I mentioned in a different blog post that I recently started going to church, usually bringing Little Bear with me. I love the church because the people are so kind, to me and Little Bear and also to the world in general. This church's theory is that instead of evangelizing with words, they simply live their lives as evidence of their beliefs. They try to help as many people as possible. For instance, when most church youth groups do Mission trips, they go to places where they can try to teach people about God and the Bible, through spoken and written words. But at this church, when the youth groups do Mission trips, they go to places where they can serve food to the homeless, or rebuild houses, or give toys and books to children, or other things that directly help people. The church also operates an Outreach Center where people in the community can go for help with food, clothing, shelter, etc.
So. There is one thing that I am not particularly fond of at this church. The minister!
I don't know why. I'm sure he's a great minister. He's the one that, at Sleep Out Saturday, made a point of telling all of the kids there that they always had a safe place to go and plenty adults to help them if they ever got into trouble or danger. But I think, during Sleep Out Saturday, I also grew a little wary of him when he kept on yelling at the teenagers there. The youth leaders had planned a bunch of games for the kids, around the theme of homelessness. One game was Jeopardy, with questions about different aspects of homelessness. The kids were divided into teams, the youth leader was keeping score, and of course the kids were getting into it, playfully arguing about how many points they'd gotten. The minister, who was there, started snapping at them, telling them to quit goofing around and worrying about the score, and to learn about homelessness instead. Which sort of defeated the purpose of a game, I thought. And they were teenagers... really good kids, though... and it was late at night, at a special event, and they wanted to be silly.
I also grew wary of him when I heard him speak to the adult congretation similiarly, scolding them to stay wide awake and pay attention to him as he spoke.
A few weeks earlier, I had felt my stomach sink when he gave a whole sermon about how people should not try to make suggestions about what church should be like, because they shouldn't expect their church to be custom-built for their enjoyment. He specifically mentioned that nobody should expect a Blessing Of The Animals, because he thought it was silly and he would never do one. That kind of made me sad, because, I adore animals, and I've always wanted to attend a Blessing Of The Animals. Plus, I don't think its right to say that such a blessing is silly, because it is a traditional blessing in many Catholic churches in honor of Saint Francis Of Assissi on his Feast Day.
So, okay, the minister doesn't particularly care to bless animals and is easily irritated by teenagers. Fine, right? But my heart really sank the day he gave a sermon about how we should all be more patient with the "little ones."
He explained, he didn't just mean the children, but also the "little ones" who didn't have as many abilities or talents as the rest of us, and the "little ones" who crowded the doors of the Outreach Center each morning asking for hand outs. This made me feel uncomfortable on so many levels.
First of all, it implied that people with special needs, and people with serious financial problems, were somehow not quite as adult as the rest of us. They were actually "little," as in, beneath us.
Second of all, it implied that nobody in the congregation who was listening that day was one of those "little ones." Which hurt me, because I have special needs and serious financial problems. ANd I do not want to be seen by the church as a "little one."
I don't know if anyone else felt as uncomfortable as I did when he said that. But I definitely felt very disappointed. It just didn't seem right.
So. I don't want to leave this church and find another church where I am more comfortable with the minister, because I really love all of the people at this church and the things this church has going on. But I have a feeling I cannot look to this minister for a whole lot of happy, fuzzy, churchy feelings on Sundays!
All of you church-goers (or temple goers, or mosque-goers, or wherever-it-is-you-go goers) has this ever happened to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts!