It's one of those nights where I can't function till I get this out of my head.
As a blogger, I have always stayed away from blogging about two things: religion, and politics. Politics because I don't know enough about them and I don't care to learn as I am convinced there are way too many hidden agendas with any of the parties. Religion because it's a touchy subject with so many, one that cuts to the very core with so many. Conversations about religion can get very heated very quickly and I am not interested in engaging in that, arguing with others or splitting hairs.
However. Here I am.
I have skirted the issue of religion in this blog before. Alluding to it, but stating simply that I view myself as a "spiritual" person moreso than a religious person.
I say that, because my belief is that you don't have to go to church to have a relationship with God. I also believe that you can believe in a higher power, you can have faith, but for you, maybe it's not a "God" you believe in, but something else. I believe that everyone has the right to decide what works best for them - whether that is christianity, judeasm, buddism, or whatever. I don't really care what you believe, or if you believe, and I don't think that because I am a Christian that that makes me better or worse than those who are not. I also don't believe it means I have to go to church to be a "good Christian". I feel that the higher power I do or do not believe in, should not influence what or how you think of me at all, nor should your beliefs influence how or what I think of you.
Because we are all people.
We all have feelings. We all love. We all cry. We all bleed. We all tire. We all live our lives the way we feel is best. We are all human, we all feel, we all matter, we all deserve respect. Whether we are black, white, asian, hetrosexual, homosexual, Christian, Jewish, Athiest, whatever. I don't really care.
We all have feelings. We all matter and we are all worthy. That is the basis of what I believe and THAT is what I will teach my children.
So, back to my point.
Because of this belief I have, I don't feel it necessary to go to a bricks and morter building every Sunday morning to "prove" my faith. I don't believe that by not going to church, I am condeming myself to Hell. I don't believe I am any less Christian than those who do go to church every Sunday. I don't believe that simply going to church every sunday excuses or forgives malicious actions I may have been a part of through the week. That "confession" wipes the slate clean. I don't believe sitting in a church makes me any more a Christian than standing in a garage makes me any more of a mechanic.
I don't like being put into a box of what my beliefs and relationship with my God should be or look like.
I was baptized. I was confirmed. I went to Sunday School. I was married in a church to a man who was not baptized, not confirmed and who never attended church growing up and never has since. Both of my children were baptized in a church. My church. Even though I am not a regular attendee.
Because of my minister.
I am 32 years old. My minister has been my minister for 26 of those years. Here's a little bit about my minister.
He has been married, and divorced and married again.
He is not yet 50.
He plays musical instruments. (more than just a piano)
He used to be part of a local entertainment group.
He has had a stroke in the past.
He has "jammed" around bonfires
He tells jokes. Lots of them.
He used to attend local fundraising "pub nights"
He works outside of his congregation to help whoever may need it, whenever they need it. He has performed 3 weddings in one day. He has performed more than one funeral in a day. He will drive from one end of this province to the other to be with and support those who need him, whenever they need him, at a moment's notice.
He sacrifices his personal life, and his health to do this. Every single day.
I am writing this post because my minister is being bullied.
A few years ago, a complaint was lodged by a member of the presbytry, who didn't like the way my minister did his job. Didn't like that he was helping those who weren't members of the church. Didn't think it was appropriate for him to attend fundraising pub nights in his own community. Didn't like that he seemed to connect with younger people. Didn't like it that he told churchgoers that he didn't care what they wore to church as long as they came. Certainly didn't like that he was divorced.
So, "they" lodged a complaint. The presbytry went to its church members and it was discussed. A committee was set up within the church members to handle any similar matters in the future.
Life continued on, and although scarred and shaken, my minister continued to practice and carry on the way we were used to him doing.
11 years ago my grandpa died of pancreatic cancer. He never went to church. My grandma rarely did either. She used to, when her kids were younger, but hadn't been going regularly for many years. My grandpa died 7 months after his diagnosis. My minister and grandparents lived on the same street. During his illness my minister befriended my grandpa, and our family. He would sit and chat with my grandpa for hours, learning more about him and our family each time. One night the family was called to the hospital as my grandpa's health was deteriorating very quickly. I was living outside of Exeter at the time and my mom told me if I wanted to see him and say goodbye, that I had better come. So Jeff and I did. It was dark when we got there and when I walked in, my mom, aunt and uncles and cousin closest in age to me were all there in a circle, with our minister. He was there to read "last rights". I was unprepared for that. I stood there, holding the hands of my mom and then boyfriend, staring at the floor in shock at what was happening. I had never been a part of anything like that before. Then, as my minister watched, I leaned in and hugged my grandpa and whispered that he needn't worry, we would all be fine.
