Beginning with a small, "casual, hippy-era" (her phrase) church, moving through various pastors there, onto a mega-church, then to an Anglican parish…it never ends.
But she does end with St. Francis de Sales.
The nugget I took away from her piece was something I have often told others struggling with this – and myself. The only respite she finds from the horrors of church politics and the damage of corruption in church leadership is in direct ministry to the homeless. I told someone struggling with these issues once to decrease his internet time, spent reading about and talking about scandal, and go to daily Mass, then hang out with the old guys who’d been in attendance, and were probably going for coffee right before they went to the St. Vincent de Paul center to do some corporal works of mercy.
Again, it’s not a call to quiescence or ignoring problems. Lord knows, I’m not into that. But in the end, Jesus’ call to us to love, spread the Good News, and pour out ourselves in service to the poor. Over and over we see and hear it, and have to answer the question…what did the saints do? They did many things, in all areas of life, at all levels of human activity, but in the end, the focus of the saints was Paul’s – to let Christ live in them.
Despite the turmoil and our dysfunctional church experiences, my family moved to California so that my husband, Jeff, could study for the pastorate. The goings-on at the megachurch where he was a student and then an assistant pastor made everything that came before seem like Sunday school games. During Jeff’s tenure on staff, both we and others were victimized by abuse of power. We also witnessed sexual misconduct and abuse, dishonesty, cruelty and cowardice, and a contentious church culture that fed on gossip. I have never seen anything like it, inside or outside the church.
This experience cured me of both naiveté and certain kinds of ambition. It also exhausted our resources. We are just now beginning to recover, 18 months later.
An early step in our path toward wholeness was one-on-one ministry to Orange County, California’s homeless population. Jeff and I took jobs at a homeless ministry in the high desert. Our directors had been missionaries in Asia during the ten years that we were traversing the landscape of American evangelicalism. The differences between them and us were startling. Jeff and I were not jaded, but we were marked by grief. We limped—in part because our children were jaded. And we saw disaster lurking behind every craggy rock. Our coworkers walked with a skip in their step, and danger didn’t concern them much. This was both liberating and disconcerting.