Our pastor left two years ago. He had reached a plateau and it was good that he left. Many of us prayed for a new pastor who would move us forward into a fuller vision of God’s purpose for our church. For one year, we were without a pastor; we had guest speakers on Sundays while we diligently searched for the right new pastor. Finally we found him. A nice young man who had been a teacher before he tried being a youth pastor until he was called into full-time ministry. After 10 years at a small-town church, he felt God calling him to something new.
It was a confluence of events that led us to believe that this man was God’s choice for us. Three of our guest pastors knew the man we chose and spoke highly of him; in fact, two of them had counseled him to respond to our church’s call for a new pastor, even when he wasn’t sure this was the right thing for him. A 97% vote served to convince him that this was indeed God’s plan.
I can relate to that feeling, the confusion, not knowing but wanting God’s best. It’s how I ended up at this particular church some 12+ years ago. After my traumatic two-year marriage ended, with my drug addict and criminal husband bound for the federal penitentiary on a 7 year+ sentence for bank robbery – I was in a lot of pain. Lost. Hopeless. Adrift. Out of the blue, I had a phone call from an ex-boyfriend. I was hungry for affirmation, wanting to be with someone who loved and appreciated me. Even though he was married and had a little boy, he lusted after me and my ego needed stroking so I agreed to see him. We dated for a few weeks, but I soon realized this man was not for me. I needed something more.
Let me backtrack a bit. After I made my decision to end my marriage, I used my vacation time to go visit my sister in Arizona. I attended her church and, for the first time in years, I felt a connection with the Jesus she worshipped. This was not the mild distant son of the stern judgmental white-haired grandfatherly God my family worshipped. This was a vital dynamic man whose life was a fascinating testimony of God’s love, and I was drawn to this Jesus. I knew he could relate to my pain. And that he offered something that could help me.
When I came home, I started church shopping. My brother took me to a downtown Pentecostal church – I liked it, but it was too far away. I needed a church close to home or I just wouldn’t go. We met a nice couple at that church who told me they were leaving in order to attend a church in the west end – ironically, near my childhood home and across the street from my elementary school. The following Sunday, I went there. It was nice but too small, and too family oriented (I was a single 40-something woman).
That same couple from the downtown church was there that Sunday. We chatted and they mentioned a church in my neighbourhood that they had attended years ago. First, I tried a United church and a Baptist church that were closer to home. But neither felt “right” to me so, finally, I was ready to look further to find the right church for me.
On a snowy Sunday in January 2000 I decided to go to St A’s. The moment I walked through the doors it felt like I was coming ‘home’. I made friends quickly, took the Alpha course (where I gave my life to Jesus in February) and got caught up in the life of the church. I sang in the choir, was on the prayer team, worked in Sunday school and helped with Alpha course. I joined a small group where I learned a lot and made good friends. I have been happy there for over 10 years.
But… it is still a Presbyterian church. The new pastor is young and vital, introducing some good ideas and programs. But it’s not quite enough. A few months ago, we had a traumatic situation wherein a member of the staff (with 20+ years of service) felt she was forced to resign. Several people left the church because of this situation. I am torn; I love both the one who left and those who remain. I like our new pastor. But I don’t know if we can emerge from this mess that we’re in. Or whether I want to see it through. For me, there is not alternative that’s being presented. I just don’t know what to do…
What I am seeing makes me sad and angry. This church has been in this place before, years before I began attending here. Have we learned nothing? Can we grow and mature and move on? Are we going around the same mountain again?
I really don’t know…