I’ve seen more ministers in the past few days than I’ve seen in years. But folks seem to be coming out of the woodwork to check in on my dad and pray and hear that they, too, are being prayed for.
I respectfully bow my head and hold hands and wonder what keeps these folks going.
I’m trying not to be angry, because I’m sure I don’t know the whole story or even the intricacies of my parents’ relationship to the local church, but you know, my folks have no family here. Everyone they are related to is at least 2.5 hours away. But they have a church they serve, you know.
And yet, no one has brought over meals for my mom. No one from the church has called to see how she’s holding up or if she needs anything. I kind of am a little taken aback by that. Only one couple has stopped by to visit my dad in the hospital.
The secretary called to complain about something or other, though.
So, on Monday, when we had a waiting room full of ministers and their wives, we got to talking about what a weird life it is and how lonely it can be if the other ministers in the area aren’t friendly and if they don’t have kids who can commiserate with your kids.
But the best part was sitting around talking about the houses in which churches expect you to live. That’s one way that churches, especially small ones, feel okay about paying folks so little to live on–you get a house to live in for free. And yet, church congregations make some of the poorest landlords.
We were reminiscing about the house we lived in that had a mold stalactite that hung down a good eight inches into the living room and hung over the TV or about the house with the porch that was rotting off, which they covered up with an indoor/outdoor green fake grass rug, and which my mom fell through once; the stairs that were so uneven that you had to hoist yourself up the last one because it was so much taller than the rest; the new parsonages in which the builders skimped on just about everything; the women’s groups that felt okay about demanding to be let in at 9 p.m. on a school night to make sure that the house was being kept to their standards, the parsonages so full of mold that folks got sick just on the walk-through; the basements talked up as “potential bedrooms for the kids” that ended up having dirt floors and broken toilets.
But my favorite was the story of the minister’s wife so furious at the church for not fixing the bug problem in her house that she put up a sign in the front yard declaring the place to be bug-infested and the congregation at fault.
Needless to say, that family was given a new appointment almost immediately.
Every now and then I wonder if my life wouldn’t be easier if I had stayed a Methodist, or a Christian in general, and then I think about the way congregations treat the one family so dependent on them for their shelter and well-being and I stop missing it right quick.