Religion: Love, Hate – Part 4 of 4
Part 4 – The Hate Story (2 of 2)
Ultimately, GE moved us back to Ridgefield in 2001. In 2002 Ian was re-diagnose and I knew intuitively that we were going to have a bad ending. Thankfully I was heavily involved at the Episcopalian church when the re-diagnosis came down. The community that surrounded me was uplifting, loving and very helpful. The parish organized a dinner drop off at our house and overall could not have been more supportive.
Unfortunately however, our community was undergoing a change in leadership. Our amazing assistant priest had moved on to lead her own church, so we had to hire a new junior minister. And our rock solid devoted senior priest of many, many years was on the verge of retiring – and did leave before Ian died. Needless to say there was a lot of turbulence within our church community during Ian’s final 18 months of life. Since my husband was not involved in the church – he was a skeptic until the end – these issues were not a problem for him, but for me they were of great concern.
Since the main priest was going on vacation, just after we got the dreadful news of Ian’s cancer returning, he encouraged me to set up some counseling sessions with our new assistant minister – I’ll refer to him as “D”. I gave D a call, and he suggested that we go out for lunch. I thought this was quite a strange place to have a therapy session, however; I was in no position to disagree – he was a priest, for God’s sake. I was also desperate for some guidance, advice and a spiritual connection. I stopped by the church on the appointed day and time. D told me I’d have to drive as he walked to work everyday – so his wife could have the car.
Before we even got into the car, things were feeling very strange for me. It only got worse from that point! We arrived at the restaurant, sat down for lunch and he ordered a bottle of wine! What? Really? A bottle of wine? Yes, a bottle of wine. In my gut I knew this was wrong. I felt uncomfortable and trapped and yet in shock. It was like I was stuck in that locker again, when I was six years old. (Check out my blog: Part 1 – The Love Story (1 of 2)) The lunch continued as he talked about all sorts of crazy things including; his drug use, past girlfriends, asking me about my husband’s and my sex life and that I was most likely using poor parenting techniques with my children. There was however, NO discussion of my husband being sick, and how I could best handle this really hard situation. Thinking back, maybe he was on drugs during that lunch. It was beyond bizarre. We drove back to the church and I dropped him off.
A few days later I stopped by the church to help the bookkeeper sort out some accounting issues. D was in his office. He called me in and asked when we could have another “session.” I told him that I didn’t know (I had no intention of meeting with him again, but with him being a priest and all, I didn’t want to be rude!) I started backing out of his office explaining that I had to run to the grocery store. I turned to go and he grabbed his coat and said, “I’ll join you.” The next thing you know he’s in my car and we’re driving to Stop and Shop.
Once again, he behaved very strangely, picking up the phone at the meat counter and pretending to talk to God and doing lewd things with the sausages in the deli department. We ran into a few people who attend the church, which was very awkward. I tried to get my shopping done as quickly as possible so I could get him back and get on with my life. We drove back to the church. As I pulled up to the door and said, “OK, bye.” He leaned over and planted a big kiss right on my lips! I was horrified and disgusted. And yet, because he was a minister and had “power” I squelched my feelings and pretended like nothing happened.
Over the next few weeks he began staring at me while he was giving his sermons. I thought I was going crazy. He also kept calling the house to set up more appointments. The whole experience was awful and I didn’t know what to do. I had a sick husband at home, and my priest was coming on to me. I finally told the rector what was happening – he dismissed it and told me I wasn’t thinking straight – ok. With the help of my therapist, I took the matter to the diocese and they were very helpful and validated that his behavior was inappropriate and out of line.
Ultimately “D” was sent to another church as it was discovered he was double billing his expense sheets. It’s not enough that he was trying to make out with one of the parishioners; it took the accounting department catching him with fraud before the church was willing to do anything… so what do they do? Move him to another church! I’m sure the new church wasn’t told about his indiscretions and that most likely this man tormented another poor, vulnerable, soul at his new place of employment. Once again, gotta love organized religion!!!
The nail in the coffin, for my organized religion days, was the morning that Ian died in our house. Our wonderful long-term rector had retired and moved to New Orleans just months prior to Ian’s death, so the interim pastor was sent over to my home to console me. In comes Pastor Joe, his first words to me were, “So sorry to hear about your husband.” The second words he said to me, “I’m retiring soon, where do you think I should donate my expansive library of books?” I was flabbergasted. Then he came in, sat down and told me that it was his birthday and all about his plans for the day. My husband had died eight hours earlier – right in that house that we were sitting in – and the priest that came to my door wanted to chit-chat! That was the final straw for the church and me.
The night my husband died I had an experience that opened my mind to knowing that you do not need to be involved with organized religion to have a close and personal relationship with God, the Creator, the Universe, Source Energy – whatever you want to call it. My relationship with the Creator is so much more bold and deep and precious than it ever was when I was attending an organized church. I would love to read your comments about your experiences with religion. I am certainly not claiming to have all the answers; I’m just trying to open your mind to viewing things in a different way and to let you know that your connection to God is ALWAYS there; it’s the connections with people that claim to be connected to God that you need to question.
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