You may have heard that my husband closed his church a few weeks ago, and though it was time by everyone’s accounts (including God, apparently!), he is definitely sad about it. People have been wonderful, and if you are one of those people who have asked him how it’s going and prayed for him and even, in some cases, scoured the church want ads for him, THANK YOU! He and I deeply appreciate your prayers and concern.
He is blogging and will write more about his own process, and I’m not going to do that here, but I am observing something very interesting that I wrote about nearly eight years ago.
When I closed my church back in 2006, it was much of the same process. It was terribly sad. I had to go through the process of giving away or selling the church’s stuff that we had accumulated over the years. I felt like I was in that kind of grief where you feel like you’re moving through sludge, you know? My mom used to call it the “lead apron,” like at the dentist, after my dad died. It was a lot like that, but I started to move through it, and took about a year off to recover from losing my job and closing my church, for which I had so many hopes.
In that year, very, very few people asked me how I was doing. I don’t remember anyone expressing concern for my unemployment, or trying to find me a job, or contacting me to see if I needed some help or counseling (yeah, I did).
I’m not trying to whine, I promise. I just want to remember that if a woman loses her job, especially a woman with small children, it is not a “positive” thing for her any more than it is for Scott right now. If a woman loses her job or closes her church and happens to have a baby and a toddler, it is not okay to suggest that perhaps this is what she “should” have been doing all along (that’s a direct quote from not just one person, but several).
It was terribly painful, as it is for Scott, and all I wanted was a congregation to serve, which is all I had wanted in the first place. My children are amazing gifts and I am grateful for that time with them, but I will always be a pastor, and having that part of me taken away was really terrible.
A year later, I talked my way into getting an interim job at a little congregation in Elberton, Georgia. God, through that small, beautiful, generous congregation, saved me and my career. I was a better mother when I was preaching each week, caring for people, doing funerals and weddings….pastor work. I still get teary when I think about them, that little step on my path that was a turning point for me to be able to be myself again as a pastor and as a person in general.
So this is what I pray for Scott, and for any other pastor, male or female (especially female!) who may be in a transition time. That people care for them and pray for them. That people ask how things are going and express hope for their future, as people have done for Scott. And that eventually, God will lead them maybe to an unexpected place where they can serve as they were called to do.