Monday, November 24, 2008

A CHALLENGE to Assiniboine Presbytery ...

I was going to begin this posting as a direct and open challenge to the leadership of Assiniboine Presbytery to stop ignoring the blindingly obvious, and take time to hear the voices that are crying out in Minnedosa from pain and grief and who remain ignored by the leadership of both Presbytery AND Minnedosa United Church.

I was planning on citing the twelve wonderful individuals who traveled this morning to Neepawa to hear me preach, and who offered much more than hugs when the service ended. I was planning on comparing that faithful dozen to the twelve who gathered around Jesus way back one ... I was going to say to Presbytery - "LOOK at these 12 individuals who are hurting and who feel alienated from their church ... look THEM in the eye and tell them that their feelings don't matter, tell them to their faces that the hurt they have borne is irrelevant ..."

Then I was going to reflect on what Jesus managed to do with his 12 disciples and a little event called a Resurrection ...

I'm a firm believer in the power of the Resurrection ... I've lived its presence in my life ... I've witnessed its presence in our world ... I've seen what The Resurrection can and does do regularly when have the faith to Believe.

I planned on challenging Presbytery to have the courage to fulfill the OTHER half of the 333/363 review that ended my ministry amongst the people of Minnedosa, and HOLD THE BOARD and ALL of the Committees of the Pastoral Charge accountable to the SAME LEVEL of discipline that you held me accountable. I was going to publicly challenge Presbytery to be a place of leadership to a community in distress before it is too late.

Things are NOT fine in Minnedosa.

Things are not ALL BETTER now.

Things have NOT been resolved.

Nor are they swept under the rug ...

I wanted Assiniboine Presbytery to hear ALL of this, and have the courage to FINALLY do something about it!!

Okay, I didn't actually expect Assiniboine Presbytery to DO something about any of this because I wrote a posting on my blog ... I know the anal-retentativeness that has settled in at Presbytery lately and I KNOW that the only way to get their ear officially is by sending a letter with no less than 10 signatures from members in good standing stating that the Pastoral Charge is in an unsatisfactory state and they want Presbytery to act.

But I wanted to write ALL of this because I know there are fellow Presbyters who visit this blog and who hit print when I write something outrageous, "offensive" (their opinion NOT mine), or something they feel fails to maintain the "peace and welfare of the church." I know they sit and wait for me to cross some ambiguous line they've established so they can pounce with an all-knowing "A-Ha!!" and proclaim with delight and glee - "now we've got him !!!" and they seek to finally rid the United Church of my presence in Ministry ... as though keeping me from any pulpits, and marginalizing me from their midst isn't enough ...

I will openly say that I wanted to ruffled feathers of those who already obsess over my words and mind every 'p' and 'q' and who are concerned about every dash and tiddle - because perhaps as they read what I offer here the seed of truth might finally begin to stir and grow, and as the Advent Journey begins they will embark on a journey to Holiness in our midst that is active rather than passive. Perhaps rather than outrage at me "going too far" or finally "crossing the line" they will instead recognize the folly of thier obsession, and at long last hear the whispered weeping that resonates through Minnedosa ...

I had plans to write a great deal about what lies in my heart tonight after being so warmly greeted by a congregation of the United Church of Canada, and by dear, cherished old friends who ALL encouraged me to keep preaching and ministering the way I have amongst them for 8 years, because it is how they want their church to be ... I had plans that all stopped when I found an anonymous comment posted on my blog ... a comment that is well worth sharing, and that Assiniboine Presbytery ignores at their peril ... It is a voice that speaks a painful truth, and that identifies the heart of what ails Minnedosa ...

So - to the members of Assiniboine Presbytery - read the following comment, and tell the anonymous poster, and the OTHERS in Minnedosa who grieve the nonsense that has transpired that their feelings and their opinions and their presence in The Body that is the Church is simply meaningless ... because my friends - that's the message that has been perpetuated thus far ... and if it continues, the vacant lot on Main Street in Minnedosa will remain vacant for a VERY VERY LONG TIME ...

Thank you to the anonymous poster who wrote so eloquently and offered the following:

Forgive me for not signing my name, it is for reasons you may or may not understand..and I would understand if you chose not to post this as a result.

You do speak a very real truth.. so much so that at times it brings a tear when I think of what has been lost here.. I know Minnedosa has treated you in the worst possible of ways; and although there are a number of us who couldn't change the hands of fate--we wish we could have.

But today, we remain a dying congregation. We drive by daily and see our empty church lot, being parked on, littered on, loitered on, being used for just about anything except what it should be used for. But it's all about bigger and better.. they couldn't have used the insurance and fundraising money they had to build us a new church..no, we had to go big, and now there isn't enough money for the "big" church! So again, we continue to remain homeless, in a sense. I didn't need big and fancy, I just needed my church back. I don't care how expensive the paint and pictures are or how beautiful they think it needs to be, it should be the people in it and the message delivered inside that counts.

We've lost you as our minister, our mentor, our leader and friend; and now with each passing day, it feels as though we've forever lost our place of worship. I know I am not alone in my thinking. Sadly, more than just a few have given up the hope, and are no longer going to service, even in our temporary home. And just as many have said they wouldn't bother going back to the United church even when or if it is rebuilt because they've lost their faith--in all of it.

Continued good luck, and blessings to you and yours.

I am utterly humbled by this ... and I pray tonight, and in the coming days that the "powers that be" will finally have the courage to hear these voices and stop ignoring the REALITY that is playing out in Minnedosa ... there are atleast 12 ... or 20 ... 0r 50 people there who don't like what's become of their church, and they have lost their voice ... and no one other than me seems to care !!!

The United Church of Canada prides itself on being a welcoming and inclusive place ... why is Assiniboine Presbytery a notable exception ????

8 comments:

heartnurse said...

the problem with church is that there are people there.
Churches are made and owned by man.

Anonymous said...

I don't see it in your comments, but I'm sure you reminded your correspondent that the plans for the new church were developed and finalized under your leadership. Undoubtedly you reminded him/her that there were imposed deadlines based on a series of dates related to you and significant dates in your life. And, considering your stated understanding of the church of Jesus Christ, that you used your pastoral and prophetic skills and concerns to assure your correspondent that the church is not the building, it is the gathered people of Christ - who presently gather in another building, continuing to be the church and to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

As for the 12 who seem to have followed you to Neepawa, I do pray that you are taking your responsibility as a minister of The United Church of Canada seriously and are discouraging them from leaving their community of faith to follow a person who is not Jesus Christ. The boundary issues evident when a minister does not discourage such action are legion. It seems to me that your responsibility is to use your pastoral skills to encourage those people to worship in Minnedosa and for you to share their names with the incumbent so that person can follow-up with them. To do anything else is to encourage a personality cult (and from what I have read in some of your writing, that is not your stated vision of the church) and to inflict pain on the body of Christ in Minnedosa and Neepawa. I see no evidence that those folk have been silenced, the only evidence is that by following you they are silencing themselves and harming the well-being of the Minnedosa congregation.

I could go on about the effects of grief and the responsibilities for those who are ministers within the church to provide both and pastoral and prophetic care to those grieving the loss of the building at Minnedosa and the loss of your ministry in their lives, but your writing leads me to believe that you have not yet dealt with those realities and, as a result, are not able to provide that care to others. I would suggest that the healthiest reaction to the correspondence is not to be humbled but to be saddened - saddened for the person who wrote, saddened for Minnedosa United Church and saddened by the fact that you have not been able to provide effective pastoral care to enable this person to move on and move into the renewed life of Minnedosa Church.

shawn said...

I've posted, then deleted a comment because it needed a piece removed so that I could NOT be accused of failing to abide by the Covenant I am currently under ... The comment, with one word removed was as follows:

Okay, I'll bite as one of those from Assiniboine Presbytery and respond to this entry with a question. what's the evidence that the presbytery is keeping you from pulpits and marginalizing you from our midst? You haven't shown up at a meeting of the presbytery since you were put on the retained list. The only relationship you have had with the is to demean the presbytery, its members and the people of Minnedosa United Church and to publicly complain about your covenant with -----.

shawn said...

The previous comment was anonymous. Like that should suprise me, but I will bit and answer the questions too ...

The evidence ??? Um, let's see - being told by one of our colleagues that the ONLY reason I was asked to do Pulpit supply in a neighbouring Presbytery was because THEY put in a good word (or three for me) - I've supposedly been on the list for pulpit supply for almost an entire year and we have a HUGE shortage of personel in our presbytery and exactly - NO ONE - has called to ask if I was interested in pulpit supply. Oh wait - that's MY fault isn't it ...

As for showing up at a meeting of Presbytery - hmmm ... I have a Monday to Friday job because I haven't been able to find employment within the United Church, so I can't go to weekday meetings any more, and weekends are when I want to hang with my family ... so you're right I haven't shown up, but I doubt I would be welcome even if I could.

Demean and complain ... fair enough. But when YOU, my presbytery friend are treated by a Pastoral Charge, and by your colleagues the way I have been - I will gladly be the first person to knock on your door and offer you unconditional support and care ... until you truly understand the BULLSHIT that went down in Minnedosa, pick the log out of your own eye and leave the speck in mine alone !!

But thanks for atleast having the courage to read my posting and respond - I'll leave you and your reply in the hands of the Spirit ...

Blessings.

shawn said...

(I've once again had to post and pull a comment to make some necessary changes)

Shawn

A friend sent me to your blog. I read it for awhile and then I decided to check things out at Minnedosa. So last Sunday I drove to Minnedosa for church. I am sure you will be surprised to know that the church was full, the congregation seemed enlivened by the Spirit, the children went happily to Sunday School after the children's time, responses and hymn singing was strong, and the children returned in time to share in the ASL signing of the closing Alleluias. I was so surprised after what I've read in your blog.

I hadn't been here for while so this is enlightening for me.

PS - FYI the minister in Minnedosa is she, do you know her, I think her name was ------ or maybe ----- I seem to have lost the bulletin.

shawn said...

To the anonymous poster - thanks for your perspective ...

Did you take time to talk to the people who STOPPED going to church?

I won't quibble that things appear healthy and good - yet they are struggling financially ... oh, the excuse is the HUGE expenses of paying for my discipline and then the necessary pay out ... not the loss of heart and soul ...

Those who remain put on a wonderful face that says - "everything is fine ..." and echo the very sentiment you wrote here ... yet, over and over and over from more and more people I hear the absolute opposite sentiment ... people who continue to grieve, not just my departure, but the loss of THEIR church to the happy singing horde who are not interested hearing any story other than the one they continue to spin ...

Oh, and I know who the minister there is now and I know her gender and her name - I was simply keeping my posting generic while speaking of a specific situation ... sorry it confused you.

Just because things appear good doesn't mean it is ... have you been watching the economic meltdown??? The financial corporations were "fine" as were the big three auto makers ... look at them now ... denying rot and toxicity doesn't make it go away ...

Instead of spending time in the happy singing congregation, next time go and spend time with the people who aren't there ... and talk to some of the people who are there out of habit and who are no longer finding it speaking to them and tell us then if it is a healthy happy place ...

thanks though,

C C C said...

How can you say that MDSa YN was not held up to the same level of discipline that presbytery expected you to try and acheive ?

We only rewrote the entire Structure Document.board strucutre and all that entails. A ton of very hard questions were asked of Both sides in your issue, and I jnow from personal experience that we tried to be fair and keep an open mind on presbytery until all the truth was known. And as many false rumors as possible were discounted. All I know is the current congregation is healthy and actively being the people of God in Minnedosa. What more could you possibly ask for ?

Rodney Smith

C C C said...

How can you say that MDSa YN was not held up to the same level of discipline

- Dont know about my typing skills.

Should say How can you say that Minnedosa UC was not held up to the same level of discipline...