Change of address

Just a note to say that my blog, which is much more infrequent these days, has moved to this address basically because I needed to know how to drive the software over there.

Many thanks to all at the Wibsite for keeping this blog up as it is still consulted from time to time, not least by me!

Resurrection

Matters proceeded such that on the first Sunday in April, exactly two years since our first post-ex-church meeting, the decision was made by the church to recognise Mrs E and I as its “pastoral couple”. In the short term, this means having someone with recognised authority to keep things on track. In the long term, I privately hope it means enough definition of a role to leave it to somebody else one day.

The following Sunday morning service revolved around this recognition, which was a moving time with a mix of seriousness, informality, realism, and faith which I think marks a distinctive identity of our group. It’s perhaps summed up by the tongue-in-cheek gift to me from one of our longstanding friends of a miniature Japanese garden (this isn’t actually it, but, it looks pretty similar) encouraging me to “stay zen”. I just have to find enough space on my desk to install it.

The next Sunday morning was Easter Sunday, and three “refugee” couples from our ex-church and their children turned up. One family had been once before (since leaving the mystic remnant this winter, they haven’t been going anywhere). Another family in pretty much the same situation came for the first time. The husband had been in the infamous Wider Leadership Team, so that was potentially more of a challenge for us than for the other returnees. Having had an inkling of their potential arrival that day, we had been thinking over how we stood with respect to him. I think we do need to talk at some point, but I don’t think that his part in things was anything like as serious as that of the main perpetrators. The passage of two years has helped too. The fact that they were courageous enough to come almost says it all. Where it leaves our ongoing relationship is probably another subject – as is whether they or the others will return.

The “Forgiveness” thread I linked to below has been deleted, but there’s another one going now in which some of these issues are being discussed, here.

Our Easter service was also fun to the extent that it had a lot of teenagers. We seem to have collected quite a few. The timing of all this is very striking, or symbolic, or something.

Two

Last week was quite eventful too.

Mrs E. got summoned to the gendarmerie following the untimely death of a church member in December 2003, right before our crisis blew up. As far as we knew, the enquiry was closed, although we knew foul play was suspected. Turns out they wanted her for a DNA sample. That’s worrying even when you’re innocent.

Almost simultaneously, I was asked to perform a funeral for an inmate at the prison who had committed suicide after confessing to a recent murder (he was being remanded for rape). It was a sad affair with six others present besides Mrs E and I, one of them the guy’s girlfriend pregnant with his child.

This was sad, and also strange because it was the first time I had done a funeral since immediately before my departure from our ex-church.

In addition, on the morning of that day, we finally received our French nationality papers. We still have yet more paperwork to do to get our common or garden ID cards, but that’s a formality now. It was nice to get to the end of a journey which has lasted over three years, and strange that this step forward should fall that week too.

Plus, our current church has now reached a point where there is a strong feeling I should be recognised formally as its pastor, which might happen soon.

And it’s two years ago today that I resigned from the débâcle at the last one.

Few days go by without me thinking about the whole affair one way or another, but all this provoked more reflection than usual. I’ve been trying to tease out the different strands of feelings I have. There are the issues of destroyed relationships, wrongs done, and the theology, ethics, and mechanics of forgiveness and/or letting go to be dealt with (some debate here for instance).

There’s also the issue of the church that was. I’ve decided this part is like a bereavement. Right when it all blew up I ‘laid it on the altar’ knowing it might be finished and that unlike Isaac for Abraham, it might not be coming back. I’m still a long way from coming to terms with a lot of the other stuff, but two years on, perhaps I’m coming to terms with this.

All things new

Well, in the last week or so, we have acquired a new car, a new dishwasher (both the previous incumbents having decided to fail), I have finally set up our new PC bought before Christmas in the office, and I have been headhunted for a new part-time job at the university (replacing my existing teaching which is paid by the hour). That’s a dizzying amount of newness.

Just as well we have been paid for the big translation job we did before Christmas – and in a strange turn of events it looks as though the 200 000 word mega-job might be back on again.

In other news, I joined and was promptly suspended from this christian bulletin board (details here, the style of moderating has to be experienced to be believed) and attendance levels at prison chapel are reaching record levels.

Further bulletins as events warrant, or as I have time.

PS Oops, forgot. New nationality confirmed too. We are summoned to the préfecture to receive our official documents.

Make that hardly a month

He just wrote back. My bafflement is temporarily on hold, at least in his respect. I’m writing back. We’ll see where this goes.

Tractor girl has been asking for more news on the Brian McLaren conference. Here are some impressions – though if you’re not familiar with emergent church (and I’m not particularly) you might like to poke around some of the links on his site.

It was good for us to have an opportunity to speak to someone from outside about our bad church experience. He both believed our experience and attested to first-hand knowledge of similar situations.

We also enjoyed the meetings. I could totally identify with so much of what he relates and thinks. At first, I also felt a little disappointed that there was not really much in terms of possible future directions.

To be honest, I thought “he doesn’t seem to be much further forward in his thinking than we are” (although of course a whole lot better set out, which is the difficult part – synthesising ideas and thought so that someone else looks at it and thinks “but that’s obvious”).

Then I sort of turned that thought round to “perhaps that means we are as far along as he is” which suddenly seemed to be much more encouraging.

In short, I think that on an unconscious level he has helped legitimize my thinking, and that is perhaps the most valuable thing anyone could give me right now.

As an interesting sideline, Mrs E. was in a prayer time with a lady in our fellowship yesterday evening. They spent a lot of time praying with regard to muslims in the wake of the current scandal here in Europe over the Danish cartoons of Muhammed. The other lady was suggesting we get some muslims over to learn from their values of hospitality and party during times like Ramadan, and hope they might learn something from us of Jesus. I hope this means our small church is, unwittingly, in as emergent a place as one might wish.