He didn't die that night. He died a couple months later. My minister was with him almost daily during that time and even witnessed and was a part of a truce called between my grandpa and his brother before he died.
My minister performed the funeral, of course, and during his sermon shared bits and pieces of conversations the two of them had had. I delivered the eulogy and beforehand, my minister assured me that I were to stumble or feel unable to do it, that he would take over. He sat off to the side while I said my eulogy and at one point when I did stumble, I looked over at him to see him wiping tears from his own eyes.
Because he cared.
Because he had really gotten to know my grandpa, and my family, and what I was saying wasn't just resonating with my grandpa's family and friends, it hit him too. He was mourning too.
What must that job be like? Getting to know people in the twilight of their lives so you can give them a good funeral? So you can do the family justice and give them real comfort. A miinster really gets to know these people, sometimes for months or even years. Often they will tell a minister things they will tell no one else. Ask for forgiveness, admit to fears, sins, misgivings...all to this minister who shares very little of it with anyone else, ever. Sometimes a minister is the only person that someone who is dying wants to see. When these people die, the minister grieves the loss too.
Just imagine for a moment, how many situations like this a minister has been a part of. How many losses they too have suffered over the course of their career.
My grandparents were not regular church goers. None of my family was. Despite that, my minister took the tiime to get to know us, befriend us and support us.
Support isn't even the right word.
A few months after that, Jeff and I became engaged. There was never a question where I would be married. Ever since I was a little girl I planned to me married in my home church. I may not have attended it often, but I loved it, loved that I had grew up there and even loved that my parents had been married there.
But my fiancee wasn't baptized. wasn't confirmed. Wasn't anything, as far as the eyes of the church were concerned.
That mattered nothing to my minister. He welcomed my fiancee with open arms, never once during our 22 month engagement pressuring him to become a member, never insisting he be baptized, confimed, take classes, or anything. The night of our dress rehearsal was my minister's 40th birthday. We had a cake for him. He grinned ear to ear as he ceremoniously cut into it at back at my in law's farm that night. He stood around with us and told jokes, mingled and fit right in with our loud and outspoken families. He had done the same for Jeff's brother when he got married a couple years earlier. My minister performed that wedding, in the same fashion, to two people neither of which were members of his church. As a result of all that, he gained a friend in my fiancee, and in my fiancee's entire non church going family. Ever since, whenever his family has required to services of a minister, it's him they called, thinking of him as their minister too.
The day we were married, he allowed soloists to sing me down the aisle. He allowed non religious readings to be read at the pulpit. He allowed us to write and recite our own vows and at the end, when we left the church, he rang the bells for us - something that doesn't happen all that often.
Even though my fiancee wasn't a church member. Even though I didn't go to church. Even though my parents didn't go to church. Why? Because he cared. He cared about me, about us, and believed in our marriage and our happiness.
Almost every wedding in the area I have been a guest at, he has been the minister. Many of the funeral visitations and funerals I have been to, so has he. I would often be surprised to see him officiating at so many different services for so many different people from so many different walks of life, but instead of judging him or looking at that in a negative way, it made me proud.
I was proud that he was my minister. Proud that so many other people in this area knew of him and knew how awesome he was. And really, I was in awe of his abilities to reach out to and connect with so many people.
Because people were recommending him. Because he never acted better than us, he always acted as one of us. Just a regular guy. He was out in the community. He was visible every other day of the week, not just Sundays. He was reaching people where they were, not just within a church.
My minister is on facebook too. People connect with him there all the time, cause that's where they are. In order to reach people you have to meet them where they are. He knows how to do that. He knows that relationships with God and Faith can happen outside of church walls on days other than Sunday.
In the years that followed I had 2 babies. They were both baptized by my minister in my church. Even though I didn't live in the area. Even though I didn't go to his church. I could have had them baptized in a church in the town I lived in, but no. I came home to have my babies baptized in my church by minister, the same one who married me, with my husband and his family's full support.
In the years that followed I attended more weddings, and more funerals officiated by my minister, including both my cousin and my brother's weddings. My brother's wedding actually had 2 officiants perform the service - my brother's fiancee's clergy member and our minister, in her church, not ours and not our minister's. But he did it. Because he cared.
In the years that followed I have been to church weddings, outdoor weddings and even a biker wedding that he performed. I have been to funeral visitations that were traumatic, shocking, and where the lineups went around the block, that he was a part of. It was one of those weird things, I always knew I'd see him and be able to catch up a bit, even in the most awful of circumstances.
