Although my husband and I enjoyed our little, liberal, Presbyterian, gray-haired, 100-person congregation, we moved to a large church down the road, located on a private university campus, in order to provide our kids with a children’s program. I had no idea, until then, how much more conservative Presbyterians might be. In the 2000’s, as a schism grew in the nationwide church regarding allowing gay men and lesbians to serve as pastors, my current congregation voted to ban them. 😳 (I know, I know, should’ve trusted my inner voice.)
Most of my time and attention were on the Mom’s Group, though. There were many great people and without them I wouldn’t have kept my sanity with two preschool boys born 19 months apart. Eventually I served on the planning committee to do my part and took on the job of emcee for our Mom’s group brunches with guest speakers we did as a whole group once a month. On the other Tuesdays, we met in small groups for bible study, seasonal crafts, etc.
Typically, emcees shared a daily devotional entry and a prayer before welcoming the women to go through the brunch line. Before my first time as emcee, I decided I would write my own “devotional” instead of reading one out of a book, having found personal experiences or thoughts on scripture to be more meaningful. Before a monthly brunch, I carefully considered how to open each meeting. Once I shared my framed, cross-stitch first verse of the Serenity Prayer and then read the entire prayer with which most are not familiar. (My first and only cross-stitch project,)
At the planning meeting for the next brunch, the proposed agenda read at the top, “Welcome and prayer – Short! This is NOT the speaker.” Did anyone approach me personally to discuss timing, which would seem the Christian thing to do? No. Just put it on the agenda. I stopped doing the emcee gig after that upcoming one. Anyone can read a printed devotional and pray thanks for the beautiful food provided by the older, retired women of the church, and obviously my take on the emcee role was not welcome.
At the February brunch, the first where I was not acting as emcee, I found myself seated at the same round table as the invited speaker. We were directed by the new emcee to share one word to describe our own personal spiritual life. Others offered up, “strong” or “quiet.” When I shared “desperate” and my voice cracked, holding back tears, my fellow diners were silent for an awkward moment before moving on to the next. No one ever approached me to touch base, clarify, or offer support – not even the speaker who’d been invited to share her spiritual insights. And I wonder how long it took for us to do that icebreaker. Ah, there we go. I don’t just break the ice; I dive into an ice-fishing hole.
This reminds me of an experience I had a couple years later. I was asked to be part of a team of women who widened the scope of people served by the Tuesday morning brunches and small groups to include all the women of the church; we revived a formal, volunteer Women’s Ministry. In that vein, I attended a countywide group of women that met once a month to discuss leadership particular to women’s church programs.
When we talked about speaking in front of groups, more than one participant referenced nerves and needing a bathroom stall immediately prior to delivery of their God-inspired messages. I pipe up with, “Do you sometimes find yourself in that bathroom stall struggling with not wanting to make yourself vulnerable by sharing personal things from your past, praying, ‘Please don’t make me talk about this!'” You could’ve heard a pin drop as ALL the other members of the cohort, about 20, stared blankly at me and shook their heads, “No!” (Exclamation added by me because that’s how it felt.) I knew, then, that this was not my tribe.
When I related this story to my Women’s Ministry board back at our next meeting, my great friend and the director of our group laughed, “They weren’t expecting you, Sara! Speak the truth!” If it hadn’t been for this wonderful community, liberal people, I probably would’ve left the church, and the Church, much earlier than I eventually did. Not to mention, I would’ve saved my sons from the director of children’s programs who expected 1st and second grade boys to act like they were at school; as a result, my boys were always on the naughty list, so much so that this woman required the presence of one parent if we wanted them to come on Wednesday evenings for Kids’ Club, which was supposed to be the time my husband and I usually met with a small study group of parents. When she told 3rd and 4th graders they would go to hell if they committed suicide, I learned she came to us from a lifetime of Baptist preaching.
I’ll be sharing more misadventures during my time in ministry. I was definitely a square peg who didn’t fit in those round holes.
I’m including picture and link below just because it gave me a good laugh!
To read the satirical article, click here 👇 https://images.app.goo.gl/y356qmuQGJ2NrAm18