Thursday, February 12, 2009

Three years on ...

Happy Anniversary Minnedosa ... three years ago this morning a cherished, beloved and familiar old friend vanished through an act of arson ...

Three years later, the vacant lot remains, and according to the Minutes of Assiniboine Presbytery, everything is dealt with and the Board of the Church is to be congratulated on their "quality work" done since then through the 333/363 and so on ...

I have been told repeatedly - "move on" - "let it go" and now I am being counselled by strangers to find a "happy life" (not exactly like it was said - but it is the implication I draw from it).

I find it amazing how people can visit this Blog and ASSUME they know me, and from my postings here ASSUME they understand the circumstances and outcome of Minnedosa, and by their comments (usually anonymous) know the TRUTH of what has transpired. I find it mind boggling ...

I wonder if any of those who have posted have ever given half of their life to something, through training, and practise, only to be told - NOT officially, but by the action and inaction of others - that you are no longer welcome.

I have been in Ministry for 16 years as an ordained Minister, that was preceded by 3 years of Theological Training and 4 years of Undergraduate studies - and NOW, I am no longer welcomed in the United Church ... oh, on paper I am simply retained on the roll ... but with the total and complete destruction of my reputation and the loss of my call in Minnedosa the welcome mat has been rolled up and I've been beaten with it ... AND over and over I encounter the "OH!!! YOU were THAT Minister in Minnedosa ..." and the reaction of the person is CLEAR ...

Let it go ???
Oh, I've let it go ... but I will NOT let go my desire and commitment for JUSTICE.

I was held accountable for MY actions. The former staff of the Church, and members of the Board and Choir who conspired, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to have me removed from Ministry in Minnedosa because I engaged in a foolish conflict with a local business in a misguided and utterly stupid attempt to help a family with alcohol issues; have NEVER been called to task for their actions. I've read the 333/363 review and have identified the LIES spoken by members of the BOARD to exaggerate my actions and justify destroying my reputation. Then there is the WHOLE ISSUE of the lies and gossip and incompetence that marked the public exchange about me ... THAT'S a whole other rant ...

I've had my name "out there" for pulpit supply - an ability that has NEVER been doubted nor criticised - and I have yet to be called by any CHURCH within Assiniboine Presbytery ... oh, wait - it's ALL MY FAULT because I speak out here about what I've been through, and people don't want to call me to preach lest I reveal some of the truth about how I've been treated from the pulpit ... (silly me)

I've been told - ANONYMOUSLY - to move on ... I will when the Church - The United Church of Canada hold accountable for THEIR ACTIONS the Board, the Ministry and Personnell Committee, the Building Committee, and the Choir of Minnedosa United Church that was not in the best interests of the Pastoral Charge or the Pastoral Relationship. I've been held to task for my actions and behaviour - the 'CHURCH' was held accountable for structural problems while the report itself perpetuated and promoted the very behaviour that was problematic.

The bottomline is that Ministry personell are PEOPLE. Like Shakespeare's Shylock, we have feelings, we bleed, we hurt, we remain are affected by many things and often we are left in a very harsh and lonely place by the political machinations that mark small rural pastoral charges that are simply un-healthy.

The fire three years ago laid bare the deep divisions that exist in Minnedosa, both the Church and the Community. In the hours after the fire I contacted resources across North America who had experience in church fires, and they counselled me to prepare for, and equip the people for a fire storm of emotion that will do far more damage than the fire itself ... I tried IN VAIN to bring those resources into the community - even the books I bought AT MY PERSONAL EXPENSE (most of which were never returned) were largely ignored. The few people who borrowed and read them valued them and asked for more resources - but almost NONE of those who read the books were on the Board - the Board arrogantly assumed it had all the answers!!

Three years later the perpetuation of injustice remains ...

Oh, and the references I make to current events are not about comparing those events to the things I've experienced ... I use current events to illustrate the trends and machinations that are at work BEHIND the experiences I've been through ... THERE is a DIFFERENCE.

I cited the Bill Hicks' appearance on Letterman, not because I wanted an apology from Letterman, but because I LOVE HICKS' comedy, and discovering he had FINALLY made his last appearance on Letterman was notable.

My references to current events is part of Barth-ian preaching - the Word of God in one hand, and the Newspaper in the other ... in a context where the majority of preaching has fallen into an insipid, namsy-pansy, warm pink fuzzy justification for complacency and inaction - preaching from the WORD this is not only uncommon, it is also very uncomfortable. I don't really expect most of my colleagues, nor those active in the United Church to understand the difference, nor to comprehend the finer details of this ... but then again, I am not writing for those in the Church who can't see such things, I am writing for those who want to CHANGE the way things are and experience the transformation of the Spirit that is promised by our faith when we stop the small minded machinations ...

