Red Fish, Blue Fish…

I’m really ready to move on. The hurt and anger are just a dull ache lately. And that’s good. For you Johnny-come-lately’s who haven’t kept up with my blog, (for shame) this is the final installment (I promise) about lamenting over my 4 lousy bosses. Yes, I wrote 4. My work was a terrific mission. I can’t really call it a job, it was more like a calling. Definitely not the last you’ll hear about my little people. It was work that I loved, and was very good at it. Most of you know how I feel about elderly people. They have been close to my heart since I was a little girl.

 

A yearly luncheon held for the home bound and guests when I was Parish Visitor…

I worked at 2 different churches for the span of a dozen years. I had 4 bosses. All of them were preachers. Every one was a subpar boss. By the time I was working for boss # 4, I wondered what the odds were that I would get 4 in a row who were hopeless? They all had different gifts. I recognized their strengths and weaknesses. In a nutshell: # 1 preached good sermons. # 2 was the only one who enjoyed visiting my little people and was good at it. (But he was the worst boss). Now it’s time to move on to 3 and 4. Already did painful stories on the first 2, One Fish, Two Fish last year. We’ll call the last 2, Red Fish (RF) and Blue Fish (BF). Yeah, I’m clever like that.

Our church was in turmoil. Attendance was down, money coming in was way down. As a member of the church staff, I had been highly critical of boss # 2. Probably too vocal. Ok, not probably, flat out, I was too vocal. I was very critical when he went off the reservation. I made a point of telling him in front of several other people that he had lost all credibility and to please stop shooting himself in the foot. He had just fired another staff person. Then contacted all the area churches warning them to steer clear of this person. Ugh. I believe in my heart after I sort of belittled him, he made it his mission to get rid of me. Which he tried to do but was unsuccessful. Instead the congregation supported me, and started a petition to move the pastor. It wasn’t kind for anyone involved. Very painful and unchristian like for all of us. Yeah, I can be an ass like that.

Enter boss # 3, Red Fish. We were assured by our District Superintendent, RF had been trained in healing broken congregations. He was an interim pastor and was slated to spend 2 years with us. He didn’t last a year. He might not have done any harm, but he sure didn’t help either. In his defense, why try and embrace a job you know is temporary? His head definitely was not in the game. My ladies circle asked him to speak about his calling to be a pastor, his goals and gifts. During his talk he became animated and engaged over 2 subjects only. The rescue dog he had just adopted and the novel he had been writing for the past several years. Which he wore around his neck on a flash drive. At all times to keep it safe. Yeah, I can be snarky like that.

During my tenure as Parish Visitor, it wasn’t very often that I called on the pastor to help me out. To be honest, most of the folks I was visited on a regular basis were not hankerin’ to see the preacher. Let’s say someone had been home-bound for the last 5 years. Over those 5 years I had probably stopped in to see them 75 times. Brought them soup, canned goods, cookies. Plus news from the congregation, keeping them in the loop as much as possible. During that same time frame, they were lucky if they had seen the minister 5 times. Really, 5 would have been a stretch. But in the minister’s defense, this was the Parish Visitor’s job. My job. My little folks respected, loved and looked forward to my visits. And I felt the same about them. If they were going to confide in someone, more than likely it would be to me, not the preacher. But on occasion I did ask for help. If someone was facing something very grave about themselves, or a close family member, I’d request that the boss visit them. Usually wait until staff meeting, or email my request. Describe what was going on in their life and ask him to please make a point to visit. Yeah, I could be thoughtful like that.

 

Opal at our Golden Circle luncheon. She was in her late 90’s here…

 

A few of my folks were going through some very rough patches. I emailed Red Fish and requested he visit 2 ladies. One had slipped on the ice and broken her ankle very badly. The other had just lost her infant great-grandson in a tragic accident. I sent the details to him, including that they lived just a few blocks apart. He never answered or acknowledged my email. Meanwhile one of my favorite little guys had broken a hip for the third time in 2 years with yet another fall. He was in a nursing home facility re-habbing. Another much younger guy on my visiting list had just been given a terminal diagnosis on his lung disease. Yikes. If I was feeling overwhelmed, think of these 4 poor souls. So I emailed the pastor again. Brought him up to date about the last 2, then reiterated the details on the first 2 again. “Hey, haven’t heard back from you about the first 2 gals I requested you visit last week. Now I’m adding a couple men. Probably plan on this taking you most of an afternoon. Call or email if you have any more questions about them. Thanks.” Waited several days. Did not hear back from him. Yeah, I can be assertive like that.

