What happened to my church?

One of the things bugging Ellen and I lately has been what has been going on in our church.  That's the building (with a small "c") and not the Church (the Catholic organization with a big "c").  We have some issues with our Church as well but that's a post for another time.  Ellen has been a part of our parish since she was baptized there.  We took a 5 year hiatus while I was in the Navy but since I redicovered my faith only after we married, it's been a home for me as well as an adult.  We've seen many changes, from pastors coming and going, to scandals, to additions to the building.

However, lately things have gone to a whole new level.  We've always felt welcome at our parish and suddenly I'm not so sure.  It started with the instituting of a lay pastoral administrator to run our parish instead of a priest as the pastor.  Now, I'm not a prude or anything and don't really care if a priest or lay person runs the parish, as long as its run well.  But funny things happened from the start.  Like the pastoral administrator's need to continually explain who he is to the congregation, especially if there are visitors.  This is a quirk we could probably put up with.  Then there was the conversations I had over the last couple of years from a good friend that had "inside information".  I got a funny vibe about it.

Then this year came the sudden exodus of the staff.  First, one of my bandmates, who was the business manager, quit.  I won't go into details but basically she couldn't take working for the pastoral administrator any longer.  Then, our youth minister (also a friend) got unceremoniously fired.  Then, shortly after that, the faith formation director, who only got hired last August, quit as well.  So, three women quit.  And guess who were hired to replace them?  Three men.  Coincidence?  Sexism?  Not saying it is, but it seems very odd.

And then lately there's  been a focus on two things:  rules and money.  We used to stand during Communion.  then we were told that a few of our committees had UNANIMOUSLY decided we should kneel (which is what most parishes do).  Except that Ellen was on one of those committees and she had played devil's advocate and had NOT been in favor of kneeling.  Also we hear a lot about events that raise funds for the parish but very little about ministries that can help the community.  I'm reminded of what Jesus said about the Pharisees and the Saducees: "They honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me."  That's how I feel about my church right now.

I've taken a few radical steps, for me at least.  For example, I still stand during Communion.  Most Sundays I'm the ONLY one standing.  And, since we sit in the front row and our pastoral administrator likes to be on the alter platform (a story for another time) I KNOW he sees me.  Also, our contribution envelopes have lines on them to designate where your donation goes.  My weekly donation now goes 100% to world need and ZERO to the parish.  Right now I'm voicing my displeasure with my money.  And if this situation continues, I may have to vote with my feet.  And if this pastoral administrator makes me find a new home, I'm going to be REALLY pissed.


Jude said…
It's all sounding very "fishy" and makes me wish you could complain to someone up the ladder a bit who might like to know what's going on there.

Not being Catholic, I've always wondered about kneeling in church. I simply couldn't do it with the arthritis in my knees, what do the elderly and/or other people with physical problems like myself do in the Catholic church? I assume they just don't kneel, obviously.

This isn't the first time you've shared with us your frustration and disenchantment with your church. (small "c") It would suck if you and Ellen had to leave it, especially having attended it for so long. I wonder, has there been a noticeable decline in the congregation there already?
the wife said…
And don't forget my disappointment about the fact that the church is locked up tighter than a drum by 3:00 every afternoon.
sydwynd said…
Jude: Fishy doesn't even begin to explain it. It seems the focus is all on earthly things, not spiritual things. It's so wrong.

Catholics expect those that are physically able to kneel at certain points of the Mass. Most people that cannot sit reverently instead.

Wife: Don't get me started on that too! There were too many issues to list. I could have spent hours writing this post.
Jammie J. said…
If the focus isn't on God, and you don't feel the desire to support your church and what they're doing and believing in 100%, well, sentimental reasons (history, etc.) really aren't a strong enough reason to say, in my opinion. I'm sorry you guys are going through this.
sydwynd said…
Jammie: There are more than sentimental reasons keeping us there. Our issue is really with the administration, not the faith community. There really are good people that are part of the parish. We're adopting a wait and see approach. In the Catholic church, nothing is permanent. We'll get a new leader in a few years. What concerns us most is that they have a vibrant faith formation program for the boys. Ellen and I can deal to a certain extent but if this parish turns the boys off in their faith, that I can't accept. We met with the new faith formation/youth director last night and I'm cautiously optimistic.
Kate said…
I have to say these changes are very concerning to me, because they're concerning to you. It's bad how bad leadership can ruin nearly anything, and it's especially horrible when it's something of basic need like faith. I love how you said as long the person who is running the church is doing a great job, you don't care what their title is. Isn't that valid for all parts of life?!

Although I'm sorry to hear that these problems have come up, it is yet again so inspiring to me what you notice (that all the women have been fired) and the lies that are happening (because you know from your wife) and how you are choosing to show your disagreement with your money (still giving, but not to your church) and silent protest during communion. It renews my faith that there are great and wonderful practicing Catholics out there and I hope with all my heart that it improves before your feet have to start walking! Thanks for sharing though, as always, I love your perspective and am inspired how you lead by example!

(BTW-I'm behind in reading & commenting, work is really cutting into my internet time--sorry)!
sydwynd said…
Kate: I think the majority of the people in the pews are good people. Certainly Catholics are about the same as any other Christian denomination. The one thing we have and that others don't is what keeps me in the Church. That's the Eucharist. What other denomination believes that the bread and wine are not just symobols but the ACTUAL body and blood of Christ? That's the deal breaker for me.

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