Friday, January 30, 2009

Let's Start at the Very Beginning

For the first five years of our marriage, Harry and I lived in Kentucky, attending graduate school. I wanted to be a pastor, and he wanted to be a professor. I graduated in 2005, and worked a secular job for a year while he finished his PhD. During the fall of 2005, Harry began his job search. By January 2006, he had applied to probably 15 schools, most of them in our home state. For some reason, he only got two on-campus interviews and his only job offer was about 60 miles from the border of my annual conference. So, he accepted the job and I asked my District Superintendent (D.S.) to please get me an appointment as close to him as possible.

In April of 2006, I received an appointment to a small church in a small town that was right on the state line. Based on the information that I was given, the church sounded fairly healthy, was experiencing a decent amount of growth, and was committed to reaching out to the community. I was told that the congregation had experienced conflict, but had healed and was moving forward. At my "meet your pastor" meeting, the chair of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee welcomed me warmly, presented me with a gift on behalf of the church, ensured their total love and support, etc, etc. (The D.S. and I were both overwhelmed and I felt very welcomed and loved. I was excited to serve this church. My husband, who is more realistic/cynical that I am, noted much later that he detected that most of the PPR members were unhappy about my appointment. Eighteen months after I began my appointment, I found out that the PPR had specifically requested an older, experienced pastor and were shocked/angry when they were presented with a rookie who wasn't even 30. I feel like I should have been informed of that at the beginning.)

At the end of June 2006, Harry and I moved into the SJ parsonage, and once again had a positive experience. It was literally a textbook welcome for a new pastor. We had flowers, toilet paper and hand soap in the bathrooms, a few groceries in the fridge, and the parsonage was spotless. My first Sunday, the congregation welcomed us with hugs and/or warm handshakes. My second Sunday, they had a reception in our honor. It seemed a very auspicious beginning.

For the first six months, things seemed to progress fairly smoothly. I worked hard, and had a very steep learning curve as I learned how to pastor a church. A few issues came up with the PPR, and while I resolved what I could, they all seemed to be fairly minor. The biggest issues revolved around my personal life and not my performance, per se. Harry was a topic of conversation because he was seen as unfriendly (he's fairly shy and not very confident with total strangers. He's also not very talkative by nature) and also dressed too casually for their tastes (after the first two Sundays, where he dressed professionally, he began wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and Birkenstocks to worship). Another issue was my family blog, which I unintentionally shared with some church members (it was my e-mail signature). They got upset about my mentioning the presence of a mouse in the parsonage. In response to the complaints about Harry, I simply explained his personality and style, and left it at that. In response to the blog complaint, I deleted that entry. I actually felt very guilty that I had hurt anyone's feelings, because of course that was not my intention. I began being very careful about what I posted on the blog, knowing that church members were reading it.

As my first six months began to draw to a close, I was feeling fairly upbeat. I had sensed a few issues with the church (low self-esteem, a tension with this one woman, and a decrease in giving) but nothing major, and felt like our relationship was solid. (Of course, I was wrong. But I wouldn't find out about that until later.)

For the next part, click here

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