Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Monday, January 24

What now?

After the meeting, given that there had been some measure of apology, we conceded that our names can remain on the electoral roll. And the Vicar has agreed to our proposal that we should go to another church on 'an extended sabbatical' for at least six months.

The world will be a different place in six months. I can't see us going back, but lets not pre-judge.

We are currently trying to get an appointment with the vicar of the new church to put him in the picture of our situation.

We also need prayer for healing. we need space. Etc.

We do feel that God has been on our side through this. My wife even thinks taht my outbursts have been the work of the Holy Spirit - not that he endorses swearing - becasue without them the truth would never have come out.

She is very pleased that I defended her. Our marriage is stronger than it has ever been.

At the new church this Sunday they were asking for volunteers for the Easter Holiday club. It looks very professional. Perhaps someone should tell them they are expecting too much and sack them all! Or maybe my wife is actually quite normal and the old church had excessively low expectations.

I'm quite hurt by the way they talk about her. I may have had gripes from time to time, but she's certainly not bad enough to warrant the treatment she has had.

Tuesday's meeting

I took Monday off sick because I was so stressed. Had a wonderful time with my wife, driving to the top of the nearest hill to look at the tranquil panorama. Very therapeutic.

But we still hanging over us the 'big issue' that they had not told us. So I emailed them, asking for an email reply to clear this up so as to stop us thinking ill of innocent people.

On Tuesday morning I went to work much happier than for a long time, thinking that I could see God in all this. I would not normally leave my church, split my family and go to another church impractically in the next town, and so God had brought drastic measures in to make me make a drastic move that will ultimately pay dividends when it comes to ordination (i.e. a lot more experience in a more traditional Anglican church). But when I got to work I had my email reply - 'please come to a meeting'.

We went that afternoon. This time they seemed to have planned more carefully what to say, starting with trivial niceties and bits of flattery. I asked them to cut to the chase. It nearly tipped into a big row about my attitude. But they did as I asked.

The big issue: They claim that a majority of mothers in the creche have said that they can't work with my wife. "Her expectations are too high".

But even if this is true, it does not justify the way they have treated my wife. They have clearly had a lot of meetings with them; why have they not had any meetings with my wife, firstly the general type you would expect a a matter of course in managing the system and secondly specific meetings to hear the other side? If there was a problem in her approach, why was she not offered training?

Now casting back to about 2004, my wife had done the church Christmas play. Normally this is a pathetic affair where the children put on the previous year's costumes and come forward in groups to build up a nativity tableau. My wife has drama skills and did something much more complex, much more visual, with a more intricate plot, but still ending with the tableau [too keep them happy]. Towards the end of the last rehearsal, when she was highly stressed owing to key performers not turning up etc, the Vicar asked for the plot to be changed. Mrs told him about how impossible that would be at this late stage. Since then, we have always felt that he and the assistant minister had something against her. In fact, shortly before this meeting, the Holy Spirit had prompted her to remember this incident. So when we asked why all this had been done behind her back, as we half expected, they quoted the Christmas play in 2004 as a time when she had snapped at them and been hard to work with. So, because of the Holy Spirit's prompting, she was able to tell them again why it had been impossible to alter the plot, about the stress, etc. It was certainly not something that should still be held against her after 6 years of excellent involvement in childcare at the church. And even if what they say is true, the answer is counselling and training, not an intricate conspiracy to oust her.

They did accept that in some things she had not been treated well, and gave an almost sincere apology for those aspects. On that basis, we ended the meeting with a handshake.

But I still don't see that any return is possible. Originally we thought it was the new superintendent against her. Now we find out that it was an extensive conspiracy involving all levels in the church including those who were supposed to be her friends, planned over a period of months in a series of meetings to which she was not invited.

Would you go and sit amongst them? Even Christ only forgives those who repent. and I am a sucker for an apology - which I why I shook hands - but they have only apologised for bits, not for the overall thing.

The Big Meeting .... !! [Update - originally written 18 Jan 2011]

…started badly and deteriorated rapidly.

[Me and Mrs, Vicar and assistant]

We were both very nervous as we went in. We both felt that we would know within the first few minutes how it would turn out.

The first thing that happened was that we were shown an A0 size print of the proposed church structure – which of course still had the name of the offending Sunday School superintendent. And the Vicar was proud of it, and apparently clueless that he was rubbing salt into the wound.

The second thing was that he turned to my wife and said “The children’s work is not the important thing here….” Now to be fair to him, he merely meant that that the fact of us leaving was more important to him. But if he was more switched on he would have known that to my wife the children’s work IS the important thing – it is her whole raison d’être.

