Saturday, October 24, 2009

The One About the Rabbi, the Monk and the Pastor

Well, I'm not Jewish or Buddhist, so I'm cutting straight to the pastor.

To say that my pastor and church failed me during the darkest period of my entire life is like saying Hitler had issues. Friends who have heard the story are appalled, which validates that I wasn't simply crazy with grief. At a time when I desperately needed spiritual comfort, my church of ten years forgot me.

Oh, but the signs were there.

Such as the day before Mom's surgery, when the wife of the assistant pastor emailed me, asking if I'd like to join a brainstorming session for future church services. I wrote back, explaining that I'd have to decline because my mother had just been diagnosed with stage 3 cancer and I would be her primary caretaker. I also said she was entering the hospital the next day for surgery and asked that prayers be said for her.

How did the pastor's wife respond? She didn't. Nada, zip, zilch. Like I'd mentioned my mom was suffering from the heartbreak of psoriasis or chronic dandruff.

And it gets better, folks.

Days after Mom died, I made an appointment to see my pastor and told his administrative assistant the reason why. I was grief-stricken and in total despair. Angry at God and confused at why He let this happen. I desperately needed spiritual counseling.

So there I was, sitting in the lobby and struggling to hold back the tears while my pastor kept me waiting ten minutes because hey, it was a hot day and he had gone out to get an ice-coffee.

Okay, fine.

As I sat in his office, barely able to speak because I was sobbing so hard, he simply sat there. Slurping his ice-coffee and nodding, occasionally saying things like, "Hmmm," or "That's too bad," or "I'm so sorry." Then, when I couldn't utter another word, he finally spoke. Did he quote the Bible? Recite scripture or say anything to help me make sense of what had transpired?

Not quite.

"You know what's really bad?" he asked. "The death of a child."

I was speechless. Was I suppose to feel better that it was JUST my old mother that had died and not some adorable little tyke? I left his office still grief-stricken and also newly befuddled.

What the hell had just taken place?

This appointment was seven weeks ago. Since that time, neither my pastor nor anyone from his staff has reached out to me even once to see how I'm doing. No emails, no phone calls, no "Hope you're hanging in there, God loves you." Nothing. Despite greeting me in the lobby every Sunday morning for over ten years, my sudden absence hasn't made a dent on their radar.

In a previous posting I wrote that a crisis reveals the worst in people as well as the best. I'm saddened to learn that this idiom applies to churches as well, which is why I won't be returning to my former house of worship.

Not that I'm done with God just yet. There's always still the Rabbi and the Monk.


too gemini said...

I'm so sorry about this major disappointment when you reached out for help - you certainly deserved better. Maybe this will lead you to a church more attuned to caring about their congregation, I hope so.

Kirsten P. said...

That's astoundingly awful. So sorry for your loss, Eileen.

Maria said...

Good for you for speaking up, Eileen. I wish you comfort and peace in time. Love you, sweet girl.

A Fanciful Life said...

So unbelievable... glad you are not giving up. There is a place for you where you will be welcomed and treated with respect. What could he possibly have been thinking?

Anonymous said...

Hey, Eileen, there is a really warm, loving, supportive opening for you in the Jewish faith.....and I am sure the Buddhists would welcome you with open arms.
You needn't ever give up on God. She can be found everywhere and is always with you.

cindy said...

Eileen, I'm so very sorry for your loss. I'm sorry for how shabbily you were treated. In these days of "church as entertainment and psychology dept", I'm afraid we've gotten away from what is the crux of things..."love one another". I lost my Mom not too long ago to stage 4 colon cancer, so I can utterly sympathize. I hope you can move past this and find a church home that can empathize and sympathize as well.
yapping cat

Ruthie Bently said...

Dear Eileen,

Please accept my condolences on your mom's passing. I'm sorry to say that I think what happened to you may happen more often than we think these days. Even the church I grew up in is not immune. Though there is a good pastor there now, several of his predecessors helped me decide not to go back. One pastor was having an affair with a married woman in the church. They both divorced their partners (hers had MS) and married each other. The other pastor felt that we teenagers were all "druggies" because one gal on a retreat had her prescription medication with her (forget the fact that she needed it to control seizures).

Though I no longer go to church regularly, I can speak with God anytime I want to and frequently have discussions with him(?) While the fellowship of the people might be nice, I know I don't need a building to get close to God. May he bless you and keep you.
Love, Ruthie Bently


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