for the better. I am going through all these conflicting feelings — grief, resentment, guilt. Am I just being a cynic? Or a hypocrite? There must be something wrong with me. This can’t be what Jesus intended!
So here I am. Somehow I found this Community, perhaps God led me here, but I am glad to have found a place where it is not a sin to question. It is not a sin to think and seek the truth.
I should perhaps add: After they fired the former Pastor, we went once to a nearby Unitarian Universalist Church, and somehow everyone in town knew about it, and we got some phone calls that were rather awkward, I found myself having to defend attending a church “that doesn’t believe in anything.” Totally bizarre.
Sorry this is so long. Thank you for listening.