To Church Refugees and Religious Orphans on Easter

Dear Church Refugees and Religious Orphans,

Sometimes people leave organized religion and sometimes organized religion abandons them.

I don’t know which is true for you.

You may have been so wounded and disillusioned by the Church, you felt you had no choice but to walk away; out of grief or self-preservation to declare yourself a prodigal from the faith.

You may have found yourself through coldness or cruelty or explicit words from within, pushed to the periphery and eventually out the door.

You might see yourself as a conscientious objector whose exodus was voluntary or as a relational leper branded as unwelcome by professed religious people. Either way you are outside now and it is painful.

I’m not sure of the circumstances surrounding your current estrangement, but I know that whatever the reasons, there are times that magnify grief for the once-churched—and that Easter is likely one of them. When much of the world is acknowledging something that was once such a part of the rhythm of your life, you feel the distance and the loss more acutely. The calendar reminds you of that separation and the disconnection all over again.

This weekend may trigger spiritual muscle memory for you, reminding you of rituals that were at one time so meaningful, of buildings you once found affinity in, of songs you once sang in the company of people you loved and felt loved by, maybe even of things you used to believe but no longer do. It may stir up in you emotions that you thought you’d long since moved beyond. You may find that a Sunday commemorating resurrection, ironically feels like a day of mourning: for your old church or your younger optimism or your former faith. I’ve heard from many people for whom this Easter will be the first one as Church Refugees or Religious Orphans and they will be deeply grieving with along you.

I’ve known the two extremes of these Spring Sundays. I’ve spent Easters fully secured in the blessed assurance of God’s love for me, of my place in the community of God’s people, and in the redemptive reality of the resurrected Jesus—and felt sweet comfort in that place.

I’ve spent Easters when I’ve been certain of none of those things—and been at times quite fine and other times rightly terrified by that fact.

And this weekend, whether you’re mourning someone you used to be, somewhere you used to feel at home, or a faith you once knew—or whether you’re feeling a rekindled anger at damage that’s been done to you in the name of Jesus, I want to remind you that Jesus is not okay with any of it; your pain, your grief, your injury, your isolation.

I wanted to let you know that whatever God is made of it—it isn’t this. God isn’t the bitterness and judgment and shame you’ve endured. God is not steel and concrete and wood with doors you can be expelled from. God is not something you need anyones’ permission for proximity too, either. Whatever God is, is as close as this breath—so breathe slowly and deeply.

The story of Easter is one of hope that cannot be defeated, of joy that will not be denied, of peace that overcomes. It is celebration that dances in the face of death when it realizes that love always has the last and loudest word. Regardless of whether you find yourself inside or outside a church this weekend, you can claim this very good news as your own. It is not bound to any building, it is not the property of anyone to withhold from you or bestow upon you—and it is not contingent on where you find yourself this Sunday.

So this Easter, if you end up in a familiar place, singing those songs, and feeling fully welcomed with those gathered, give thanks. But if you don’t; if you spend this Easter regretfully, defiantly, or joyfully on the outside, be grateful for that too, because the truth is, you aren’t any further than you’ve ever been from a Love that holds you.

You may be a Church Refugee or a Religious Orphan, but you are not alone and you are not abandoned.

Happy Easter.

 

 

120 thoughts on “To Church Refugees and Religious Orphans on Easter

  1. I have to say I’m a little surprised at the tone of your article. You know that I am among your biggest fans. But this article smacks a bit of smugness. Isn’t it possible that some of us left organized religion because we reasonably and rationally contemplated its limitations and decided there were better ways of seeking and finding spiritual and personal fulfillment? Asking for a friend (wink).

    • Isn’t it good that John can recognise and address the pain of those who do feel abandoned and/ or rejected, or in other ways separated from the church, even if you, personally, don’t happen to feel that way?

    • I agree that I left because I reasonably and rationally contemplated religion;s limitations and decided there are better ways of seeking and finding personal fulfillment with God. However, at age 76, sitting alone on Easter Sunday while my friends are at church is still difficult and sad.

      • Me too. Big hugs to you, Judith, for being brave enough to strike out on your own to find true spirituality vs. a packaged, man-made religion. 🙂

      • Judith. See if there is a CFI group near you. You can look them up on the internet. CFI is an international group of unbelievers, and those struggling their way out of belief. You can meet many people like you, who are seeking the kind of community you may have left at church. There are so many activities available through CFI. I can’t recommend it enough.

  2. This came at a perfect time for me, and, as usual, you were able to verbalize exactly what I was feeling. Thank you for your validation of my reasons and feelings. And thank you for being the voice of love and goodness in these difficult times. My Jesus will not be in the tomb on Sunday. Alleluia!

  3. This is helpful. I’m a practicing Christian (spiritual director) and Easter just plain bums me out. I was baptized on Easter after feeling pretty coerced into it. I had a grandmother who said you weren’t saved unless you were baptized. At 9 years old, if you care about God, that causes some anxiety. Every year around this time I have to take extra good care of myself. I don’t attend all the services in Holy Week. I try to remember that once the “holy week” is done, we can get back to ordinary time, which I find I resonate so much more with.

    • Teresa, I am sorry that you suffered spiritual abuse. I don’t get why people have to terrorise other people into following their loving God. It just doesn’t compute.

      My story is a little different. My Mom was the Sunday School Superintendent, very much involved in all things churchy, and highly regarded for her commitment and dedication as well as for her kindness and compassion. When I was 11, I confirmed my baptism even though, at that time, I didn’t believe in much of anything. I was more a cultural Christian than a believer. I went through the course of study required and stood up in public in front of a Bishop making promises that meant nothing to me, all so that I wouldn’t embarrass my mother by flunking out of God school. It wasn’t so much that she was pushing or demanding or threatening, she was just expecting in the same way that the entire church community did in that time period.

      • Good point Patricia! In a lot of situations I think that sincere people do not mean to be pushy, demanding and certainly not threatening. They just are convinced that if you do not “do it their way” you are doomed to hell and the Scripture teaches us to help save others and bring them to Christ so they will “have everlasting life”. We are supposed to do that in a loving way, with “the Good News” such that they WANT to come to Jesus. Some folks ignore that part.

        The push from the fire-breathers and the Christian Right wanting the force of law behind them (which was the impetus to marry politicians) take it all to another level and they do become pushy, demanding and threatening. This is the basis for much abuse. Daily.

  4. Ironically, my own spiritual journey parallels the symbolic imagery of the Easter story. At first, I felt dead and buried – crucified for the crime of independent thought.
    But, alas, I rose again from the dead with a deeper dive into a secular version of the reformed theology of forgiveness, broken down barriers and a meaningful life espoused by the itinerant preacher from the hills of Nazareth.
    Blessings my fellow pioneers in the new faith of non-faith. Or….whatever.

  5. I left the church long ago and am able to live my life as I prefer, not worrying about religious authorities who apparently believe that rules are more important than behavior.

    • Barry. Isn’t it good to leave all the fear and anxiety behind? It was the greatest relief of my life to free myself from religion. Delving deep into the history of Christianity set me free.

  6. Thank you, John, I am one who has no place to worship on Easter. In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot recently and all along the lines of what you have written. I really miss Eucharist.

  7. Here’s the thing, if people want other people to remain in a church, maybe they should respond to pleas for help and not ignore people in the community that is that church.

    Two women from this blog are being very faithful to me and they live on the other coast. I am deeply grateful to them. People who give with no strings attached are rare, in my experience.

  8. As always, you seem to know what is in my head and heart. Thank you from the bottom of this bleeding heart liberal, church refugee. It is a strange time after all the years in the front pew but I do believe I am more at peace with what I believe and how I practice that than I ever have been. All those rules seem to have left out the most important thing, people in need, and I think the people in need come before the rules. The ceremonies are fine but not necessary to walk with Christ.
    Peace and Love,

    • Kathleen. We care for people because we have empathy. It’s an outrage that there are churches that preach division between people. They want people to be afraid of each other, to hate one another. What they are doing is boxing in the minds of their followers, separating them from all others, so they will have a captive audience for their lies. They spread the propaganda of authoritarian dictatorship. This is what has happened all through history.

  9. Kathleen, I rejoice for you that you are more at peace with what you believe and how you practice that than you ever have been.

  10. Oddly enough, I have never felt closer to Jesus or more at peace with a decision. The God filter is way overrated IMO. The New Testament especially is a tutorial on how to live, how to study, how to live a life of purpose and service to God and the teachings of Jesus are a clear roadmap.

    Thank you for caring about our feelings at Easter! The love of Jesus and the peace that brings is portable as it turns out.

  11. Case in point. Due to a medical issue, I decided not to make the lengthy drive to my church in another town. Last night I attended a Maundy Thursday service at a church of another denomination and after the service, I was greeted twice with a “are you visiting?” and “we’re glad you’re here and please come again”.

    I just got out of a Good Friday service, at a nearby church (of my own denomination), and no one said a word. Not even hello… However I did my best not to look to conspicuous and I did smile, a lot.

    Just a plea, if you read JPs and are a pastor, please instruct your congregation to meet an unfamiliar face with a Hi and a Welcome. And if you’re a congregant, please make the effort. How well I know that shyness is hard to overcome but it’s a meaningful thing for someone who is apprehensive about being new and in a strange place.

    At any rate, I enjoyed both services and worshipping God. And I’m grateful for the difference Christ has made in my life.

    • I grew up in the Episcopal Church, attending the same church until I left home at 18. Then I stopped going except an occasional holiday. After my mother died in 2006, I decided to attend the same church by myself one morning in her honor. I saw the minister before the service and he did not even acknowledge that I was a new face there. He had performed my mother’s funeral service just a month or so before. I never went back….

      • That’s awful. And inexcusable. And not respectful to the memory of your mom. I know that hurt you greatly.

        There have been times in my life I’ve had to search out a “welcoming” church and, in fact, found them. I have one now. I like community.

        If it’s your desire to be a part of a church family, I know there’s a place for you, a family that will love you. And if that isn’t your desire then, that’s okay too… sometimes the search can be too draining. The Lord steadfastly loves you no matter where you worship Him. 👍

        • Due to a job change, I moved 350 mi away from my town. I found a large Christian church that did lots of outreach, because that’s what i wanted to do. [ I didn’t want to do bible study any more, I wanted to work.]

          I went twice a week for 3 hrs each time, working with needy, homeless & hungry, distributing food, and offering prayer. Out of the 50 volunteers I worked with, 2 were friendly. A few were actually rude to me because I was ‘new’, and they were judgmental. There was strife & pettiness between the church workers. Nevertheless, I persevered. ….4 years later, those same people all know me, ask about me, pray for me, love me. We hang out together. [The reason I stayed was because I knew the Truth was being preached from the pulpit, and I knew there is no difference between those on one side of the table, than the those on the other. I want to be with imperfect, broken people, like me.]

          • Leslie, I liked what you said about service.

            At times I’ve wanted to “persevere” with a church and sometimes not; at times it was easier to just keep on looking. The “work” of the church is challenging as it is; I often thought the backbiting, competitiveness, and contemptuous wasn’t necessary and detracted from the actual mission of the church. IMHO, all that needs to be left at the door (or altar). And I never stayed at a church when the pastor’s message appeared overshadowed, more doctrines focused, when the Spirit didn’t speak to me through a message, or they cratered to their congregants… Some things aren’t for sale.

            Many times I had to check my own motivations also… To get my heart in the right place.

            There are good ones and bad ones. And I’m like you, I like being in the company broken and imperfect people… But dang, they must admit to it. Ha! Right?

            • ….as i get older i am less demanding of the brethren. I forgot to mention that i stuck around this particular chuch body bc they loved Jesus. Talked about Jesus. Depended on Jesus. And never made excuses about the bible. I know people say that behavior is everything and it doesnt matter what u believe. Im not in that camp. I think #1 issue is what you believe. Who you follow.

              • I hear you. And I pretty much think it’s important to act what we believe by emulating Who we follow.

                But we all have off days, a lo of them. Some days I have to stand back and say to myself, who are you and where did that come from?

      • Becky, I hate that that happened. But maybe just maybe the minister had a struggle that morning that we know nothing about. It happens even to ministers. Don’t let that one incident define your experience with that church.

    • Amen! At one point in my life I was looking for a church to worship in/with. I can’t tell you how many churches I visited; walk in, attend the entire time, then ended up walking out without a single person acknowledging I was there! Scratched those churches off the list immediately!

      • Any time you walk into a church as a single person, you are at least 10 times less likely to be acknowledged than if you go as a couple. The church is the most prejudiced place on earth. I have been single most of my adult life and the difference in the way on is treated as a “single” as opposed to as a “couple” is remarkable. Churches need to acknowledge this prejudice and do something about it.

  12. Your church buildings will not protect you if nukes start flying. Your belief systems will not save you if inhuman men in positions of power decide to destroy the planet in favor of their ignorant privilege. And if your version of christianity suggests you’re all going to be raptured up in a cataclysmic armageddon- I hope your version of jesus awaits you on the other side of said bomb blast. Have a great weekend!

    My rights-of-spring celebration is sort-of being shit on by reality.

  13. In the same small town, my paternal Grandfather was a Presbyterian minister. My fraternal grandmother was a staunch Catholic. Never sure what happened during negotiations, but it was decided the children would go to Catholic mass, but wouldn’t go to catechism. Masses at that time were in Latin. What I learned was who wore the nice hats and those who didn’t. Think I’m a whole new category! I know both my parents were dedicated believers, but none of the 4 kids have attended church as adults. Religion wasn’t talked about in our home. Our religious education is non-existent. I am pretty much agnostic–but I am so happy to have found your blog. You are making me think without feeling I am being forced to believe something. Thank you.

  14. thanks but no thanks. i much prefer to be an emigre rather than a refugee. ever moving and growing farther away from mythology, lies and fables, predatory clergy, a church built on greed and power, systematic misogyny, hatred , fear, racism , rage and ignorance. give me a marshmallow peep over zombie jeebus anyday. what possible good can you still find in it?

    • We don’t have to be belong to any denomination or man-made church to know in our souls that we belong to God; this is my comfort and He/She is my strength and hope.

      • Leslie. Has it ever occurred to you that you live in the shadows and preach bad news rather than good news? The above statement is bad news—and not the kind of statement that brings people to God. It runs more people away than it brings, and the few that do come are interested more in saving their skins than they are in following Jesus. It is not about saving skins. It is about following Jesus—and getting your skin saved is a nice side effect.

    • These are the things that gave me nightmares as a child, seeing that the god of the Old Testament was a monster and a child abuser, a failure time and again. And Jesus was this same god. The Bible said so. Then I started reading and studying the history of Christianity, and other religions. That set me free. I was then left with the lingering question: why do people need to believe this stuff? The church has always been a business foremost. Filling people’s minds while it empties their pockets. I learned, I grew up, I moved on. I’m free of fear.

  15. I will not be in church this Easter as I have not been for many years. I will go into the yard with my two dogs and watch them play and enjoy the warmth of the sun. I will drink in the glorious scent of the lilacs and admire the irises and azaleas. I will laugh at the antics of squirrels as they chase each other up and down and around trees. My ears will rejoice at the songs of the many birds as they gather around the feeders. I will lift my eyes to the heavens and thank God that I can worship Him in such a beautiful cathedral.

      • We are in the woods, no dogs, but will do the same thing. Marveling in our wondrous world as it opens up this Easter morning. Nothing like trees blossoming, birds cheeping etc to feel the magnificence and majesty of God. Happy Easter, I wish you all Peace and Love while being held by God.

  16. It’s an age-old problem to feel that God has abandoned us when it is we who’ve turned away from God. If sin exists, it is this: turning away from God. God created us and called us good. God wants us to live in relationship with God and all of creation. Relationships of love bring harmony and peace. We may not see much of this in our world right now. We can change it. We can reconnect with God and others – friends, family, nature, etc. it’s possible and it’s not too late. I won’t attend church tomorrow but I will get out into the day with my wife and I will call my sister, my only remaining immediate family. I will remember God who has loved me since before I was born. I will remember my parents and brother and how fortunate I was to be raised by them. I will remember their love as I remember the incredible love of God. Happy Easter!

  17. Thanks, John. When I was a child we always did a family church attendance and then went out somewhere nice for lunch in our Easter attire. I married a Jewish man in 1986 and we always did Passover observances and Easter with my mother. Since my mother died in 2006, we haven’t done a thing except once attending a sunrise service at the beach. I have been thinking about tomorrow being the first Easter where it has been just me and my husband at the beach for Easter – no kids, friends or family and wondering how it will feel….

  18. It’s been more than a quarter of a century since I left organized religion. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I have been told that not going to church was bad, that I was being led astray by Satan, and that I would lose my faith without the “fellowship of believers”. That has not happened. Far from it. Freed from the confines imposed by the local congregation, my faith has flourished and been re-affirmed over and over again. Organized religion, by its very virtue of being organized, puts limits on not only our faith, but on our concept of God. I cannot worship a limited God.