That set my wife off. She had previously asked me to do the talking, but she had been triggered into a full account of her time at the church listing some of the times she had been slapped down. I chipped in with bits of support. We were able to communicate that it was not just the recent incident but the whole history, not just the new man but the two people in front of us as well.

Then there was a silence – each party waiting for the other to speak.

Then they asked us what we proposed; what olive branch we could offer.

That set me off. We were the aggrieved party – it was their job to be offering the olive branch, not us. It was for them to come up with proposals to win us back, not for us to set terms for return.

The best offer was for Mrs to run just her mid-week groups and to have a pastoral role. The mid-week groups were coming to the end of their natural life anyway, as
Various parents had started work or children grown up and gone to nursery. And in any case, both they and the pastoral role had been offshoots of her work as crèche leader – you take away the hub and the whole wheel falls apart.

Our return proposal was that they should commission us for the play church idea, (since it lies within their parish). We would still be part of their church structure, which would be best for appearances all round, but would not have to rub shoulders every week. The assistant minister liked this idea and said we should definitely go for it, but the Vicar just laughed it off.

We the asked why Mrs. had been sacked, what had she done wrong etc.
The Vicar wanted a ‘more collaborative approach’. He clearly does not realise that Mrs was already running it on a team basis, with regular consultations with the mothers, taking on board their ideas where possible, and using their skills and taking into account the various other pressures on their lives. He seems to think that she was domineering. But being the best person for the job, in terms of qualification, experience and availability, does not make one domineering.
He felt that she ‘henpecks’ me. My philosophy of marriage is that ‘husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the church and gave his life for her’. I sacrifice what I want for her. In any decision I consult her to find out how she feels and how my decision will affect her. Apparently my deliberate godly submissiveness makes her a domineering henpecker!!!
“There is other even more hurtful stuff”

What it all amounts to is that, as my wife has long suspected, he through ignorance and misjudgement has held things against her, and for that reason has never allowed her to progress.

He continues to blame us. He thinks that it is all her perception, based on her ‘unloved childhood’.

But let us imagine that all the above was true and correct. It was still wrong to sack her without notice. It was still wrong to appoint a less qualified and experienced person in her place. It was till wrong that if she was running the group so badly that they didn’t talk to her and train her to do it their way.

In the end, my wife had had enough. She put her coat on and walked out, with me following.

But the vicar came round to the house in the evening. “We left an open wound….” So he proceeded to rub salt in it, still blaming us, still refusing to apologise in any meaningful way. And he wonders why we don’t want to go back?

Towards the end, he was saying ‘Simon, even now I still love and respect you’ [which of course taken out of the context sounds good], but I had to close the door on him saying sadly ‘But you don’t love and respect my wife’.

Friday, January 14

The Big Meeting .... !!

Please pray for us as we meet the leaders of our former church at 9pm tonight.

They will turn on the charm to try to win us back. But will they actually admit they were wrong? (Maybe.) Will they actually apologise? (Maybe.) Can the come up with a workable proposal for us to return? (probably not.)

What are their motives? genuine love? Embarrasment at losing a high profile figure form their church? Afraid of what we might say about them?

It's actually very hard to pitch it right.

We definitely want to leave. Even if they apologise in sack cloth and ashes, sack the sunday school superintendant and reinstate my wife, we will still not trust them anymore, nor the women who should be my wife's deputies but who we believe whispered against her. (We know most people loved her work, but the two nearest deputies seemed to have their own agendas and the church leadership always undermined her.)

Also, if I transfer my readership to another church I would have to negotiate with the diocese, and that would involve telling them why I have left, and much as I am cross with my old vicar I don't want to get him in toruble with his boss. Neither do I want to say things to the congregation which would undermine his leadership, but also our friends deserve to know why we have left them. It's a political minefield. I have no political skills.

I suppose my ideal outcome from the meeting is a reconciliation on a personal level, so that we can go to another church with their blessing and bump into them in the future without too much awkwardness.

Monday, January 10

Time to eat humble pie?

Some of the songs during my sons worship session made me wonder if the Lord really wanted us to get off our high horse and go back to our old church. This is surely the obvious and only righteous answer.

While coming home from taking my oldest lad to university and I was meditating in the car (Radio 4 were doing a very long reading of the King James version – very good – write in to encourage them!) I felt this even more strongly.

If it were just me, then this is what I would do.

But to do that, I would be asking my wife to go back into the situation where she has been hurt and abused. If she had been mugged in the street I would not ask her to go back that way, past the same muggers, the next day. That’s not love! And if it was just that we had been hurt, if the people gave a half-decent apology, we would go back. But it’s the practicality of it: You can’t just sit back and ignore it – we would have to put our children into what we consider to be a seriously damaged children’s work. And even if they were to put her back in charge of the work, it is too badly broken and basic trust with the other mums so badly lost, that we can’t see it working.

