One Fish…

Gonna be upfront with you. I’ve got issues. I haul around this humongous set of luggage chuck full of guilt and regrets. I have some resentment. Better change some to a lot. About my parents, sister, my former bosses and the church. The Methodist Church. Haven’t been a Methodist very long. About 15 years and 4 ministers. My resentment shows up occasionally in my blogs. OK, need to change the occasionally to many. I realize this is unhealthy for me and I need to move on. But I’m quite famous for my grudges. Holding onto them for awhile. No, let’s forget awhile. We’ll go with years. I’ll stop now.

My first stint as Parish Visitor…

I’m not good at forgiveness either. I’m really not a good Christian. Not going to get me very far when I plead, “God don’t forget all those soups, canned goods, breads and pies I made and gave away.” No, good works are not going to get me past the pearly gates. Besides they weren’t even that good. Plus, this isn’t the way I want to be remembered. Since the blog is about me, if you find my trying to work through my issues distasteful, stop reading. I need to forgive some people from my past. Still detect a morsel of bitterness though. A work in progress.

In the past 20 years, I’ve had 5 bosses. One great McDonald’s owner-operator-and 4 preachers when I did my parish visiting stints in 2 churches. This is about preacher number 1. Really what are the chances of having 4 lousy ministers bosses in a row? Might be noticing a pattern here. Just saying.

We’ll call the first guy, “One Fish.” I have no respect for any of the 4, thus the blog. One Fish did have some good traits. He was the only one of the 4 who did not read his entire sermon. And his sermons were pretty good, until the political barracuda came out on the pulpit. Good job Denise, pointing out his redeeming qualities. On my way!

One Fish liked what I was doing. Just finishing up my Stephen Ministry training in his church. A 50-hour course in the art of listening. Tricky for a deaf person, but my hearing loss was not as bad 15 years ago. A one-on-one program connecting a Stephen Minister with a person from the congregation who is going through a traumatic time. Divorce, health issue, death, job loss. One Fish showed up at our class one night with a dilemma. The retired pastor he had hired years before for visiting was having serious health problems. One Fish (from now on being referred to as OF. I’m already tired of typing it). OF was asking for volunteers to take over visiting the elderly. My hand shot up before he finished the request. This congregation was a healthy mix of young families, empty nestors and elderly. After a few months he needed to hire someone permanently for the job. But not necessarily me. He wanted some pulpit help, an occasional sermon on Sunday and help with funerals, leaving me out. Tough job for 9 bucks an hour. OF gave up looking, and hired me, 20 hours a week. My visiting wasn’t limited to just the older folks though. I’d visit families with new babies, bringing them a meal (can’t forget all my good works God) and new people trying out the church.

When visiting, if I felt the person needed a deeper, spiritual conversation, I’d e-mail OF and request that he please stop by and see them. Several older gals had mentioned that OF never looked their way on Sunday mornings. One lady put it this way, “he’s been here for 9 years and doesn’t know my name.” Yikes. Not good. I needed to get him on board with these sometimes forgotten people. I e-mailed him (he was not a believer in staff meetings) asking if every other Sunday, could he spend 5-10 minutes speaking to those little folks who were already in their pews waiting for church to start? He e-mailed me a long letter on how busy he was trying to run a church of this size by himself. He couldn’t be distracted before, during or after the service. (Really, my little folks were not the movers and shakers. He didn’t want to say, “how are you?” cause he didn’t want to take the time to hear their answers.) I specifically asked him to visit a member in Hospice care while I was on vacation. He did not. When I reprimanded him (yeah, I can be kind of ballsy) he finally did go. But talked the whole time about his kid in college. Never asked the Hospice guy how he was doing, or his wife on how she was coping with it all.

An older member named Phylis lived near me. She had been a widow for several years. She had a son in town and a daughter about a hundred miles away. One Sunday during church it was announced that her son (in his 50’s) had fallen down the basement steps the night before and had died from the injuries. After church John and I went home, changed clothes and ate lunch. Told John I was going to see Phyl for a few minutes. She was home alone. Pretty sure she was in shock. We talked, cried and prayed. The next morning I headed for the disciple class taught by OF. After class I asked him how Phylis was doing? He hadn’t been there yet! They were playing phone tag. It must have been more important to be home that afternoon and night, then class the next day than to stop and see her. She was about a mile from him.

Each minister have their own gifts. I realize that. Of the 4, only 1 enjoyed visiting my little people. Some worked well with the youth, some at running the business end, others were great recruiters. But just because you might not enjoy part of the job, or find it immensely rewarding, doesn’t excuse you. This job involved more than preaching on Sunday. And I really didn’t ask any of them to step in very often. Truthfully, I can say about 95% of those I visited thought more of me than any of the 4 preachers-combined.

The day after all our lives changed on 9/11, I stopped at church to pray for the victims and their families. OF was headed for his office at the same time. As we were talking about the World Trade Center, he said he thought it was our fault. America was getting what we deserved. First time ever, I was speechless. He didn’t want to visit those I loved when asked, and thought the U.S. was at fault when terrorists bombed us. That Christmas Eve, his sermon was 3 love stories of the bible. Smack-dab in the middle, he said American guns were being used to kill Palestinians. Now where did that come from? Got nothing to do with the message. I went home and wrote him a scathing letter condemning his political views and statements from the pulpit. No one else got the chance to voice their opposing views up there. I was in church because I needed God’s word to help me get through the week, not OF’s personal agenda in favor of Arafat. The pulpit was not the right venue, and please keep his views to himself when he was up there.

They say the church is the people. I loved the people of the church. Ok, one cute story. Really not so cute, more of a blundering idiot on my part. I was visiting Marge. Really sharp lady, but eyes problems and walking issues. Getting ready to leave and said, “well I’m off. (most folks who know me are aware of this already) I still have to stop and see Bill and Amy.” Marge countered, “you visit them? I know them both well.” “Yes,” I continued, ” I love visiting them. Bill tells the best stories. I usually try and stop there last in the day cause I stay so long. They’re just about my favorites!” Silence. She nodded, smiled at me, and said quietly, “I hope someday I can be your last visit of the day.” Oh Denise.

Surprisingly they both fit quite nicely inside my big mouth…

Lately going to church was making me angry and depressed. When you’re filled with disgust watching the man up front, it’s time to worship God somewhere else. Heavy-hearted, I put in my notice. We started church shopping. I was gonna sit in a pew, get as much from the sermon as possible, walk out and not get involved again. Of course, that didn’t quite match up to the plans God had for me…



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