I went home crying, shocked that my pastor had gone back on his word like that. It was a betrayal that left me reeling emotionally. Cried for days feeling a sense of deep betrayal. The pastor was quiet that week, no emails or phone calls.
I told my husband that I thought the time was right for me to join him at the other church and that I had no intention of going back to the old church as a member ever again. He was the recipient that afternoon of quite a few emails from Tom Smith telling him that he was dicing with his very salvation by attending this main stream denomination filled with homosexual abortionists.
Fast forward a week. Hubby and I both agree that the best thing we can do is do what he’s been doing, go to the big mainstream denomination for the early service before going out to the old church for their service. Ask the pastor at our old church to release us and send us on our way with an official blessing, like everyone else that’s left the church usually does.
During that week our email box was filled with hateful screeds from Tom Smith, at least two per day. The hubby and I look at each other while reading one and say together, like it had just dawned on us that he wasn’t just an obnoxious assclown, “He is nuts!”
I am still shaken and crying but I pray to keep an open mind towards the new church. To my surprise the contemporary service is almost identical to the service at my old church, same type of worship, prayers, sermon, etc. The only real difference is that no one danced, yelled, ran, jumped up and down or waved a flag during worship and there were ritualistic type prayers being used.
Still everyone was welcoming even if there were only about a dozen people at the service and the worship team was miniscule compared to our twelve vocalists singing four part harmony and every instrument under the sun super crowed platform over at the old church. In fact, once someone on the team that had seen me on the old church’s worship team at a conference asked me on the spot to join their team.
My fears about the new mainstream church started to melt again. The pastor even gave me a binder with information on what this denomination believed. Much to my surprise they did address the issues of abortion and homosexuality that were basically the same as my old church but with the addendum that you should love the sinner and hate the sin, no judgment.
Another nice thing about the new church is that there was no Tom Smith right in the very front of the platform dancing like a man with a squirrel in his pants. Whatever type of physical worship there was Tom always had to take it up a few notches, right up front, punctuated with a bunch of shouted ‘Praise Jesusssssssss!’ Many times I’d been in the zone, singing, worshiping with all of my being and I’d look down, be jolted right out of my holy spirit crack rock bliss by the sight of Tom Smith doing the Worship Watusi in his banlon slacks.
Usually I try not to judge anyone’s worship experience but there was just something about Tom’s over the top antics that seemed… unreal, put on for others or fakey. I knew from some of the random comments that I wasn’t the only one thinking it was a big act.
That Sunday we left the big new church we’d attended in town to drive out into the countryside and attend our old church one last time. We met the pastor in the hallway between worship time and church service, told him very simply we were leaving, this was our last Sunday there and we were transferring membership by letter of intention to the mainstream church. We wanted him to send us out with a blessing, make the announcement. He refused, demanding to have a private meeting with me away from my husband. I said no. Pastor stormed off.
I was appalled he would not release us properly from his ‘authority’ or ‘covering’ but I knew why he wanted a solo meeting with me. The pastor was going to iterate that I shouldn’t be leaving, I should let my husband leave and divorce him. I wasn’t hearing that nonsense again.
That service was one of the most uncomfortable ninety minutes I’ve ever experienced. While the pastor raged from the pulpit about sin, sin, sin and disbelief my husband and I sat there in the pew, both of us trying to digest the fact that our own pastor refused to bless us as we were trying to leave with order and decency. Without drama or accusations that we could have done.
In the end it was anticlimactic. Tom Smith was there but avoided both of us for once. I ranted about him to a couple of my friends, which I know I shouldn’t have done but I’d had enough of it all. The assistant pastor heard we were leaving and wanted to pray for my husband and myself, send us off with his blessing. We let him. Head pastor refused to make eye contact or say goodbye or kiss my ass. Nothing. It was like we no longer existed. I could see those around us that we’d thought of as friends were watching pastor, trying to figure out what we’d done to be shunned like this by the head of the church.Once the news filtered through the gossip rounds of the church the hateful emails from Tom picked up steam, raging about hell fire and damnation we’d receive for switching churches. The emails continued for a long time, but I finally directed my email filter to place all of his incoming emails into the spam folder so we didn’t even have to see them. He switched to another email addy.
A good example of those crazy cake missives was one where he claimed we were snubbing him because we weren’t answering our telephones. He just knew we were screening our calls and he would not have that. Lots of babbled out scripture and promises of hell fire, asking God to dump burning coals on our heads to convict us.
The crazy of that email is that we had canceled our home phone service that week because everyone in the family had cell phones and never used the home phone any longer. Tom took the endless ringing followed by a message weeks later that the number was invalid to be some sort of trick, like we were screening and not answering. Like it was his business in the first place.
You would think that leaving and switching to a church Tom disapproved of would had ended any contact with him. Unfortunately it seemed to only make him much more determined to make us, and in particular me, bend to his will.
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Calulu lives near Washington DC , was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 6 years ago. Her blog is Calulu – Roadkill on the Internet Superhighway
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce