Tag Archives: churches

School shootings

“There have been at least 288 school shootings in the US since 1/1/09, 57 times more than the other six G7 countries combined.”   –CNN

These numbers are, unfortunately, no surprise to me. Our culture has been steadily shifting to one of violence and our young people are caught in the crosshairs.  The rhetoric perpetuates, spinning round and round as the NRA spins the mental health issue and our politicians take their sides without paying much attention to what their constituents feel. And here I am, spinning my own rhetoric.

What I can’t wrap my head around is how this perpetuates in such a vacuum.  Parents don’t know what is going on in the minds of their children, don’t check their internet pages, don’t look at those others their sons hang out with, or whether they have friends at all, don’t know if they have guns and don’t secure guns in locked safes.

I don’t mean to be ragging on the parents.  Sometimes their sons externalize very differently than what they internalize, but certainly, parents can determine if their children are depressed or angry or manifesting signs of mental illness.  Perhaps one problem is they don’t know what to look for.  Mental illness isn’t covered in most parenting books, that is if they read those books.

Schools are also part of the problem as are the communities.  The “not in our town”, mentality is a pervasive glitch in our psyche.  There aren’t enough instructors to demonstrate what to look for and how to prepare for it.  Police departments are also not involved enough, although in many towns there just aren’t enough police officers and perhaps not enough budgeted funds to train them adequately, particularly in small towns.

But, I think the greatest problem is that there is a lack of Hope in these young people, and in those who perpetrate mass shootings at concerts and movie theaters, or wherever crowds merge. They lack the foresight to see there are better ways to handle their feelings, that going out in a blaze of rage is not the answer. They are, too often, left to their own devices.  Nobody is wondering why a person is acting strangely or if it’s their responsibility to do something about the warning signs they see.  And young people who see what is emerging in another classmate keep that tight-lipped stalemate of not acting in protection of one of their own, even one who no one wants to be near.

I had a dear friend who had an arsenal of over 200 weapons, including cannons he had built himself.  Everyone looked on it as a quirky obsession and hobby.  He grew depressed and was so hateful to his family that they avoided dealings with him – left him to his devices.  I can’t blame them, dealing with his rage and depression filled them with despair. I talked with his wife about the possibility of therapy but he wouldn’t hear of it.  In the end, he blew his brains out. In front of a son. The guns are his sons’ legacy.  It makes me crazy thinking about it.  They should be sold and the money’s used to start their adult lives with.  I mentioned it to my friend, but that is where my advice ended.  Guns are just part of her reality even though she doesn’t touch them.

Hope is strangely lacking in so many of our lives.  We huddle in masses of despair.  Those who have church may find comfort there; therapy is a God-send to many. But to those who have no real support in their lives, whose lifestyle and decisions seem to have no awareness in those around them hope is just 4 letters strung together.  And they are already strung too tight.  And we stand by, hands dangling at our sides, vacant expressions on our faces, saving “Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa.”

 

 

 

A Flurry of Questions

Are you one of those who, when asked for a volunteer, raised your hand and said you would? Be wary, be very wary.  I recently volunteered to be the leader of the Staff/Parish Relations committee of my church.  I floundered through the first few meetings, doing an adequate job but not really knowing what I was there for.

Then I went to a meeting on heading up that committee and what my role was in it.  At 5:00 the next morning I dragged myself out of bed, unable to sleep because I wasn’t aware of the ramifications of the role or the committee to any educated degree.  Opening my computer, I spent the next few hours researching. OMG.

Overnight I was rocketed into a new dimension.  We had been given a rare opportunity to make a leap of faith into growing our church more and becoming vessels for change in people’s lives and in the community.  Now I have to say our church is special.  While having a small congregation, we do a lot with what we have.  We genuinely care for one another and we have services we offer up to the community which are used: a food pantry, thrift shop, 6 AA meetings a week make their home in the church, community dinners, and free catering funeral and wedding services.

But we need to do more.   I think of our congregation, with its elderly population and its old building requiring constant attention and ask how much more can we accomplish?  I would like to start a ministry in the prisons but I would likely be a committee of one.  We need to attract the minorities in our community and the children.  Young people and young families would be welcomed through our doors.  Gay people and those with other alternative lifestyles would be lovingly received.

How do we get the word out?  How do we make this old, majestic, but rather intimidating building become user-friendly to those seeing it and not knowing what is within so we can welcome new members?   How do we make the children’s rooms safe, happy havens with joyful voices ringing through the halls again?  I can remember those sounds, the explorations into vacant rooms and hidden staircases.  I want so badly to give other children the opportunities I had here.

And to accomplish those goals, I need to up my game as a leader and as a member of the congregation.  How do I ask people who give of themselves all the time to give of themselves more?  Busy people, who have jobs and responsibilities, who are lovingly dedicated… is it fair to ask more from them?  At least until we see results and the burdens of responsibilities can be shared by new members.  In a small congregation, there are many jobs but not enough people to do all of them.  What is fair and equitable?

Many questions stir through my head these days, but not near enough answers.  I hope to grow clearer and find my way to a resolution soon.  In God, I must trust.  That is where the answers will come if I can but hear them. As I read through this, I see that is where I left out the primary ingredient.  Trust in the Lord and open myself to his voice.  Hear the still, small voice within my heart.  Or maybe the clangor requiring recognition.  Become a true Disciple of God.  And trust what must be is what should be, regardless of my perceptions and opinions.  I must carry the shovel, use it to the best of my ability, but understand God, not me, is directing the plan.