    And I have found plenty of fellowship along the way, mostly among those that the “church people” look down on. But they are the people who fed me when I was hungry, who have given my son, not one, but three pairs of shoes when the soles separated on his only pair, who sat with me in mourning all through the night after my beloved uncle had died. And I try to do the same for them. My tithe is keeping my adult son from being homeless through chronic unemployment for the last 8 years. (He just found a job 2 weeks ago though 😀 ) My offering is sharing a meal or a drink with a neighbor or giving a ride to a stranger, even though I have only a couple of gallons of gas in the tank. Because when I have no money, someone will give me cash or gas for a ride, someone will share a meal or a drink. Someone will give my son shoes. The same sort of people who followed and found fellowship with Christ, almost 2000 years ago and went on to change the world, by preaching a message of Love.

    “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13.

      • If it spoke to you, it was well worth the writing. Telling me it did so returns the blessing. Thank you. And may your own sojourn be filled with Peace and Love, and your spirit renewed in Joy as well.

        There is much beauty in this world, though I often struggle to see it. This winter seemed particularly dark, but now that it is past, I can see how I helped sustain others and was sustained in return. It has been both humbling and a source of joy and renewal. I am determined to let my heart sing along with the robins, though its voice is rusty and cracked and its song still bittersweet. And even at its finest, it will always be just slightly off-key. But I must not allow that to let me stop the singing. After all, we were also commanded to make a joyful noise, not a perfect melody.

        • Amen, and if it helps, there is another off key singer with a slightly broken heart out there joining in the joyful noise.

    • I understand feeling bitter as it is how I felt for most of this winter. But in looking back, I was not really abandoned, just that the help came from places least expected. I can only hope that such was the case for you (as you are still here to post). And I pray that you do not feel abandoned going forward. But I was letting bitterness overwhelm me when it should inspire me to be more compassionate.

      For I too fail and become a hypocrite; those times when I’m too quick with a sharp tongue, or look away because I don’t want to “get caught up in someone’s drama”. In those moments I too have abandoned “the least of these, my brethren.” In Spirit, I abandoned you, P. Sturm.

      I ask that you forgive me. I too felt lost and nearly alone and did not let the Love I know banish my own fear and bitterness enough to reach out to the ones struggling beside me. I reach my hand out to you now, though. Sit beside me as we fellowship around the table John gives us on his blog. Let us learn a better way together.

      • Once again, Amen. Ami, you done good. I would add that there are a lot of us who are in the same boat or sitting around John’s table, so perhaps we will all help each other, which is what I suspect John is about. Peace and Love,

  19. I was a church “orphan” until I was 38 years old. I could have counted the number of times I had been to a church service on two hands.

    Then I felt called to look deeper into the bible and churches, and my seeking led me to the place I least expected to end up, which was in the Catholic Church.

    What was a stumbling block but also a fascination for me was that the Catholic Church said that when the priest says the words of consecration at Mas, “This is my Body…” etc. that the bread and wine become in the real Body and Blood of Christ.

    I did finally accept that on faith and had many marvelous experiences in the first couple of years after my conversion.

    I believe what the Catholic Church teaches about itself, that it is the Church that Christ is calling us all to belong to. That it is the Church built on Peter and the Apostles.

    None of us has to be orphans.

    • This is where we start from such different points, Joe. You say none of us has to be orphans. But a core precept of my faith is this: None of us ever were to begin with! We are all God’s children, every single one of us, simply because we are human. And just as P. Sturm is counted among the least of these, so am I, and so are you, Joe. For we all sin and come up short again and again, but yet He calls us all His brethren.

      As you celebrate this Holy Weekend in the manner your faith calls you to, may you feel that bond that binds us all to Him, as best we understand Him. May you grant to others the freedom to follow where their own faith leads, remembering that there was a day when the vilified religious minority were those whose footsteps you follow today. But above all, may you too be blessed with the Love, Peace and Joy He promises us all. Because of that Love, I sit here with my heart leaking all over my face again. May you have a Happy and Joyous Easter, Joe Catholic.

  20. Sometimes I feel like we’ve told you all about ourselves and our journey (husband and me), and you write based on that. It’s eerie! This piece particularly resonated, and we thank you for the insight, comfort, and peace.

  21. Great article …. I wonder if I had received this kind of treatment from my brothers and sisters in Christ all those years ago that I now might still believe in the God of the Bible.

  22. Thank you for your blog. It has helped me more than you will ever know.

    This will be my first Easter without a church service in years. I played the piano and directed the choir for a small church that I loved. For a variety of reasons, including the pastor’s outspokenness regarding politics and my own changing beliefs, I resigned my positions and left the church. I have no desire to go elsewhere.