This is what transpired at the following staff meeting. RF wondered if anyone (about 10 staff members at the time) had any issues? Yup, me. I asked if the church’s Internet service was working? It was indeed. “Then why when I sent you a couple emails over the course of several days have you not responded to any of them?”

RF: “Where’d you send them?”

Me: “To your email address.”

RF: “Which one?”

Me: “The one that’s printed in the bulletin and newsletter. Where all our church business correspondence to you is supposed to go!”

RF: “That’s the wrong address. I never check that email address. That’s the secretary’s fault. Here’s the one I use.” (Brings me an email address).

Me: “Shouldn’t you make a point or priority to check your other inboxes if that’s the one the congregation and staff assume you’re using? And make sure the email address is correct in both of our publications? It’s not like I ask for your help very often.” Did I mention that I can be a smart ass like that?

He never responded. (BTW, during this whole exchange not one word by any other staff person was uttered. RF walked out of staff, and the building. Then the rest of the group erupted). “Way to go Denise. That needed to be said months ago. He’s not doing his job. Thanks for calling him on it.” (No, really thank all of you for stepping up to the plate and voicing your support with me. Your total silence 5 minutes ago helped me immensely).

Here’s the real problem. Not ONCE during that exchange (or anytime after) did he ever say, “holy mackerel Denise, what are you talking about? Who are these folks and what are their needs? Talk to me after staff meeting so I can jot down their concerns, and get their addresses. Thanks for following up on this. I dropped the ball. I’m sorry.” (Dude really, was that so hard)?

It was announced soon after he was leaving. Don’t know if our little heated exchange had anything to do with it. Not surprised if it did. But I do not care one whit. Yeah, I can be horrible like that.

Yay! We’re now down to my last mediocre-at-best-boss! Enter stage left, boss # 4, Blue Fish. Not much say about the only female of the group. I worked for her for 3 very long years. She had her own agenda. BF was there ONE year when she fired our office manager. Under the guise of wanting that position to do more of the bookkeeping duties. Thus saving us thousands of dollars. The office gal was a member of our congregation and 62 years old at the time. When trying to justify this to us during a congregational meeting, BF’s hubby stood up and offered this tidbit. “Let’s get down to brass tacks here folks. She should have never been hired in the first place. She wasn’t qualified. And you should never hire someone from the congregation!” Wow! We were all just speechless. He was now an expert on our congregation and staff after worshipping with us less than a year. I still feel awful for not standing up and defending our secretary. Then giving him what for. (Note to spouses of clergy: Don’t ever do this if you’re relatively new to the congregation. Better to keep your lips zipped). I would have loved to have been a fly in their car on the ride home. Hope she read him the riot act. But I doubt it. Yeah, I can be sarcastic like that.

So here’s the deal. Had I known Blue Fish was being moved in June, (after only 3 years, which was unusual) I certainly would not have retired that February. While the high death count of those I visited was nearing a hundred, and taking a huge toll on me, I would have remained their Parish Visitor a while longer. I still miss visiting the folks a lot. I’ve stopped attending the church. Any church. That resentment hasn’t left me. Kind of down on organized religion lately. Need to restore my faith in the church. My faith in God is doing just fine. But politics in a church can be worse than Washington. The only time I’ve gone back is to attend a funeral, or drop off some of my canned goods that UMW sells on Sunday mornings for mission work. I do wonder if I were still visiting, would I be working for another lousy boss? That would make it 5 in a row. More than likely. The odds lean heavily in that direction. Yeah, I’m skeptical like that…

 

 

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