She just appeared one Wednesday morning at staff meeting. Curious, we gawked and waited. Preacher man, alias Two Fish for those keeping up with my blog, introduced us to Becca. She would soon be graduating from seminary with a MDiv degree. Our children’s director position had been open for a couple months again. TF had canned the last two directors since I’d been working for him, maybe 3 years. Which was odd since we hardly had any children in the congregation. Guess he thought he should just keep hiring people until one miraculously started mass-producing kids from thin air for our aging church.
After our meeting, some of us met in the library with Becca to give her a feel for the church and staff. I should have warned her by shouting, “run Farrester, run.” But she was enthusiastic, optimistic, and filled with the Holy Spirit. I liked her right off the bat. She was the same age as my kids. Her mom lived in Oregon. Perfect. Since my days, nights, weekends were filled with everything elderly, this new friend was gonna be a nice change for me.
Becca knew how to win people over. She laughed out loud when I told a story about my Dad. The time he insisted he got into a friendly argument with John Wesley (who was born in like 1703) over predestination. Get this, Dad said it was during a Billy Graham Crusade in the 1970’s, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota of all places. Not gonna repeat the story. But it is really cute. If you want to read it, go back in my blog archives to July, 2014. The story is called, “The 3 Amigos.” Becca’s smile was infectious. She won me over, hook, line and sinker. Becca’s plans at the moment were going back to school for a few weeks, graduate, then start her new job/career with us.
|John Wesley. Dad was convinced that he attended a Billy Graham Crusade, 250 yrs after his birth…|
You gotta understand some things about our staff first. We were all old-school. Back then, I was just getting comfortable using a computer and email. But I had never heard of Facebook. And I was one of the younger people on staff. So when Becca joined our weekly meetings, she brought along her laptop. (AND USED IT DURING STAFF MEETINGS) Sacrilege. She’d type in meeting times, calendar events and took notes. (ON HER COMPUTER DURING STAFF MEETINGS) Blasphemy. The frown and worry lines were apparent every time TF glanced over at her. This was not on the approved behavior list for our staff meetings. Holy smokes, maybe she was secretly playing solitaire, just trying to look like she was paying attention. That whole techie-computer-stuff at staff meetings was disconcerting. It just wasn’t right. Or natural. Funny though, at one of the last staff meetings I attended, 3 of the higher-ups were all holding iPads, gabbing like junior high students about playing the game Angry Birds.
There were a few people Becca’s age in our church, so she made friends quickly. Soon after she started, she asked if she could go along visiting with me? She was a full-time employee, but with less than a dozen kids in church, how was she going to fill up 40 hours a week? I said sure. Happy for the company. Many times “my little people” read the newsletters about new members, staff or changes at the church. But since most were home bound, they never actually got to see any of these changes or meet new people. Becca enjoyed visiting. (She may have loved kids and youth, but what I witnessed was someone connecting with older folks with love and empathy. Seriously, she might have been trying to squeeze me out of my job. She happily tagged along several times during her first couple months. Meeting and visiting many folks she would never see inside the church.
|Becca, God makes her smile like that…|
Soon new signs cropped up in the church hallways. All about activities for the kid’s ministry. You could not fault Becca for her bubbling excitement. But that so-called euphoric feeling you get with a new job was over way too soon. She called me while I was at Shannon’s house for a couple of days. In tears and in a panic. TF had called her in the office, very upset about some assigned tasks Becca had supposedly messed up royally. Some of the staff were planning a trip to New Mexico for a seminar. Part of Becca’s responsibility were securing all the plane tickets. Although Becca produced documentation proving she had followed through with her part of the responsibility, TF was not convinced. “Denise, I think I’m going to be fired,” she sobbed. I actually laughed. “Becca, honey, you’re still in the honeymoon phase. He’s not gonna fire you after 4 months. We don’t even know you yet. Please don’t worry.”
Well guess what? He did. And with his usual, off the reservation flair. He told Becca that SPRC (staff-parish-relations-committee. Are you kidding me? Replace the word “staff” with preacher, then you have the real substance of that committee) was meeting that night to discuss her disappointing job performance thus far. He would call her in the morning to let her know the outcome. Could he even manage to do that right? Meet her calmly in his office at a reasonable hour? Of course not. At the time, Becca was house sitting for a friend/church member who lived about 15 miles out of town. TF called her after 9 pm saying the SPRC committee had come to a decision. He and the 80 year old committee chairwoman drove out after 10 pm to relieve Becca of her new 4 month old job. My gut feeling was that this was really a monetary decision, handled horribly. I think TF was in panic mode because the church finances were in such a mess. Overspending, but membership and money was down. He just realized that the church could not afford her salary BECAUSE WE VIRTUALLY HAD NO KIDS.
