Thursday, June 14, 2007

Two Weddings and A Funeral

A year after we left our church, I attended the wedding of the child of one of my few remaining friends from the CLB.

By this time the subtle and not-so-subtle nuances of shunning were familiar to me - the silence of my phone; the showers, weddings, birthdays, and graduations I wasn't invited to; the friends who were suddenly too busy for our regular shopping and coffee dates; the quick glances to the side when people pretended not to see me.

This friend was willing to still include me even though it was unpopular to be seen with me. She didn't understand what was going on with us, and we didn't talk about it.

Attending that wedding was extremely difficult. To stay isolated would have been much easier than enduring the pitying looks. We were the only people out of the CLB at the time, the only supposedly backslidden outcasts.

The pastor of our CLB performed the ceremony. It was the only time I had seen him since we left. I spent most of the evening making sure that I wasn't wherever he was.

I wanted to be more mature than that, but it was all I could muster just to be there. Every moment of the entire evening was like a knife twisting in my heart.

I had recently started blogging. Not surprising, my post the next day was titled Oceans of Emptiness.


Last weekend, I attended another wedding. My friends no longer attend the CLB. In fact, most of my friends and acquaintances are out now. There are now more former members than there are remaining members.

As people leave, our relationships are being restored. People see, they understand, and some apologize.

At the last wedding, I was like a shadow person; at this wedding, I enjoyed open friendship and fellowship, no longer cloaked in humiliation. Many times during the weekend I looked around truly in awe at the miracle of reconciliation that I have experienced. It is more than I ever expected.

As much as I have shared with you about the abuse and the pain, I wanted to share with you the blessing of experiencing this restoration of relationships.


Sadly, the CLB is in a downward spiral with dark and twisty things continuing to unfold behind the scenes. Although it still functions, the vision it formerly represented is dead. The life of the community continues outside of the organization, freed from the control of those who attempted to confine and define community according to their rules.

Some who have recently left are still focused on the death of what was. Out of this death however, there will be a resurrection. In time, we will discover what God has for us on the other side of this experience.


daniel reed said...


It's wonderful to see the growth and healing you have experienced since leaving the CLB. I'm thrilled that you are able to offer an open hand of friendship to the other refugees.

It's strange to come to a point of seeing that which is unhealthy in a movement without being consumed by the pain and anger. Thank you for being an example of detoxing in such a healthy way.

Anonymous said...

Hi. Yes, been there, done that. Over 12 months 62% of the community left. This year others are waking up and "smelling the coffee". The numbers continue to thin down.

Altho our circumstances don't sound as dark as yours and the group was probably smaller, the blindness of leadership to what is spiritually unhealthy just opens the back door.
The group gathered around the leader just don't get it either. Focusing on the "revival carrot" plus a number of other items of foolishness in leadership, theology and practice has fractured the fellowship. They don't seem to notice that there is a hole in the boat and that it is taking on water. We continue to watch.

And yes, the exiles have good fellowship with each other and have become a support group by phone or by email. Most have found a healthy church and are returning to areas of service. We have all grown through this experience and have our senses sharpened to the issues of this phenomenon.

A fellow traveller, Barb

Rhonda said...

"In time, we will discover what God has for us on the other side of this experience".
good words Grace. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

we have our first wedding that we are still invited to (and wanted) at the end of this month. just thinking about it makes my stomach hurt. I have been un-invited to a wedding so far and excluded from a shower. this will be the first.

maybe with enough gin and tonic, i'll be ok.

just kidding.......?
former leader

lyn said...

Hey Grace,
I read this earlier but had to dash out to my sons swimming lesson! It's great to read about the healing and restoration which has gone on in your life. The two weddings were so contrast to one another. I'm glad friendships are mending too.

David Cho said...

It has been fun to follow your journey through the years. I have to say the best is yet to come. Thanks grace.

Robbymac said...

Our first wedding at the CLB was a year or so later. It was two of the youth getting married, so we took the plunge and agreed to MC the reception.

(A) Glad -- for the newlywed's sake -- that we did it. They enjoyed us being there and we were thrilled to be a part of their big day.

