About 18 months ago I got copied into an email about a new group apparently starting at Church. I ignored it; presuming I’d been included by mistake as it was the first I’d ever heard about it.
The following Sunday, however, they approached me, and brought to light the unforgivable sin.
“We’re so excited to have you on board!” One gushed, whilst the other confessed, “Your Husband said you’d love to help us get started!”
Did he now?!
We had words. Big words.
His went along the lines of, ” but it’s everything you’re passionate about?”
And mine… well, mine were slightly more colourful to be honest. But the general gist was: “Not now. Not yet. Not on anyone else’s terms, thank you very much.”
Of course, it was now too late.
The start up committee consisted of three brand new Christians in all of their raw, enthusiastic glory; not to mention their raw forming, storming, storming, – norming?- nope still storming, approach to teamwork. Things got high and then they got heavy. Quickly.
“They’ve never done anything like this before!” Husband pleaded. “They need some guidance and they NEED a peacemaker. The group is exactly what the community needs and it is right up your street. You just… you just need to do it…. Please?”
And so it began.
I found myself with 3 kids under 5, turning up to meetings I didn’t want to be at, encouraging ideas I didn’t have the energy to see through and keeping peace that was in no mood to be kept. I dragged my feet. Busy did too and I think deep down, Forgetful just liked the company. Keen, however… Keen did training, Keen wrote risk assessments and got all the boring bits in order. Keen had a passion, a vision, a dream. Keen was not about to let it go without a fight! Which, of course, is exactly what she got. Busy felt Keen was taking over, Forgetful didn’t want any trouble, and I… well, I was just way too old for this sh…tuff.
Eventually, however, we managed a really positive creative meeting. And it was, indeed, right up my street. I mean, we were at the Pinterest stage , and I trust you remember how I feel about that! Besides, by this point in time, almost a year later, I had also been on my famous retreat, stepped back from that relationship and had room for a new creative outlet. Things were going well.
So, we began collecting resources.
We agreed a date to sort them out.
And then… Busy and Forgetful couldn’t make it.
We agreed a date for a practise run. Busy and Forgetful couldn’t make that either. So we cancelled it. Postponed it. We spent a few hours arranging and rearranging run-throughs; making sure to electronically and verbally set a date that everyone could make. And then… Busy and Forgetful didn’t turn up.
Eventually, committed to our September start and unable to hold off any longer, Keen and The Artist Formerly Known as Reluctant (me), (now collectively known as The Perfectionists), stayed in the church hall until quarter to midnight setting up for our first ever run through. We poured our hearts and minds into the layout, considering who might come, how many children they might have and what their needs might be. We set up all of our creative stations with care, taking Pinterest-worthy photographs for the marketing and praying over every single element we could think of. In the morning, we got there bright and early and set out our perishable messy stations; each of us with a toddler in tow. We hosted ten enthusiastic, (mainly non-church) families, fed off the buzz and danced inwardly as they expressed how wonderful it was that Church provided such services- and then discussed all of the other things they’d been to in the hall and even invited one another to attend. We did a little jig as the last parent left, and allowed the adrenaline to fuel the two hours it took to clean up afterwards by ourselves . We walked around the block to get our toddlers to sleep, before carrying all of our resources back up the steep stairs to the storage loft. Eventually, shakily, we had a little pray and ate a lot of cake. It was epic.
Later that night, after school pick-ups, Church Plant, bath and bedtime, I took to the computer to edit the photographs. I was shaking with excitement-slash-adrenaline-slash-exhaustion as I uploaded the best safeguarding-worthy shots to the appropriate Facebook pages and announced our official start date. We were on the brink of something wonderful and, despite myself, I was actually thankful to have been forced aboard. (Albeit, I was also very thankful it had taken a year to get going too!)
That, however, was the moment the text landed. It was Forgetful, requesting that I do not post anything else to social media please because… wait for it… that was her job and she and Busy were feeling pushed out.
Obviously, as the longest-serving Christian and Vicar-appointed peace keeper of the group, I provided the most mature and holy response in an instant.
I screenshot the message and sent it to Keen with some very strong faced emojis, and eagerly awaited her damning response.
As you do!
Then, I furiously typed a reply, over-doing the exhaustion and over-highlighting the fact that she was unable to advertise something she’d never been to. Thank you very much. Thankfully, however, at this point, I also finally heard the very faint screeching of Old Lady Wisdom trying to grab my attention. Reluctantly, (for she is SUCH an irritating screecher), I moved my thumb away from the ‘send’ button and had a rant at Husband instead.
“Oh, bless her.” He said.
I’m sorry. What?! “BLESS her?!”
“Bless her.” He repeated.
“I’m sorry, no. Firstly, you are my husband and secondly, you got me into this. It’s not your job to bless her-“
“Well, actually-” He interrupts.
“Ok, fine. It is literally your job to bless her. But on this occasion, you side with me! Seriously, she is so out of order?!”
“Yes.” He says. “But these are broken people.”
“Oh, for… we’re all broken people! Doesn’t mean we can be twits!” (Confession: I’ve never called anyone a ‘twit’ in my entire life, but I’m working on my language this year…)
The eyebrows. “What have you written in response?”
I tell him. (You know in that self-righteous way you do when you’re good with words and you know you’re right and that being right sounds good?)
“No.” He says.
“What?! It’s polite!”
“No it’s not, it’s passive aggressive. Change it.”
I seethe. Then try again.
“You know how sensitive they are. Not even a hint.”
I seethe again. I am an intelligent, feisty, 34 year old woman, sat on the floor in my husband’s office, being coached on how to respond to a – (quite frankly ridiculous) – text message from a parishioner.
“There.” I am convinced that this one is final.
“Almost,” he says. “Just cut out the bit about being tired.”
“What?! Oh come on! Do you know how hard we’ve worked the last 24 hours, because they didn’t show up?! I can’t even state the truth?! I can’t even hint at how much they dropped us in it?!”
“No. This is not about you.”
“Oh this is RIDICULOUS.”
“Yes but you need to rise above it. She doesn’t work. She’s lonely. She’s not been involved in anything – anything- like this, ever. She wants to be involved but she doesn’t dare and it’s coming out in all the wrong ways. She just needs encouragement and she needs love and this is your opportunity.”
I seethe again. “Ok…”
Here I go. Get ready, it’s good…
“YOU wanted this ministry off the ground!” I remind him. “YOU wanted something for young families. You wanted something new. We are attempting to do something of exceptional quality here- with 7 kids between us, I might remind you!- and very little time and resources.-” (I mean, can you FEEL the pride and the passion rising up?!) “And today was amazing. People came; they had fun; they heard God’s Word and they loved it. It has the potential to be amazing. But the main problem- the biggest issue- has been tiptoeing around “broken people” and wasting stupid amounts of time trying to get them to commit to dates we have already agreed! We do not have the time or the energy for both, so I feel like you have to make a choice on this one…” (I’m confident now, closing in for the kill-) “You can EITHER have a high quality, effective ministry that prioritises mission to the families we are reaching out to… OR you can keep your flaky insiders happy. You can’t have both!”
At this point he just turns around, looks me straight in the eye and says, “Babe… WELCOME TO MY WORLD!”
Ooooh wow…. Mic Drop!
*(Story to be continued….)*