I live in the Pine Hills section of Albany, NY. But I’m also part of a work community, the librarian community, and now, a bloggers’ community, among many others. One I’ve valued a great deal is the church community.
Carol and I got married in the largest Methodist church in Albany on May 15, 1999. Little did we know that we would be leaving that community less than two years later.
I’ll try not to get too arcane here. In January 2000, the Pastor Parish Relations Committee suspended the choir, the fact that the PPRC had no authority to do that in Methodist polity notwithstanding. At about the same time, the pastor of Spanish-speaking part of the congregation was squeezed out.
For the next couple weeks, Carol and I attended worship in the cold, inaccessible basement of the other Methodist church where the Spanish-speakers found themselves. (By “cold”, I mean that my feet got numb, even with my boots on. By “inaccessible”, I mean that I helped carry a man downstairs in his wheelchair.)
There was a meeting of the PPRC chair and the choir in March. The choir members had hoped that this would have been an opportunity to clarify the issues, and to create an atmosphere of reconciliation. Instead, it was, unfortunately, a lecture by the PPRC chair, with no real chance to respond to the mostly baseless accusations. There was a suggestion that the choir could come back if the members signed a loyalty oath to the pastor. A loyalty oath! After the meeting, the chair seemed pleased with the outcome; I told her it was b*******.
Even before this meeting, I had started singing in the choir of the church around the corner. But, ultimately, Carol & I left our old church, not just because of these events, but because the governance of church had been changed so that there was little redress. (The opposition to this change in governance, labeled as obstructionist, was the primary “crime” of many in the choir.)
We still have friends at our old church where I was member for a decade and a half, where Carol was member for nearly a decade, where we met, where we wed, but we changed our membership three years ago.
The story about the folks getting kicked out of their church for their voting patterns resonated with me, and even more if you see it on
video. (You may need to download software.) They were forced out and we left voluntarily, but the sense of sadness, loss, abandonment, and perhaps a touch of anger still lingers. In any case, we feel grateful that we have found another community in which we can participate in the church around the corner.
Not a very romantic piece for our 6th anniversary, is it? Still, I believe the experience strengthened my bond with Carol. And with Lydia, we have a (small) community of our own.
Happy anniversary, Carol. I love you.