Where there’s a will…

…there’s a lot of work.

It’s been one of those weeks where all the work arrives at once. Mrs. Eutychus got a will settlement to translate, complete with holographic testament just like in John Grisham’s book of that name. Then there was a whole museum presentation. Then a building schedule for a timber frame for a swimming pool, delivered on Friday at 5pm for return by Monday. Guess what I’ve spent today doing? I just hope the roof doesn’t fall down. Meanwhile I have yet more alumunium windows to be translated by next week, I’m not quite sure when that gets done given that my classes are up to full speed now.

Just to confuse things further, we had about six inches of snow today. That’s the second lot this winter – quite unusual.

At some point I need to report on our visit to the Brian McLaren conference in Paris last weekend. But not now. Time to dream of scarf jointed rafters, or something.

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t think of you

So began a recent e-mail from a former close friend still in the movement we left. How are you? he asked, are you getting our news?

I wrote back that I’d last heard from him a year ago, at which point I said I would be happy to keep in touch if he was ready to hear us out on our story. This year, I went down the line a little, saying that the movement and its leader were behind my removal, that no-one among them would take any responsibility for that or any of the subsequent mess, and that this had led us to call a lot of things into question. I reiterated that I’d be happy to keep in touch if he was willing to hear us out. I also asked him what his perspective on these events was.

It’s now ten days since he wrote.

For the first seven of those ten days, in spite of myself, I was willing to take him at his word and believe that he did really think of us that often. Having put him out of my mind for most of the last year, day and night I found myself hoping for some renewal of meaningful contact. After all, if he thought about us that much…

Now the disappointment is back with a renewed vengeance. That opening line seems to have just been so many words in the wind. Like so many others, he’s apparently carrying on securely in some comforting version of reality. Meanwhile, here, it’s back to the bafflement of how people who supposedly place such a high value on integrity can be so hypocritical.

Or perhaps he’s on holiday?

Un cri de coeur

Someone off the Ship of Fools was asking me how things were. I thought part of what came out by way of an answer might be worth setting down here.

I’d like to think that we fell in with a particularly nasty little team of people, but the fact remains that (the movement’s leader) backed them up all the way and that others elsewhere tell oh-so-similar tales.

I really really thought that when I told (the movement’s leader) what was going on with us he would intervene, and one of the hardest things to digest was him backing up his “apostle” all the way. (…)

The difficult thing now, is working out what one is left with.

I hope time will make things better, but it is very hard to understand why no-one in (that movement) can find it in themselves to admit any responsibility at all for the mess they made here, which goes far beyond our personal circumstances and is plain for all to see.

Even if one were to assume (which I don’t for a moment believe) that their accusations were correct, their handling of them is so unjustifiable. For them to admit they handled it badly would enable some sort of closure for us. Why is it so difficult for them to do that? What would it cost them? How can they preach what they do about relationships and not do that? That’s what gnaws away at us and our faith, day after day after day.

At the time, at the insistence of a longstanding friend who was one of those we started the church with, I went as far down the line as I felt able in publicly asking forgiveness for every last bad attitude I could in all conscience think of (though this did not include having a Jezabellic spirit!). My friend’s perception was that the whole thing was a personality clash and that doing this would break the logjam. Of course it didn’t. These guys I had worked with, promoted, and defended, just sat tight and never conceded anything – there was no “personality clash”, they wanted me gone and that was that.

Now the church is blown apart and still one is led to believe they are clean as clean. I just don’t get it.

So here it is…

The 200000-word job is still pending, but two weeks ago we took on 48000 words on the Monday for the Friday. Four late nights later we had translated a deed of sale and various related items for a huge office block real estate deal in Paris. This job just wouldn’t go away, though, as through the next week we had to incorporate further last-minute revisions, and finally I found myself in Paris the day before yesterday in a scene out of a John Grisham book/film, in a room full of hot-shot solicitors and investors, signing my name on a sales deed undertaking that our translation of same was faithful.

I don’t think I had dressed as smartly since my wedding day. Just before the meeting I dropped in on our friend at a nearby church. A colleague of his was there in jeans and a t-shirt since he didn’t expect any visitors right before the Christmas break. I had the undying satisfaction of someone apologise to me for being too scruffily dressed. You have to know me to appreciate the irony.

Back home, we had our church Christmas service on Christmas Eve (in France people do the meal thing on Christmas eve until the small hours so we figured nobody would be around the next morning). This was quite a success. Lydie was one of the main organisers and it was strange to sit back and do very little whilst seeing her and our other kids play a major part in running the proceedings. Thinking back to the very minimalist service we had a year ago highlighted that the church has come a long way in that time, although it feels very fragile.

Oh, and just one cat comment. I had thought our cat was incredibly intelligent, but our kids have pointed out that its behaviour can be equally well explained by the theory that it is incredibly stupid.

Centenary

It’s too late to write much, and I have about ten minutes to keep this accurate, but I wouldn’t want today to go by without a little marker for the law of December 9th 1905 which formalised the separation of church and state in France, thus creating the modern secular state and “laicité à la française”.

I’ve said a fair bit on this topic here if anyone wants to scroll through and find my posts. All in all, I don’t think it’s too bad a solution in a post-christian world.

A few years ago we had great plans for celebrating this year in a suitable inter-church manner here, but obviously events have overtaken us. We’re just happy that we’re still here and free to worship.

In other news, further confirmation of the remant-of-the-church-still-in-the-building continuing to haemorrage has reached our ears. I’m still waiting for the Big Translation Job having been assured it has been delayed and not cancelled, filling in the time with one or two other jobs and playing with all the fancy new software I’ve bought with a view to that job.

Right. My watch tells me it’s time to sign off.