What’s Wrong with the Church–Part 1

Over the last year, I have been, what some people would call, “church shopping.” My ex-husband and I attended the same church every Sunday for 5 years, until my daughter was confirmed. It was shortly after that when I asked him to leave and promptly filed for divorce. A victim of verbal and emotional abuse, I struggled with my decision, as it was my second divorce, and to the outside world, he was a very nice person. Behind closed doors, he was verbally abusive to me, my son and our daughter. I was also sexually assaulted throughout the entire marriage. We underwent years of counseling, and it never changed. It was time for me to move on, if not for my sake, then for the sake of our then 13-year-old daughter.

As such, it was difficult for me to continue to go to church where we had attended as a family. My daughter volunteered her musical talent for the worship band at least one Sunday a month, so my daughter and I attended on those Sundays. My ex had often worked a part-time job on the weekends, so I had hoped that most people would just think he was working, so I wouldn’t have to explain his absence. To my relief, no one asked. This practice continued, and for a year, we were not in church on a regular basis, nor ever together. This was contrary to our past church attendance. Over the summer, we went 3 months without any of us stepping foot in the door.

No one ever questioned why we weren’t at church. No phone calls, no emails, nothing. “Hi, how are you? Is everything OK? We’ve noticed that you haven’t been in church for a while. Just wanted to check in to make sure everything is OK.” My ex and I at least agreed on one thing, how Christian is this, our brothers and sisters in Christ for over 5 years, and no one is noticing that we aren’t there?

We both took this to heart, and I probably more so than my ex. After all, I was the one that was trying to heal from 16 years of abuse. My ex quickly found a new prey for his behavior, dating someone he worked with after only one month of his moving out.

I sank into deep loneliness, and yes, borderline depression. I wanted someone, anyone, to reach out with some comforting words. I wanted to talk to someone about my situation. I wanted to cry on someone’s shoulder. I wanted to know that God’s forgiveness was real, even though the Bible clearly states that He hates divorce.

During this time, our pastor retired, and the church was in the process of calling a new minister. About 5 months after the new pastor came on board, I decided to meet with him and explain my situation. It was now a little over a year since my husband left, and 3 months since our divorce was final. It would be easier talking to the new pastor. He didn’t know me or my ex. I could tell him what I went through, and he’d be understanding. I cried. I told him I didn’t feel support or love from the congregation. He validated my actions and said in God’s eyes, I did the right thing. It was an abusive situation. But he also said that I couldn’t fault people for what they didn’t know. My thought was, how could they not know something was wrong? People just don’t stop coming to church for no reason. Am I supposed to put a notice in the monthly newsletter? Hey everyone…just wanted to let you know, I’m divorced. Not doing so well. Could use your prayers.

Regardless, I thought I would give my church another try. I thought I made a connection with the new pastor. Maybe the news would slowly make its way through the congregation, but the pastor would clarify that I did not take divorcing my husband lightly. People would come up to me and say, “I heard. I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”

Well, it’s been another year, and no, really no one has said a thing–only one person, the youth director, because she was concerned about my daughter. Even the new pastor says nothing to me. In fact, he can barely look me in the eye.

Now, my daughter and I have started to church shop. Our attendance at our home church is very rare–again, only when my daughter is part of the worship band, which she is volunteering less and less for because of the lack of warmth we feel when we enter those doors. As a new pastor knowing the situation, maybe, just maybe, I’d be concerned. A phone call, a note, a kind word. No. These are my brothers and sisters in Christ.

And so, this begins a series of blogs based on my situation with my home church and my observations of other churches as my daughter and I search for a place where we feel at home.

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