Play church idea

We visited the play area at the relevant morning time this week. There was a big party on and the place was too full and noisy for a church. But it was an unusually large party, and if we have booked for our church then that aspect would not be so bad (there are two party rooms). However, it did seem to be their peak time for parties, so it would be hard to negotiate a reduced rate. They are less likely to have a party going on Sunday evening but that is because they try to push the parties to the morning because it is full with general customers in the evening, so again it would full and noisy and hard to get a reduced rate.

So it’s not looking good!

Other play areas exist, but are likely to have the same demographics.

Last weekend of the whole family

The older boys have been back over the holiday period, but on Sunday it wsa time for them to go back to college/work.

Now that we are an ecclesiastically divided family, we insisted that they cancel all other engagements and have tea with us on Saturday, and then we had a family worship time in the evening. Number three is part of the church band, so he lead us in singing, while Mrs and I did prayers. At risk of boasting, I have to say my ld did very well, choosing songs that were very apt for our situation and leading very well through the set. Of course he noticed all his own mistakes and coma out all concerned, but really it was very good indeed.

Thursday, January 6

Love and Other Drugs

Wanted to see 'the King's Speech' but couldn't get a viewing at the right time. Ended up in this instead.

Went in expecting a bog standard Rom Com, with perhaps one or two 'tasteful' love scenes where there might be a brief flash of boob. The first half was therefore quite shocking to me, as it seemed to be one wild burst of passion after another with a lot more flesh than I expected. When I was young back in the 80's and secretly went to adult cinemas some of the films touted as pornography were less explicit than this. My wife is really not used to this kind of thing at all and so I found myself cringing for most of the first part of the film, feeling it had been a big mistake to bring her.

But then the plot moves on. The focus moves to Maggie's developing Parkinson's disease, and questions of the couples motives in the relationship and leading finally to their settling into an honest, mutual relationship. This turned out to be a very good theme for us as a couple, as my wife's rheumatoid arthritis deteriorates and she becomes increasingly disabled. In fact, I would say it was spot on.

And of course we re-enacted some of the earlier scenes when we got home. Yum yum.

Another sub plot was also good - the theme that you can have as much 'empty sex' as you want but it is ultimately unsatisfying. Hear hear!


Took our boys to visit the local mountains for two days, then took our girls to the distant big city to see the sights and get crushed in the shops for two days, then wenet to see my parents on New Year's eve. They are too old to stay up these days. We made it to a Travelodge at 2 mins to midnight, and saw the fireworks in London on the telly. Took photos of the telly screen so we could pretend we had been there ourselves - honest!

Travelodge full of drunks giving the manager a hard time and us no sleep.

Next stop is my big reminiscence holiday in Spain in April. I think I will kiss the soil as we arrive - I miss the place so much!

Church Search III

New year - new beginnings. Hopefully that will be the case.

We tried the church 10 miles away (that we liked the website for) on Boxing Day. Arrived late owing to the snow on the road on the way. Bearing taht in mind we had a reasonably good welcome on the way in. Turnout seemed low, and the service rather dull in the hands of a curate. No signs of friends for our 10 year old, but a reasonable creche for our 2 year old. The sermon was good: Biblical with a godpel presentation. After the service ended, the curate went back to the microphone and announced taht he had just hear that Mr X had passed away. Everyone gasped - clearly this was a key figure in the church and his loss was a shock, particluarly to a number of ladies who became quite tearful and needed support. It was not the time to start expecting people to talk to us, so we left. Dissapointed and flat, but feeling taht it wsa probably not representative and that we should go back next week.

Which we did.

And it was much better. Twice the number of people. A band playing a wi=orship song as we went in - the words for which were very aspt for our situation. THe general service was much more Anglican than we are used to, but was still very good. Sunday school was still not on. I satyed in the crech this time, and found a lady doing a very good lesson - in a fun way - for the kids who were all paying good attention. A good sign! Communion wasa bit hard on my wife - their custom is to kneel at the altar rail, and my wife isn't that flexible! So she was rather awkward and sideways as she pseudo-knelt and struggled back up. Afterwards a couple of people welcomed us, and one in particular spent quite a long time explaining the various children's groups to us. Also, several posters had words on them which my wife felt were for her.

So all in all, it feels like the place where we will be in the medium term. It's too distant to rely on for the long term.

Every second Sunday of the month is their parade service, and we will probably take this opportunity to pursue our play church idea - starting his coming Sunday.