In the years that followed my dad's mother, my paternal grandmother, died. My dad and his siblings all had varying views on church and religion, and different ministers. My dad is not one for church and religion. Some of his siblings are much more committed to other churches than my dad is but it was my minister who officiated the funeral. Because my dad had gotten to know my minister through the events that had taken place in my life, and just through the community in general. Again, I said the eulogy, and again my minister was ready to support me if needed. When many of us broke down at quite an unexpected moment before the service began, my minister was there, ready.
Last summer, my husband, 2 children and I lost our home to the Goderich tornado. We were inside our home when the tornado came through it and within 3 hours, my 2 children were in Gorrie under the care of my mom and grandma for the next 6 days.
My minister was there for them. My entire home community was there for them and for my husband and I in those 6 days and in the many months following. My minister was a part of that. Even though I didn't go to that church. Even though my kids didn't go to Sunday School there. Even though some of the church members didn't even know us, my minister asked his church congregations to pray for us. He asked my grandma to stand up in the middle of church services and give an update as to how we were doing. He himself prayed for us and donations were made to my family.
Because he cared. Because in the 10 years since my grandfather had died, he had become a part of my family. He had seen me married, seen me pregnant and baptized both my children. He had seen me grieve, seen me cry, seen me speak to wide audiences...he had even seen me drunk.
He was there.
None of this, none of it, took place on a Sunday morning. Well, except the baptisms I guess.
And now I sit, all wound up, because now, a complaint has been lodged again. A very few people still don't like the way my minister conducts himself. Don't think its right that he spends so much time tending to people outside of his congregation. Don't like his "modern" ways of reaching people. Don't like that not much has changed since the last complaint. They want him removed from the ministry entirely. Because "they" don't like it, they want to punish him. And this time, that committee that was set up within the church members to deal with such issues? They weren't even consulted. They don't even attend his churches anymore, yet they can't just let it go.
**One thing about small town Ontario: people talk and you're never anonymous**
And even if they did attend his church, if they don't like it, why not just leave and attend a different church with a different minister? Why cause all this drama? Why be such bullies? Why create such heartache? What lessons are you teaching by doing that? On your day of reckoning, how will you be viewed?
We are all people. We all have feelings. We all cry. We all bleed. We all tire.
We all deserve respect.
We are all worthy.
A select few have caused my minister such heartache, but from it, I hope he has seen how much more support there is for him. More than I bet he ever knew existed.
I am not afraid of these bullies. And if they are reading this, then know that I have dealt with the likes of you before. You have no power over me.
One day you will have to explain all of this to someone or something higher up than yourselves. Karma is a funny thing. And yes, you do have your hands full.
I ask you this:
If you were to be diagnosed with cancer, but had never donated to the Canadian Cancer Society, should you be denied what it had to offer? If you needed emergency medical care but have never donated to your local hospital foundation, should you be denied entry to its ER? If you require the services of your local fire dept, but have never attended or donated to one of its breakfasts, should they stand back and watch your house burn down? If you require the services of a minister, whether it be to perform a marriage, baptismal, funeral or to talk you out of committing suicide, should he refuse you, simply because you don't attend his church on Sunday mornings?
Shame on you.
I don't consider myself a religious person. I have never felt the need to go to church on Sunday mornings to feel close to my higher power. There have been times in my life that I really truly question whether my higher power even exists.
But when looking for answers, I don't feel I have to go to church to find them.
I have talked to God at 2 am on the shoulder of a dark country road.
I have talked to God within hospital rooms.
I have talked to God driving in the sunlight at 10 in the morning.
I have talked to God while sitting down in the middle of a deserted street in the middle of a devasted neighbourhood.
I have talked to God while laying in my bed staring at the ceiling.
I have talked to God in the park, at the pool, in my backyard and in firehalls.
I have talked to God after hanging up telephones, after tucking my kids into bed and after drinking too much.
Because that's where I am. And I believe if there is a God, that God is where I am.
And I believe that if there is a God, that he works through my minister, wherever he is.
My brother said today "(My minister) chose God and God chose (my minister)....who has the power to change decisions like that?"
*This post was written in support of my minister. It was not written to encourage debate about religion. Any comments about one religion vs another or debating the importance of going to church on Sundays or the demise of religion within younger generations....or anything about religion in general at all really will not be published on this blog and will be removed from the facebook page as that was not the intention of this post and I do not want to stray from its purpose.