Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Church-Related Injury

Without sounding too much like Pollyanna, there is part of me that is grateful for my experience in this particular church, even the bad stuff. I imagine that there are plenty of Christians who have wonderful, formative, and transformative church experiences without ever feeling rejected or unwelcome, and that is, of course, wonderful.

But part of me is grateful that I know what it feels like to be rejected by the church. I think that it can enhance my own ministry and make me better able to sit with people who have been shown the door like I was. And it also helps me remember that people can do the most damaging things with the best of intentions.

Are there any other church-related injury stories out there that anyone wants to share?


Jenny said...

I have many, and many of them are not ones that I can really look on and recognize the silver lining in, but one take-away message that I did get from many of them is much like what you got:
I do not want to be "that adult" who tells the weird, difficult, troubled, etc., kid to be quiet. Who picks the "cute" kids as her favorite. Who rejects kids because their opinions are different or their clothes are less-than-"respectful" for church or they're too slow or too fast or... You get the point.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the Methodist church. I went every Sunday, and back in the afternoon for youth group (or whatever Sunday afternoon activity was deemed appropriate for my given age group.) I even kind of liked it. But it never meant much to me - I went to Sunday school like I went to regular school. It's just what you did. I can't say I didn't enjoy it. But that Jesus guy was no different to me than George Washington.

On Tuesday nights, I went to Epworth Club. Epworth was fun. The first half was choir practice, and the second have was usually just something fun. I remember playing Steal the Bacon. And I remember Mr. Edler.

Mr. Edler was the choir director. It didn't matter what day of the week or what hour of the day, if you stopped by the church, he was there. We moved away, and eventually Mr. Edler was no longer the choir director. Rumor had it he was an alcoholic, and would not be welcome back at the church. I remember my father's words - "if the church can't forgive you, who can?" But still, despite the tireless hours he gave to the church, he was no longer welcome.

Years later, we would learn that Mr. Edler was gay and died of AIDS. He wasn't run out of town because of drinking, but because of who he slept with. People were worried about all the years he spent around young boys, because, after all, there's not much difference between a gay man and a pedophile, right? People asked if my brothers were "okay" - they had after all spent many years and hours under Mr. Edler's guidance. My parents are a bit homophobic (I like to call it a generational thing - it's less embarrassing that way), but even they took offense to the fact that our beloved Mr. Edler was being painted as a child molester, despite the fact that not a single person had accused him personally. But he was gay, and we don't want that dirtiness in our neat little community.

I was a teenager when the scandal broke; already questioning an organization that I wasn't particularly close to to start with. But that sealed the deal for me. I still find myself in church on holidays out of respect for my parents, but I have never again sat through a service by choice. And every time I see the UMC commercials talking about "open minds and open hearts" I think about Mr. Edler.