Devastated, jobless, homeless, no severance package, thousands of miles away from family and loved ones, Becca’s outlook might have looked grim. But that’s not the end of her story by any means. It was really just the beginning for Becca. Our dear mutual friend, whom I’ve written about a couple of times, Rosemary, offered Becca a place to live until she found a job. Rosemary, who had the biggest heart in the world, also had an exquisite new home. (By the way, Rosemary would have celebrated her 51st birthday this week. She died almost 5 years ago from cancer). It would take a couple months, but Becca was by no means down and out. She found a part-time children/youth director’s job at another church about 40 miles away. Supplemented her income by substitute teaching. Rosemary and I drove over to see Becca one Sunday, because she was singing a couple of solos. This church was proving to have a positive, healthy work environment. Who knew there were such places? In a church? She also went back to school to acquire her Elder status which would enable her to do pastoral ministry rather than be limited to children/youth. Soon she met a great guy, who was going through a tumultuous divorce. She and Jeremy were married a year later. Becca wholeheartedly stepped up to the plate in the role of stepmom with his 2 young children. After getting her Elder degree, she became the full time pastor here in Michigan. Jeremy then went back to college and just graduated. Guess what? Now he’s headed to seminary. As soon as he’s done, Becca’s plans are to go back for her doctorate. These overachieving young people. It’s mind-boggling to witness how much Becca’s, Jeremy’s and their kids lives have changed in the last few years. One amazing God, bringing them together.
|Becca and Jeremy…|
Becca’s been after me to come hear her preach. She’s being moved to a different church a couple hours away this summer. Since John was gone for the weekend, I decided it was a good time to scoot up and hear her. Wow. Just wow. What a blessing in her message about Peter. How lost he was after Jesus was crucified. What did he do? What Peter knew and was comfortable doing-he went fishing. With some of the disciples. But they caught nothing all night. Their nets remained empty. When Jesus called out to them from the shore the next morning, none of them recognized Him. Jesus told them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat. This was Becca’s take: guys, stop throwing your net on the “good Friday” side. Start fishing on the “Easter side” of the boat. It was then they caught their boatload of fish. Suddenly Peter and the disciples knew the time was right, and they were more than ready and willing to spread the word of Jesus. I bawled through most of the sermon, and the special music. Which was Becca singing. Wow.
|Becca from the pulpit…|
I still have grave misgivings about the Methodist church in general. Really, how can one remain optimistic about the church and it’s ministers when I had 4 in a row that were not great (and I’m being kind here) in the “boss” department? But hearing Becca’s sermon, watching her “Christ-like glow,” doing God’s work, has given me new hope.
I didn’t realize that Becca kept up with my blog. She rarely comments. Two of her comments though have had a huge impact on me. The first time was on my story, “Called.” This is what she wrote: “Love the poem. And love that you were called to visit. You know that’s the hardest part of my job, but it’s also the greatest joy. So much of my ministry is about politics, putting out ridiculous fires. And then I sit down with someone and just listen, and realize that THIS is what pastoral ministry is all about. It gives me encouragement, hope, fuel to keep going. Thanks for dragging me along with you a few times. You taught me how to do pastoral care.”
The second time was on my painful blog post called “Two Fish.” Here’s Becca’s comments: “Forgiveness isn’t about them, it is about us. You don’t have to get to a point where you say, they didn’t hurt me, or they aren’t evil. Forgiveness is getting to the point where you say, I’m letting go of the negative impact this is having on my life. It’s about you and God, and not the other person. The truth is, God is the one who forgives and forgets. As humans, we are called to forgive, but we don’t have (and I usually find it is impossible) to forget. So, my prayer for you is that you can slowly open your hand that has been holding onto that hot coal, drop it, and allow the healing to begin. That fish-shaped coal will still be ugly, hot and capable of great damage. It just won’t be able to damage or impact you anymore.”
So this amazing young woman of God named Becca, who has yet to celebrate 4 decades on this earth is also wise beyond her years (and mine). She forgave “Two Fish” a long time ago. Without him and what happened here, her life might have been turned out very differently. So how come my hardened heart seems incapable of doing the same? It’s true, I’m not nearly as bitter as I was, and 6 years have passed since my big run-in with TF. But I can’t seem to let it go completely. I think it’s because I truly believe TF purposely went out of his way to hurt me. This man of the cloth. For now, I cling to the thoughts I carry from Becca’s message last Sunday. I asked her if she could please send me of her old sermons for awhile? Something to help change and soften this hurt heart of mine…