AND, for the record - I have a very happy life ... I've gotten free of the toxic cesspool of Minnedosa. Rampant teenaged drinking and recreational sex, "secret" affairs by prominent and supposedly "RESPECTED" community leaders, and horrendously hypocritical behaviours by those who will smile to your face but stab you in the back have no appeal to me ... I'm quite happy to live my life away from that - particularly when I know NOW that the active gossiping about me was a vain attempt to divert attention from the skeletons that threatened to fall out of many closets ... skeletons that are tumbling ALL OVER the floor for people who are suddenly learning that their excrement really does smell ...

Three years after the fire ... the wound remains un-healed ... I've moved on ... BUT I'll openly express my GRIEF that it has meant leaving a Church that I have loved since my childhood. A Church I have proudly and passionately served. A Church that could be so much more than it is, if only the toxic leadership was removed.

I love my life ... but I weep for my Church ... and I have ample reason, far beyond Minnedosa to have tears welling in my eyes ... as do others who care about their faith and their Church ...

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I wonder if any of those who have posted have ever given half of their life to something, through training, and practise, only to be told - NOT officially, but by the action and inaction of others - that you are no longer welcome"

It is quite likely that there are those who've posted here that have lived through that. You want to swap stories? I gave 17 years to a corporation that I believed in. In my 17th year, a man from work began pursuing me romantically, I wasn't interested in the least. During those months, I had foolishly made a comment to him that I was concerned about some of the practises in the corp. After a few more months of unsuccessful attempts of romancing me, one day my computer is compromised.. Within days, I am being interrogated by superiors, accused of all sorts of internal sabbotage, and fired from my job. The lies, gossip and rumors circulating throughout my weeks of being scrutinized were nothing short of devasting. Even from those I thought would stand behind me, see how wrong all of it was. But in the end, the powers that be won and put me out with no benefits, no severence.. I know this man was responsible for ruining my career, but covered his tracks, and try as I may, I never did get the justice I deserved.

In fact, within a month of my dismissal, while trying to figure out what to do next, there's a knock at my door. When I answer, I'm slammed in the face by a masked stranger. Thrown to the floor, punched a couple more times, and then raped! And guess what, it's my child who comes home and finds me! Even though an investigation was done, and all the reports filed, there's not enough evidence to find a suspect, there's no justice, and my rapist will never be held accountable for his actions.

Here's one last one for you... Two years after all of the above, my daughter goes out with friends to a house party. She needed a ride home, even though she was stone-cold sober, and of age to drive, she had not yet taken her driving exam. So a friend insisted on taking her home. Turns out, her friend was impaired and lost control of the vehicle, resulting in a devasting crash. Today, my daughter is in a wheel chair, she does not speak, I'm told that she hears me, but to what capacity her brain is operating at--no-one is sure. The driver didn't survive the accident. I was told that some of the teens knew he was drunk when he left to take her home, but they said nothing, and made no attempt to stop him from driving or take the keys. Later on, they recanted their suspicions and comments because I suppose, they didn't want to in some way be held accountable for what happened.

So Shawn, don't assume that the majority can't imagine what it's like to go through what you have--AND WORSE! I could let the insurmountable pile of injustices and lack of accountability consume my life, and I would think rightly so.... but I don't, and I can't.

Life does go on, and if I waste any time trying to right the wrongs of the past, I am denying my child of my touch, my words, my love and my time. I have a wonderful new job in which I am valued and respected; I have an adoring family and now an even bigger extended family of support in caring for my daughter... And none of us waste a minute on what will not be changed, we embrace every day and look forward to brighter days to come.

You can say in your post that you have a very happy life, but I don't believe it for a minute. And you may have moved away from this little rural town, but to say that you are free of the toxic cesspool couldn't be farther from the truth--you are submersing yourself in it!

I am not a religious person, but that's not to say I haven't had exposure to it. And from what I've been taught and read, your words contradict that of a man of god. I don't think that hatred, disgust, the inability to forgive, and the need for revenge (in your case that being the need for justice and accountability), I don't believe any of those are pleasing to lord, as one of his servants. And even though I'm not religous, after my daughter's accident I was given a wooden plaque that reads:

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.