(B) Just being in the building felt really, really, really weird. Kind of unreal to think we'd been part of the staff just a year earlier.

(C) The hate-filled looks were there, but mercifully not a majority. The "snake-in-a-suit" senior pastor was nowhere to be seen, which made it much easier.

Still, for the sake of the newlyweds (who now pastor in a Vineyard in the USA), I'm glad we took the risk.

Former leader,

Guinness is the remedy you seek. Rich, full taste, and impossible to get drunk on (too filling).

Mike Messerli said...

I sure feel bad when I read these stories of loss, and how Christian people fail at the one job we are called to do- love one another.

We are going through our own transition- our senior pastor had an affair, we fired him, he left, divorced his wife, is living with the other woman, flaunting it by still being in our community, and much you can imagine MANY have left our church family.

I'm one of the pastors, and filling in during the transition. It has been heartbreaking to on earth do we miss the prime directive? Love one another!

We are down about 30% in people and $$. It's painful to watch and to go through.

I will be praying for you as you go through your journey.

grace said...

Thank you for your encouraging words. It feels odd to come to a point now of saying that I am grateful for all that I have learned from this experience and to realize that I would not have learned without the pain.

Your circumstances sound very similar. I wonder if more teaching about toxic church systems could prevent this in some circumstances, or if it is inevitable once a group is headed in that direction.

I think for many of us, this is a transition time where God is preparing us for whatever is next.

former leader,
I understand how you feel. I had a strong self-image when we left, but it was a struggle to not come under the rejection and shame that was projected upon us.

Remember that the rejection is not a reflection of you. Also, they do not have the right or ability to define who you are, even if they think they do.

Realize that you have chosen not to play the game according to their rules. Therefore, you can continue to love in the face of shunning and to hold your head high when they believe you should be ashamed.

Having said all that, I know it is not easy. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

The contrast was amazing, almost surreal. Sometimes I feel like Job in this aspect of my life, doubly blessed after having lost everything.

It's been interesting, hasn't it? I would have never predicted this outcome.

I'm glad you were able to be at that wedding. I'm sure it wasn't easy.

We haven't been in the old building since the day we left. However, I have recently been toying with the idea of a Sunday morning visit. ;)

I can certainly relate to what you are saying. This kind of loss should not happen in the body of Christ. That is why it is so tragic.

Bringing people back to the prime directive - loving one another - should help to restore your congregation and get them back on a solid foundation.

I will pray for you also, for the grace to accomplish what He has called you to do.

Robin said...


I have GOT to read your story...I know it's one of loss and disillusionment, but I've yet to read it in its entirety.

Time is a beautiful healer...I think during the months...sometimes years of pain, God is impressing upon us something. About Himself? Perhaps. About ourselves...more likely.

I'm so thankful (for your sake) for the redemption you've found in these relationships. The beautiful things in life are rarely easy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Grace,

Thinking about your 2 comments:
Yes, maybe if there were more books, websites or blogs out there, it "may" alert some people. But the shock of it is that if people had told you or I about such scenarios 'before' certain events happened--would we have believed their report? Everything was rather cozy back then wouldn't you say? Seems like those who have experienced the pain are now in the know.

This leads to your next point of inevitability. When I started to sniff out something amiss, little did I factor in that this was only the tip of the iceberg. It took a confrontation of sorts to expose beliefs and behavior that were under the surface; a snowball effect then really unfolded to show an unhealthy pattern.

By this point other people saw what was happening to us and they, too, then recognized this destructive pattern. This was not out there to see until this catalyst effect got things rolling. Now what I had experienced was what I later had read in various spiritual abuse books and on various helpful websites. Now it was now easy to track and to find terms to describe it to others.

In recently talking to a deacon couple who just left, they had been through a similar scenario in another church a number of years ago. When things began to unravel at our CLB, she was quick to recognize the "pattern" of inevitability and her hunch bore out. BTW, she was able to register her concerns concisely and respectfully when the leader phoned to see why they hadn't been coming. She told it well.

This also reinforces the 'once stung, twice shy' of pain and life experiences--that in some things you must feel pain or you will not clearly recognize the danger.

Barb's reflections for now.