    Tomorrow morning during the time I would normally be at a Sunrise Service, I will be going on a run to the local lake to watch the sun come up. It will be different, but I look forward to it.

    • I was reading your comment and it made me think. What a wonderful thing to know what your gifts and talents are for service; I mean, to be a worship leader, that’s awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever known really what my gifts are… I’ve taken those tests and all. Still haven’t a clue.

      And I wish you peace on your run to the lake tomorrow. I know the Lord will love and look forward to meeting you there!

      As they say in my neck of the woods, “Life is better at the lake!”

      • Thanks for your reply. I don’t know that I have “gifts” or that “gifts” are really necessary. If you want to serve, serve. The church has to be cleaned and maintained. Grounds need to be kept. Food has to be made at times. I’ve always thought that the people who did those things were as important as anyone on the platform.

        I woke up to a rainy morning and a dog who was confused as to why we were getting up so early to go out in the rain. We went back to bed, and I must admit, it was pretty nice.

    • Thank you for sharing your situation Susan A. Tomorrow is my first Easter in years where I will not be attending church either. The church because it left me with it’s political correctness. I worship God and feel closer to him by not attending church. I have been a leader in my church for years. I’m now perhaps a Church Refugee and Religious Orphan. But I’m true now to myself and God.

      • I understand, Steve. For the first time in years, I’m not sitting behind a pastor with whom I disagree or feeling like I’m going against my own conscience to be in church. It does feel different not to be in church, but I haven’t had more peace in years.

        • We feel the same but in reverse. My husband, who is a retired minister and I, are not sitting in front of a group of parishioners who are judging him, not based on the bible but based on their politics. It is liberating not to have to deal with that, is it not. I am happier in my skin than I have ever been. I wish you a Happy Easter, Peace and Love.

          • Happy Easter to you as well. My dad was a pastor, so I’ve seen both sides. I didn’t judge my pastor on my politics, but on his. His views seemed to conflict with what I have been taught and what I have read in the Bible since childhood, and they were coming from the pulpit. Much of what Mr. Pavlovitz writes hits home. I couldn’t understand the church’s support of Donald Trump when for years I was taught that the behaviors he exhibits are wrong. When I started to examine the double standards I couldn’t deal with the hypocrisy. I am 46 years old, went to a Christian school, had a dad who lived and died a pastor, have been in church my whole life, and am now questioning everything I believed.

            I’m sure you have had some of the same thoughts and feelings, regardless of which side you are on politically, Kathleen. I wish you and your husband the best, and especially wish that you will continue to feel the peace you have now. For me, peace is worth more than just about anything.

            • I have children who are much like you, they watched the church do a number on their dad, who would not bring politics into the pulpit, who believes in what Jesus taught, wanted to help the least without strings and the good folk fought him for 40 years. This became more prominent when the moral majority took over and by the way we live in a red state. I don’t think politics should be in the pulpit and so good on you for speaking up and following your heart and mind. Kudos,

              • Kathleen, thank you for your supportive and kind words. Kudos to you and your husband as well for keeping politics out of the pulpit. Pastors have every right to have political views, but I agree-the pulpit is not the place for them.

                Sandi, amen. Well said.

            • You are not alone Susan A, many in this nation are questioning everything we believed the church stood for and how what Jesus taught and the vocal support and defense of someone like Trump fits into that. Sure, God uses flawed people but there was not even a message of carrying out God’s will or what the mission of the church has always supposedly been in the flawed personage of Trump. There was just nothing but the bigotry, racism, division, fear and “them against us” Republican mentality and Christians not only bought it (which is their right) but they trumpeted their support and made others uncomfortable by bringing it into the church. I will not be a hypocrite and sit in church pretending this is all okay.

  23. Thank you John and thanks to all for the kind and understanding comments. After reading all of them, I feel a bit less lonely this Easter Weekend. Wish I knew some of you personally!

  24. For the first time in many years I do feel sad not to be able to attend mass and take part in the Eucharist on Easter. My first husband left me and I have been the one that was punished and made to feel unwelcome. They said I had to have the marriage annulled before my children with my current husband could be baptized. I tried, but the man refused. This made me leave the church because I was excluded due to another persons decision. I truly miss the church but cannot attend an institution where my family and I are not welcome. All because one man didn’t want to be married to me any longer.

    • Sending you a hug. If you and your family were here with me, we would certainly go to services, and you would be welcomed. Not sure why others want to make it difficult to honor and worship the Lord; it’s not right. Peace be to you this day.

