Saturday, March 24, 2012

Never Presume to Assume...

I got the call at 11am on Thursday. A two-point charge on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, so about 50 miles from my house. A bit of a distance, but commutable. It sounded like a decent match. One small detail: the "receiving" DS said that the church really wanted someone who would "live among them". I didn't say anything right then, just thanked both my DS (whom I'll call Phil) and the receiving DS (whom I'll call Essie).

Over the next 24 hours or so, Harry and I talked about and thought about the "living among them" phrase. Our assumption going into this process was that either a) I would commute to and from the church every day or b) if it was a long distance, I would at least establish some sort of residence in the community and Harry and the kids would stay in our area. Clearly, we were praying like crazy for an appointment nearby. Because we're $30K underwater in our home, we can't sell it right now, so we cannot move the whole family at this time.

So, yesterday (Friday) morning I called Essie and asked her how big of a deal it was that I not live in the community. Apparently, the church considers it to be a deal-breaker. Essie was very gracious and told me that she would call the Staff-Parish chair at this church, but thought that my living outside of the community just wouldn't work. She told me we'd be in touch.

Less than an hour later, I received a call from Phil (my current DS). He was livid. Why hadn't I told him that we owned a home (he never asked; he knew we lived in the area, but he didn't ask if we rented or owned)? Why hadn't I told him about our mortgage (see above, but also because I don't think it would have made a difference)? Why hadn't we thought this through more (well, we had; I was going to move by myself)?

An hour after that, he called back, somewhat mollified, and said that he had talked to Essie more about my situation. They had both decided that if this appointment is going to work, MY ENTIRE FAMILY has to move to the Eastern Shore. Not just me, but my entire family. I have until Monday to decide and let them know. Phil also told me that if this appointment "falls through", then I'll have to be on Family Leave for another year. That sort of stinks (after all, I'm willing to accept the appointment, they're the ones putting up unreasonable demands, so why should I lose out), but I don't have much control over that. He invited me to call Essie and ask her questions.

Harry and I talked, and we agreed that I could offer to move onto the Eastern Shore and live in that community. Assuming that I could find childcare, I would even be willing to have the kids spend the summer with me and maybe a few days a week after that. I made the offer to Essie, who didn't think it would be enough, but was going to take it back to the Staff-Parish chair.

Harry is willing, but reluctant, to move onto the Eastern Shore and commute to work every day. However, we need to decide if that's what God is calling us to do. If God is calling us to give up our house, our suburban lifestyle and the comforts thereof and move to an extremely rural community with few children and few families our age and an uncertain future with this church, then we'll do it. On the other hand, if God is calling us to give up this appointment and possibly even my career in the UMC, we'll do that. But either choice will have major consequences, and I'm not willing to deal with those circumstances unless I know I'm following God's will.

There are also some red flags in my mind about boundaries and this church. If they're going to demand where I live and where my family lives, will they also make other inappropriate demands? Will they be upset if they don't see my car in the driveway enough? Or if I spend "too much" time on the other side of the water? Will they expect Harry to be the perfect pastor's spouse, dress up every Sunday, and show up to men's breakfasts? If I give them an inch, will they take a mile? Because if that happens, then this will turn out to be a bad appointment.

So, I have until Monday to listen for, discern, and then follow God's voice and call...and be strong enough to handle the consequences.

Do I stand firm to my boundaries and risk losing this appointment and possibly my career?
Do I move my family to the Eastern Shore and deal with a church (two churches, actually) that will probably not respect my boundaries, and result in either myself or them getting hurt?

The question is, what is God calling me to do?

Prayers are welcome. Thanks.


Terri said...

You have my prayers. This situation stinks. I think the DS's are being cruel...appointing you to a place that demands you to pick and move, as a man would and drag his family along, too. I don't think this is about where God is calling you, I think this is about humans possibly setting you up for failure. If you decide to go, take your family for awhile, and see how it feels. It may be that only SOME of the leaders are demanding you be there while others may be more reasonable. But you won't know any of that until you are there. And of course it could be much worse, much more controlling. Tread lightly, and don't feel like you have to take this....even though much is at risk.

I will pray.

Terri said...

also, contact my friend Jim Gettel - you can find him via "Middlevoice" on my blog. He may be able to help you. Also, contact RevAbi via revgals, she is UMC and has had a rough call - maybe she will be of help.

Martha Spong said...

Being from Virginia and having some sense of the world on the Eastern Shore, I understand where the church is coming from on this. It's not a situation where you're two or three towns away (I serve a rural church, but the distance is only 15 miles from my house). You're in a different world, and they are perhaps even more aware of the differences than you are at this point. Those differences are the reasons their young people have gone elsewhere.
It's too bad the D.S.s involved did not have a better grasp of your overall domestic situation. I hate to think of your family living a divided life, especially when the children are so young. I will certainly be in prayer for you.