There are Heaven and Hell, and Church – Part Two
20 of #100DaysToOffload
Following Part One, as I sit to plan Part Two of this story on scheming and conniving, my wife is in the room next door composing her sermon for Sunday.
Why have I walked away from church?
Am I a coward or am I too relaxed not to give a damn?
Here is a story about a few #Freemasons hungry for control.
In the Beginning
Crocodile tears refer to fake sentimentality. But in my church, I discovered crocodile smiles. Some people feign friendship as a means to dominate and control.
It's nearly one year since I last attended church, and I still hurt from the scheming of alleged friends.
Ten years ago, my wife and I left a #Presbyterian church as the ministry had become stale.
On our third visit to the nearby Church of Ireland, the treasurer approached and asked us to join, sign up to the free-will offering and sing in the choir.
Within a year, we were on the Select Vestry, the church's business committee.
The Rector was new too, only arriving a few months earlier. The previous Rector had allegedly been given a hard time by some members and escaped to a new parish.
Over the years, Rita and I were active members; raising funds, and helping out at different events.
But all this time I was being pulled in.
And now dear little children, who may this story read, To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed: Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye, And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly. Mary Howitt (1829)
When I look back, I feel cheated.
I received invitations from fellow vestry members to the man-shed, was plied with drinks to keep me soft, and made to feel part of their group.
They enticed me through drink and humour to ensure I sided with them, and not the Rector, at important meetings.
Oh, how they wanted the Rector out.
It is evident to me now, anyone who disagreed with them had to go.
If the Rector wanted a new climbing frame for his grandchildren, the answer was no.
New carpet for the #church – no.
The Rector had to fight for the smallest expenditure. Still, it was when he protected his wife's modest salary as church Musical Director, that all hell broke out.
The vestry suggested and had supported paying for a Musical Director and the decision reaped dividends. The Rector's wife transformed the choir from what sounded like three ducks being strangled, to something verging on Harry Christoper's Sixteen.
Hundreds of people packed the church at concerts.
But a few people wanted this salary stopped.
The people in question don't want any church funds spent at all. Consequently, the building suffers from disrepair.
What is the point of saving money instead of putting it to use?
Of the 60 or so families in the church, three people are allowed to call the shots.
- Mr S – who dreams up conspiracies.
- Mr W – a puppet on a string.
- Mr C – who influences the first two.
Except for Mr W, the others are Freemasons, and they use their bond to encourage each other, with the help of a few more Freemasons in the congregation.
Over the years there have been countless rumblings of discontent.
The Masons would tell me of their latest dispute with the Rector. On one occasion they called the Rector names and insulted his wife behind her back. The bad-mouthing took place while collecting money at the entrance to the church's annual Fun Day.
At meetings, the Masons needed my vote. Sometimes they got it; sometimes I sided with the Rector. I tried to be impartial, but I was torn between two loyalties.
In February 2018, the Masons were determined to oust the Rector's wife from her role, to save £350 a month in outgoings.
The Masons were not intelligent enough to realise that to help church finances; you need to attract members, not bully people.
At the monthly meeting, tempers flared. I lost my temper too, and a few of us got stuck in a mental cul-de-sac.
I resigned my warden role and walked out.
I blamed them all, both sides for not backing down, no apologies, just sheer Christian animosity.
I share the blame.
I'm told in June 2019 an exact repeat of that meeting took place over the same issue.
Only this time Mr W resigned in a huff. But one could allege this was a plot to make the Rector look bad. The Masons rallied around and tried to get support for Mr W, this time accusing the Rector of bullying.
In reality, it was all a game. Mr W had no intention of leaving, only to cause trouble.
Here we have an excellent illustration of Groupthink. Groupthink is when a group of people, with similar views, get together and start gossiping. They reinforce each others' point of view to the extreme when their perception becomes undeniable fact.
The masonic clique are a perfect example of Groupthink.
Given Mr W had pretended to leave the church, Rector asked if I would help with the technological parts of the service, putting hymns and pictures on the TV screens.
From my perspective, I was helping out. The Masons saw it as betrayal, a dastardly plot hatched by the Rector and me to permanently remove Mr W and banish him to the forbidden zone.
The Masons got a friend to call me in an attempt to get to the truth. I was calm during the call, but I ruminated overnight. By the next day, I was livid and sent this email to the Select Vestry.
Chip, chip and chip away. Little by little, they chip away and now this summer with COVID ravaging the world, the Rector has chosen to leave a year earlier than planned.
The Masons got what they wanted.
Why are some people obsessed with control?
Maybe Dawn Foster of The Guardian offers some clues.
I can't paint everyone with the same brush. I am pleased to report there is a rearguard action by other Masons in the church.
Perhaps dismayed at the behaviour of brotherhood members, there is action to encourage fresh faces onto the Select Vestry.
I hope and pray we have the beginnings of a move to outnumber the trouble makers. Already a few of the inner circle have resigned – Mr C and his wife.
I am not sure I will return to the church. From childhood to now, I have drunk too often from the sour cup of fake friends.
I will support my wife, but I grow tired of organised religion.
We don't need buildings or congregations to have faith in God.
What is a church, after all?
A building with high running costs, where people with little in common, come together once a week and then go home again.
And that's what our little friends what to control and dominate.
The bottom line is this: allowing domineering personalities to manage a church, without accountability, will irrevocably damage a church.
God help the next Rector.
Rub-a-dub-dub, Some fools in a tub, And who do you think they be? A financial advisor, policeman and web designer, Turn them out, knaves all three. Based on the 14th-century rhyme.