    • Molly, I want you to know that you are not alone. I went through the same exact thing 38 years ago. I would not sign the annulment papers because to me I was signing my name to a lie. I do miss the church but I do not have the faith to accept some of their dogma. I still regret that me and my wonderful husband of the last 35 years are not married in the eyes of the church but I cannot change who I am. Marriage is still a holy Sacrament to me and one that I will always honor.

      I grew up in the church and many family members and wonderful friends are Catholic. I was with the Church for 35 years and I do still miss many things.
      Life goes on and I still try to live by the 10 Commandments and the “Golden Rule”.

      My first husband walked away from me and his children after 10 years of marriage. We lived in a small town and a man turning his back on his children was rare. Since everyone knew everyone’s business I was quite isolated. It took me almost 3 years before I felt worthwhile again. But I did learn to never let anyone or anything have the power to diminish who I was again.

      I have so many blessings in my life – my husband, my family, my friends.

      I do know, from my family, that there are wonderful priests out there who would give you compassionate counsel. The difficult part would be find the right one.

      The hole in our hearts will never disappear but will grow smaller.

      Peace, Love and Happiness

    • As long as you commit to raising your children Catholic, you should be able to have them baptized in the Catholic Church. Check with another priest about this. I couldn’t find anything that would preclude it.

      The annulment would be necessary for you to receive Holy Communion again, but that wouldn’t affect your children.

      The issue is that you entered into a new relationship, while in the eyes of the Church you were and are still married to your first husband. You should have seen if an annulment were possible and if so, gone through that process and remained faithful to your marriage until granted a decree of nullity (even though your husband was faithless and at fault).

      You may be able to get the annulment. And you are still welcome to go to a Catholic Church (but should not receive Communion). It would be good for your children and for you too.

      • Joe, she didn’t need you to preach to her. Have you no sense of what other people go thru. I suspect she knows all this, but no you couldn’t resist preaching to her and looking down on her because she got married without an annulment. You did not read what she said. Please Joe, quit inflicting more damage by your piety.

        • I’m not “inflicting damage.” There could be a way back for her, and she’s in error that her children cannot be baptized in the Church.

  25. Thank you for your words. I had always been active in the church. Then life happened. I became alone and homeless after a marriage of 26 years and an illness that has been so misunderstand. At first, the church and it’s people were very helpful. But over time that all changed. I felt like an outsider and looked like someone who didn’t belong. I have wanted to go to church but am afraid. This article definitely resignated with me. It helped me to know that God loves me no matter what.

    • Hi Amy. What kind of illness would be misunderstood by a church?

      In any event, not all churches are like the one that rejected you. If you would like to go back to church, you could search locally for a church that is not like the one that abused you.

      Alternatively, you and a group of friends can start your own church in the privacy of your home as the earliest Christians did in Judea. There is no Christian rule anywhere in the Bible that says a church has to be a commercial building with a steeple. The first churches were home and cave churches.

      Here is a resource I created to help people like you find a loving church that does not abuse its members. Just use the listed items as a checklist when you go talk to the ministers or preachers at prospective churches. If any pastor refuses to answer all of these listed questions, or tries to deflect you by talking about another subject, just leave abruptly and never come back. Here is the safe link to my list. Just click on it, and it will take you straight there:

      https://faith17983.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/escape-from-abuse-at-your-church/

      Happy Easter to you!!!

      • Hi Charles!

        I have fibromyalgia along with depression and anxiety. I was diagnosed with it in 2006 but had had symptoms for several years prior. I worked for many years, had a family, came from a farm where we always had a garden and animals. After my diagnosis, when the pain and fatigue reduced my work abilities, I was considered lazy and that it was all in my head. This included my own family. I was thrown away like an old shoe.

        I turned to the church, which helped me a great deal. But that soon changed. I think they were seeing me as too needy, maybe. I don’t know. Maybe I was. But I was dealing with so much that I needed someone or something to turn to for help. I still do because my illness is progressive and other illnesses emerge. It’s kind of sad when the medical community doesn’t even understand or believe.

        Thanks for responding and sharing your list.

