The trauma that we have faced as a family the last couple of years since my sister died, has totally eclipsed what had been happening the previous couple of years. I have been reminded of these events this week and wondered if blogging about it might help me to see if there is any clarity on an issue which was deeply wounding and painful when it happened.
When we were first house hunting in the south of England back in 2002 we had a huge area to choose from. We marked places in an AtoZ that looked nice where there were reasonable looking schools and churches. When we first pulled into where we now call home it was the school and the church that we found before we found our house. In fact we could not afford the houses that were in this area, they were all at least £10,000 more than what we were budgeting and it would have meant accepting something smaller than we had already. Then we were shown the house that is now our home. It needed a lot of updating and had been on the market for over a year and the sellers were desperate to sell. Because of this we were able to strike a very good deal and got the house! The way all this happened made us feel very secure that God was in control. There were just far to many co-incidences for it to be anything but the RIGHT way to go.
We settled very quickly, threw ourselves into our local community including the church and made some friends that I pray will be friends for life. There were things that were not great, we often felt very unsupported by the leadership at the church, though they were always very willing for us to come up with ideas and let us get on with them. This is where my ministry for children began to grow, I was soon co-ordinating all the children's work, from the creche to Junior Church, holiday clubs, craft groups and special services. I loved it all, there were times when I was brought up short - where I felt my ministry was far more important than anything else (including my husband and children - silly girl that I was). However this ministry grew and we really enjoyed doing things like the Holiday Clubs together.
I began to feel that it was turning into something more than a volunteer should be doing. I spoke with some very wise Christians who supported this growing feeling that I had. I was very aware that I was going to have to go back to paid employment at some point and yet felt terrible at the thought of having to stop all the ministry that I was involved in and could not identify anybody/people to take on some of the roles. I spoke with our minister about this and he encouraged me to write a report for the church council.
In good faith this is what I did, putting forward a suggestion that they might want to start thinking about whether it would be appropriate to employ someone in the post I had been doing (not necessarily me!). This was where everything started to fall apart. The church wardens wrote to me suggesting that I leave my role and that they would not be bringing forward the suggestion to the church council that a paid position should be considered. I was completely floored by this. I had expected to perhaps need to have a conversation with them to clarify what was in the report, so this came as a total shock. I felt accused of trying to make a job for myself and was dumbfounded by having people refuse to discuss things with me.
In a very short space of time I found myself forced to hand in my resignation, we also lost the worshipping community that we had belonged to and had to leave our and our children's friends behind. We did try a few times to go back, however bad feeling remained and we did not feel at all welcome by certain folk. Work wise I very quickly found paid employment with the our local council, working with children under 5 with special needs. It was a maternity cover post so I knew it would most likely end after 9 months, but it was perfect hours and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I was once told by a very wise minister that the best 'ministries' you could be involved in were those that you could set up and then leave without them falling apart. I am happy to see that the two ministries that I set up from scratch for younger children in our previous parish are still going, 4 years after me leaving them. Others that I had been involved in (though not set up) have shrunk. I still do not fully understand why all that happened did happen.
I did go to a workshop recently where we discussed where Jesus sometimes trod softly when things needed to change and sometimes strode in boldly. Is this what we were being asked to do? Or did we in our own strength go in with size 10 shoes on when ballet shoes were required? I am quite content now to leave the wrestling over this alone. Our family life requires this. Do I mourn for our old church and the old job - yes - especially at times like Christmas and every time we have to get in the car to go to our present one. I can even still have times of great regret, however I do still feel God is with me and with the work that I do and so I have to be content that I am where he wants me to be.