So after a heavenly choir descended from heaven and sang for me, my faith was set in stone, right? I wish, but no. It was only a couple of years after this that my church was literally torn apart in the most devastating way. And my faith nearly became a casualty.
I believe it was sometime around the Women’s Encounter that my husband and I started dating. God brought him into my life as promised. And after dating for a long while, we wanted to get married. I was graduating from college and looking forward to starting a new phase of life. By then, our pastor had been at the church for 8 years. He and his wife led the cell group that me and my fiance attended every week. Despite some of the concerns I had about the pastor’s attitudes and teachings, I felt close to him and his wife. I asked him if he would officiate at our wedding. He said he would.
A few months later, however, the pastor backed out on us. He said his son had changed his wedding date to the same weekend, and the ceremony was in another state. We would have to ask another pastor. I was disappointed, but seeing as how there were three other pastors (youth, children and worship) at our church, I thought this wouldn’t be a problem. I asked the youth pastor, and he agreed to do it.
A month before our wedding, the youth pastor backed out, too. He was resigning and taking a job in another state. He knew before he agreed to do the wedding, but didn’t want to tell me for fear that word would get out to the rest of the congregation. He wanted it to remain a secret until the last minute. I was flabbergasted. Something was up.
Then the music minister was suddenly fired with no explanation after going on a singing tour. Our church didn’t even have a farewell party for him. I don’t think anyone got a chance to see him before he left, because he was never back in service after that. My fiance and I had to go outside of our church to find an officiate for our wedding. The pastor we chose wasn’t even in our denomination. Instead of marrying in our church like I wanted, we were wed at the city park. The wedding was beautiful, but I was deeply hurt by the situation.
Soon after that, the mood inside the church turned bleak. A dark, forbidding cloud seemed to hang over every service. People didn’t worship. The atmosphere made me squirm. It was horrific. I finally couldn’t bear to go back. My husband and I visited the church of our wedding officiate, but it wasn’t the same. So we started staying home from church.
One Sunday, my sister-in-law, who was still attending our home church, came home in tears. She said the pastor had resigned without warning. And during his resignation speech, he slandered several of the congregation’s God-fearing men. The man who had promised to train his replacement if he ever resigned instead divided the church. He took with him the children’s pastor, the nursery workers, most of the musicians and about half the congregation. By the following Wednesday, he had a new building and was inviting teens to his new church’s first youth service. That’s when we realized he’d been planning his resignation for months.
The incident made me angry. Furiously angry. I felt betrayed–not just by my pastor, but by the people who had chosen to go with him. My husband and I went back to support the believers who stayed, but it was painful. Inexperienced people had to step into the roles of musicians and singers, and every sour note they struck was like a dagger in my heart. It reminded me of everything we had lost.
The incident also served to push my husband further toward agnosticism. Just a couple of years before, his dad had suffered an aneurysm and was rendered permanently disabled. The man who had worked as a computer programmer now couldn’t drive his own car or remember what year it was. Although he recovered well enough to cook meals and dress himself, he was never fully healed. Some people in the church suggested that God must be punishing him for some great sin in his life. Others said he wasn’t being healed for lack of faith.
Shortly after all of this, my husband joined the military and we moved to another state for his training. We started a Bible study with some friends there, but it soon fell apart when they became involved in the same fundamentalism we were trying to escape. We went the entire year and a half there only setting foot in church three or four times. During that time, my husband’s father suffered a stroke and passed away–the week after our first wedding anniversary. The new pastor at our home church preached the funeral.
We moved to another state. I tried finding a church to attend, but I felt disappointed with every one I visited. My heart was still hurting, and I didn’t feel like going back to church at all. I didn’t know if I ever would. I was sick of the fundamentalism, the prosperity “seed offering” doctrine, and the politics preached from the pulpit. And I was equally fed up with the “seeker-friendly” congregations that were trying to turn church into a social club entirely devoid of zeal, conviction, and the presence of God.
But, thankfully, that wasn’t the end of my spiritual journey.