 

My Christian Journey (so far)

It took a while but I finally understand hiding from the opinions of experts about my religion, or at least those who have something to say that differs from the path I am trying to walk, is the height of spiritual weakness. God can handle my questions. He is stronger than the swirling chaos of dissention in the masses. And he can certainly stand up to the fragility of my journey. It is me I most fear. . . I don’t want to give up before growing comfortable with my path.

I’ve always been a spiritual dabbler. My father was a Methodist minister and a gentle soul, beloved by his congregation and others who knew him. His sermons were sensitive and always under five minutes, the longest length of time the typical congregation member could handle and maintain interest. Growing up I wanted to be a minister like him. When I became a middle-school student I thought it might be better to be a missionary. Come my teenage years, boys and booze I gave it all up, thinking it was far more sophisticated to be an atheist. Many years passed before I could see was that I didn’t want to be a minister so much as I wanted to be like my father.

 For the next couple of decades I bounced from one religion to another. My ex-husband was Christian Orthodox – going to mass with him was a time of the Spirit as the service was often in another language. I bathed in the power of the Spirit without having to worry about the verbiage. Exploring the New Age feminine mystic became an art form all its own. It evolved into a kind of Wicca thrust followed by American Indian studies. Buddhism gave me comfort until I dug deeper into it and saw it didn’t match my world view. Then I moved back to New England where it’s hard to be anything else but Christian or another conventional, traditional path.

 I began going to the church my family went to. My sister’s family, my cousin and her twin babies, my mother and aunt and I squeezed into one long pew . . . my nephew and me teasing each other like incorrigible brats. Going to church was first an obligatory exercise fulfilled to quiet my mother’s incessant pressure. I listened to the sermons and took pleasure in the messages they imparted.I attended a program called Alpha designed to address the questions of new or returning Christians. The church tried hard to address the needs of its flock. There were programs during the week for everything from financial management, wellness, women’s issues, and a variety of Bible and church related needs. On weekends there were three services you could choose from and groups for diverse needs – parents of different aged children, married couples and singles. In services, we actually explored the Bible and what Jesus said. It finally occurred to me I would not be a Christian unless I understood the Bible and what it meant to believe in Jesus. I can’t say I agree with everything but it’s making a dent in my resistance.

It took visiting my children’s services in California to see where my religious education was missing. Methodist’s don’t talk much about the Bible. All those questions lurking inside were banging at my walls. The whole Jesus issue defeated me and the Trinity – forget about it. Their churches actively explored the Bible during worship services. And the music was uplifting, modern, more designed for this present life. Suddenly I had a hunger for a Church very different than the one I grew up with. Those questions I had could no longer be ignored. Although there were people I was comfortable with, it seemed I came to church alone, while there I usually felt alone, and I left alone. My needs as a single, middle-aged Christian woman were ignored despite my frequent queries to the minister. It was clear I needed to find a church which addressed my needs. So it came as a surprise when the church that met those needs was Baptist. I always heard they were Bible thumpers, highly restrictive in nature. In the end, that is where I needed to be.

In moving back to California, I found a church far different from what I had ever known. One Wednesday night I was driving past the church and there were people walking into the church smiling. I stopped and asked what they were doing. They just smiled and said they were going to Bible study and I could come if I wanted. I didn’t that night, but I thought long and hard about a church where people smiled before what had to be the tediousness of such study. But one Sunday I decided to give it a try. It was contemporary, fundamentalist. Bands played the music. Singers were uplifting, energized. Instead of hymnals, words were graphically displayed on a screen in front. People raised their arms and swayed back and forth. An occasional person would go up to the front, bow to the ground, and prayed for his needs. There was a separate room in the back for mothers with crying babies. (Oh, that I thought was a wonderful idea) There were about 2,000 people in the service I regularly attended – more than 4,000 overall. Mission work was highly emphasized, both in the community and worldwide. There were separate programs for women and men during the week. On Sundays, the congregation sang for a half hour then the minister spent the rest of the service in Biblical instruction and sermon.

There were some things that I heartily disagreed with – political discourses, when I had always believed in the division of church and state, an emphasis on money I wasn’t used to. Sometimes ministers seemed more like performers than priestly servants.  One church I visited had strobe lights and a minister that acted more like a comedian, like it was all an act. But even though I got a lot out of it, it didn’t meet all my needs. I still felt alone even though I made a few friends, one especially whose husband and she answered many of my questions and weren’t afraid to show their humanness. In fact, after I moved away, they went on a mission to Thailand.

 After three years, I moved back to Connecticut and found myself attending the church my Father was the Minister for when I was in the 5th, 6th, and 7th grades. It is the anti-thesis of California’s brand of worship. Now I’m on the Board of Trustees. We are working hard to determine the ongoing needs of the church. Many parishioners have been members for 40 or more years but even though they give everything they have to the church now, they may not be able to work toward growing the church as we need to. But the funniest thing about it is, I’m where I belong, exactly where I thought I’d never be. I love our minister. I love the community this church has. I want to see it grow in whatever form God directs us. And I want to be a part of it. I don’t feel alone.