Monthly Archives: March 2004

Adullam’s Cave

Tuesday is prison day – one of my lifelines. I’ve been wanting to do this for years and I so enjoy it. I feel I’m made for it. I’d hate to have to let it go with all that’s happening to us. I achieved an ambition there yesterday by getting to visit someone in solitary. It’s been four months now since I’ve been a fully-fledged chaplain. Getting the right balance between making waves and asserting yourself is a challenge, but it seems I made this request at about the right point. Eleven guys made it to the service and we had a good time. One of them prayed, which is another first – I usually do all the praying. I realised that I have a big advantage over the rest of the family right now, which is that I have a group to worship with, where I have no personal issues with people… not really a "family service", though.

When I got out there was a message on my mobile from Mrs E. saying that the chairman of the church trustees had phoned to arrange to see me about my severance details. My insides turned to jelly and I realised that while I might be feeling better, all the yuck is still there not far beneath the surface. I called back and arranged to meet him on Thursday. It doesn’t look as if they are going to be begging me to come back, anyway.

In the evening Mrs. E had invited some sympathisers round to pray and chat. I was emotionally ragged by that time, but it was good to be able to pray amongst friends and talk through some of our dreams, regrets, and values. I went through a list of things I thought were important, which I’d saved on computer under the title "Adullam’s cave" – where David gathers his unruly mob when on the run from Saul. It was pretty much like that. In addition to Mrs E and me, our mighty warriors were three single mums – Maria, ex-convict turned social worker and with us almost from the beginning; Angela, ex-prostitute living on invalidity benefit; and Josie, long-term unemployed, but employed by our social action charity for the last few years and doing a great job (the job club she runs has a phenomenal success rate. But I can’t go because it happens when I’m in the prison!).

All five of us have had major rows with each other over the years, but here we are, together for now. One of our main conclusions from the evening is that when people say they are saying something to you "in love", they aren’t. Oh, and the four values I mentioned, were:
– living in the grace of God
– changing our thinking
– being involved in society
– integrating the exluded
"Vaste programme", as we say here. And I have absolutely no idea what that might add up to in practical terms.

This morning’s news: Mrs E is not preganant. At least, we are "99% sure" (that’s what it says here) that she isn’t. No, wait: we are 99% sure that she isn’t definitely pregnant. Well, that clears that up. Um…?

Adullam’s Cave

Tuesday is prison day – one of my lifelines. It’s been four months now since I’ve been a fully-fledged chaplain. I’ve been wanting to do this for years and I so enjoy it. I feel I’m made for it. I’d hate to have to let it go with all that’s happening to us. I achieved an ambition there yesterday by getting to visit someone in solitary. Getting the right balance between making waves and asserting yourself is a challenge, but it seems I made this request at about the right point. Eleven guys made it to the service and we had a good time. One of them prayed, which is another first – I usually do all the praying. I realised that I have a big advantage over the rest of the family right now, which is that I have a group to worship with, where I have no personal issues with people… not really a "family service", though.

When I got out there was a message on my mobile from Mrs E. saying that the chairman of the church trustees had phoned to arrange to see me about my severance details. My insides turned to jelly and I realised that while I might be feeling better, all the yuck is still there not far beneath the surface. I called back and arranged to meet him on Thursday. It doesn’t look as if they are going to be begging me to come back, anyway.

In the evening Mrs. E had invited some sympathisers round to pray and chat. I was emotionally ragged by that time, but it was good to be able to pray amongst friends and talk through some of our dreams, regrets, and values. I went through a list of things I thought were important, which I’d saved on computer under the title "Adullam’s cave" – where David gathers his unruly mob when on the run from Saul. It was pretty much like that. In addition to Mrs E and me, our mighty warriors were three single mums – Maria, ex-convict turned social worker and with us almost from the beginning; Angela, ex-prostitute living on invalidity benefit; and Josie, long-term unemployed, but employed by our social action charity for the last few years and doing a great job (the job club she runs has a phenomenal success rate. But I can’t go because it happens when I’m in the prison!).

All five of us have had major rows with each other over the years, but here we are, together for now. One of our main conclusions from the evening is that when people say they are saying something to you "in love", they aren’t. Oh, and the four values I mentioned, were:
– living in the grace of God
– changing our thinking
– being involved in society
– integrating the exluded
"Vaste programme", as we say here. And I have absolutely no idea what that might add up to in practical terms.

This morning’s news: Mrs E is not pregnant. At least, we are "99% sure" (that’s what it says here) that she isn’t. No, wait: we are 99% sure that she isn’t definitely pregnant. Well, that clears that up. Um…?

Today is the first day of the rest of my life

So on Sunday I resigned from the church I planted with Mrs E. 15 years ago, with three other couples. At our first meeting there were 17 of us, it’s grown to over 200 on Sunday mornings, prior to the crisis which led to my departure. That line from Apostle never seemed more appropriate:

Woman: A lot of people will follow you if you start your own church
Sonny: Well, this was my church, sister, this was my own church.

Yesterday (Monday) I woke up with that thought "today is the first day of the rest of your life". I made myself get up at a decent time and went and did the trim track for the first time in ages, as my body discovered. Back home read Psalm 44 over breakfast in a "let’s read a random psalm and see what happens" mood. It turned out to be pretty appropriate. One of our friends who’s been through this said he had understood a lot more what the imprecatory Psalms were all about.

The rest of the day turned out to be one of the busiest I’ve had in months. The regional prison chaplain called so I had to explain things to him. To my relief, he was more worried about me giving up the chaplaincy than about me not having a church any more, so I was able to reassure him I would carry on as long as I was able.

Josie came by in the afternoon to see Mrs E. and we sat around going over events. She thinks we should start something new sooner rather than later so as not to lose too many people, but I think we need time. She had stayed till the end of the church meeting. Martin had stood up and said that I was an impulsive person, that my resignation was probably on the spur of the moment, that I would reconsider. How wrong. I’m not the person I was 15 years ago. If I was I would have gone two months ago; and I’d written that letter weeks ago. The other two elders didn’t say a word. I can’t believe their moral cowardice. No comeback at all as yet from anyone in responsibility in the church.

Then I had my first ever appointment with a shrink. It was booked months ago when this whole thing was going down and I was feeling suicidal, so that was good timing for now. I’ve had help by phone over the last few months but it was good to talk to a flesh and blood person. I think she’s going to be some help to me and have booked three or four sessions over the next few months.

Then our insurer was passing through town and stopped off to review our options for medical and social security cover. One of our close friends who’s a social worker called and we booked ourselves in with her tomorrow for an informal look at what we should do next.

So. I feel better than at any time in the last two months. Relief I guess. But some measure also of how abusive the situation had become. I feel like I’m alive again. I’m sure there will be hard times ahead but I’m equally sure I made the right decision. The big challenge is going to be balancing the time needed to review things, financial realities, and the dispersal of the flock.

The phone rang last night twice after midnight, waking us up. It was Ann on the answerphone, telling us she was drunk, had taken meds, and had called the neigbourhood watch people, so would not be in tomorrow as planned, but in hospital. It seems we are still pastors.