You have the courage and I believe you can make some very positive changes in the world. But only if you can be present to today, be thankful for what you have, for what you haven't lost.. And look to the future and the good and the justice you can bring to situations that you can help change--in the areas of poverty and homelessness and awareness; instead of looking back at what will likely never change. I hope you find the "Wisdom". You should know better than anyone, as a man of faith and of the church, that in the end, those who have wronged others--will be held accountable--by God!

Thank you for the opportunity to again post here, although I don't honestly think that you'll actually post my comments, thank you just the same. I can no longer return to this site.. Having endured all that I have has made me an incredibly stong woman, a thankful and grateful woman.. And I can't sit and read about your continued drama, and "poor me" persona.

One last thought... I would give anything to have my daughter be on the receiving end of some hurtful gossip, rumors, lies, even see her dismissed from a job unfairly.. You know why? Because at least that would mean that she is alive and living, she is growing and learning and experiencing all that life has to offer--even the bad stuff!--instead of being carried between a bed and wheelchair seemingly unaware of just how precious she is.

Count the number of times you've been blessed--not the number of times you've been wronged.

Catherine B.

shawn said...

Catherine wrote: "Thank you for the opportunity to again post here, although I don't honestly think that you'll actually post my comments, thank you just the same."

How could I NOT post this ... there is little in her post I can quibble with, and less that I can not feel profound and incredible empathy for ...

Catherine, I do not sit in a poor me place ... quite the contrary. My blog postings are a tiny fraction of a very full life ... I got several days at times not posting things here ... I fill my time with my children, my jobs, my circle of friends, my dog, my hobbies and other things that give my day meaning ... I value my children very much ... and I weep at the story you've recounted here, but am deeply and humbly thankful that you had the courage to share it - THANK YOU.

The bottom line for me is the need for CHANGE.

The change I seek is ensuring that justice is found and, for lack of a better word - enforced where feasible. In broad brush strokes though, JUSTICE is denied when a problem is not acknowledged to begin with, or when only one party is held accountable ... I will not liken my experiences to yours - to do so would dishonour your journey and the survival and strength and grace you've embodied, and that's not my point ...

What I would offer is the reminder that MY stance remains one of faith. Faith is about care, compassion, respect and most of all JUSTICE. And the Church of all institutions should and must be held to a higher standard at ALL levels. I have no problem with the discipline I lived through and grew from. I am glad I went through it - it has been immensely helpful. I am not reimersing myself in the cesspool, but rather seeking ways to get rid of those cesspools to begin with.

The corporate culture of the Church is not unlike the corporate culture you encountered and THEY ARE WRONG. We can shrug our shoulders and say - "we can't change it ..." or we can roll up our sleeves and say - "this is important enough that we MUST change it ..."

I would invite you to read Wallis, Obama, Butler-Bass and others who talk about BEING the change we seek ... I am an avid follower of the likes of King, Gandhi and Wallis - and I am not able to ever just shrug my shoulders and say - "that's the way it is ..."

We can and we must do better ... there is an element of trusting in God to set the record straight ... that's happening in some corners already ... but inaction has no place in faith ...

My words are sharp ... and they are irritating ... by my words are not self-pitying ... far from it ... I like my life as it is ... I like the circle of friends I have around me ... and I adore my family and my day to day life ... I'm glad I went through what I did - but I will fight like hell to keep the individuals and the bureacracy involved from EVER doing similar things to any one else ...

Thank you for your honesty Catherine and for your wisdom ... you are one of the truly enlightened beings on our planet - and that comes clearly from the life journey you've troddened ... and I am better for your words ...

peace

Anonymous said...

I guess I'll eat my own words, as I did return to your blog.. I'll admit because I was curious to see if my words had reached you. I honestly didn't expect to see my posting, but perhaps a reference to it.

Nonetheless, I don't want to revisit my previous post, nor do I want to exchange any bitter words.

Just promise me one thing Shawn (albeit over cyberspace)..
Promise me that you'll never take for granted the good things in your life... or that you'll never place any cause or fight for justice over your loved ones or their need for you... And don't fail to tell those that you love, everyone of them, that you do love them... Because even if that love isn't returned or they don't or can't say I love you back, the fact that you expressed it will leave you with no regrets. I guess that's three things but they all roll into one.

Catherine

shawn said...

Catherine ... I live life with few regrets. The few regrets that I carry are not about my loved ones ... there is no need for me to make the promise you ask because the very thing you describe (all three) are the very principles I live my life by ... OH, and there is no need to eat your words ... I appreciate your words, your honesty and your wisdom - you are a very welcomed presence here ... thank you on many levels.