        • Oh, Amy! I understand some of what you are going through. Fibromyalgia is one of those invisible conditions. Because others can’t see the pain and fatigue, many assume, as you said, that you are just lazy. Even if they are willing to accept that what you are experiencing is real, they find it hard to accept its unpredictability. They don’t understand how you can be relatively well one day and barely able to move the next. I had the great good fortune to find an excellent doctor many years ago who actually listens to me and is constantly looking for ways to help me. As you no doubt know, there is no cure for fibromyalgia and few effective medications. You also walk a fine line between to much activity and too little. Stress makes it worse, and you are clearly stressed. If you have someone in your life who also suffers from fibro, you can be great support for each other. If not, keep reminding yourself that what you have is real and you are not lazy. Do not judge yourself by other people’s opinions. Remember that your real friends will not judge you harshly. Those who do aren’t true friends and their opinions don’t matter.

          • Thanks Joyce. It has been a big struggle. I was fortunate enough to find a new man, whom I married, who tries really hard to understand and feels bad when I don’t feel well.

            I don’t have any friends except on Facebook. I don’t go out much.

            Thanks again!

        • Hi Amy. I know several people with fibromyalgia, including my sister-in-law. It is a real disease and it is very hard to cope with. You have people who understand here and have seen its effects. May I ask the denomination of the church that helped for a while and then quit? I am always hearing from political conservatives that the government should withdraw from helping sick people and let the churches do it instead. This is often followed by a statement that government has usurped the traditional role of the church in “helps” for all sorts of sick people and other needy people. Not even once have I ever heard about or encountered a church that paid all the medical bills for a very sick person who was or was not a church member. I maintain that the budgets of most American churches are too small to help with anything but the smallest of needs for sick people—and many cannot or will not afford even the small things. So, if government bails out on needy people, those Jesus most loved and personally identified with will be dying in the streets.

          • I agree with your statement. I would like to add that I do not believe that the government has usurped this role of the church, but that the church has abandoned it and the government has stepped in. If I had to rely upon my church (a big church with many wealthy members) to do what the government has done for me and my son who is both mentally and physically disabled, I would have lost my home and been on the streets years ago! I want to add that I also have fibromyalgia, and the medications almost killed me! Fibromyalgia has been the least of my problems in the last 8years.

  26. All you ladies remember this one basic fact on Easter Sunday. A promise was fulfilled on this day.

    Eve may have sinned first, but God gave her a promise—that her seed (Jesus) would eventually crush the serpent (Satan). And to whom did Jesus first appear after his resurrection—the women. Coming full-circle achieved. Promise kept.

    • The circle was closed because of a woman named Mary, The Blessed Virgin, who said “yes” to God.

      The Magnificat (Mary’s Prayer)

      My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
      my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
      for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
      From this day all generations will call me blessed:
      the Almighty has done great things for me,
      and holy is his Name.

      He has mercy on those who fear him
      in every generation.
      He has shown the strength of his arm,
      he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

      He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
      and has lifted up the lowly.
      He has filled the hungry with good things,
      and the rich he has sent away empty.

      He has come to the help of his servant Israel
      for he remembered his promise of mercy,
      the promise he made to our fathers,
      to Abraham and his children forever.

      https://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/magnificat.htm

  27. If anyone is interested, I have a new post up on my blog. It deals with the American Family Association (AFA) and their recent creation of a national “Anti-Christian Bigotry Map” in an attempt to stab back at the BIG HURT the Southern Poverty Law Center has put on them by officially designating them as a “hate group.” You may read all about it at the following safe link on my blog:

    https://faith17983.wordpress.com/

    Happy Easter to everyone!!! Did anyone get a chocolate bunny wabbit?

    • They’re pro-life. That’s really all they need to be to be attacked by the anti-Bible left.

      Worldly definition of “bigotry”–believing Paul actually meant what he said.

      • Not all of us are overly impressed by Saul/Paul’s misogynistic writings. Some of us have the effrontery to think we are just as good as men and just as capable of making our own decisions. We are right about those things.

        • Joyce, I am a feminist and I don’t consider Paul to be misogynistic. Misogynists, especially those unable to read koiné have interpreted it that way.

          Paul’s work has been translated according to a gynophobic agenda, which only is yet more evidence that the doctrine of inerrancy only applies to the original autographs and not to translations.

          Paul was quite the first-century feminist. Ouch for the anachronism. In Acts, women have equal roles. They run churches. The Greek makes that clear. In Romans, it’s clear Priscilla runs the church in her home and Junia is greeted as an apsotle among the apostles. Gal 3:28 within context makes it pretty danged clear that Paul is as egalitarian as it gets. Husbands are instructed to love their wives as Christ loves the church is radical stuff in a culture that clearly saw woment as chattel.

          I could go on and on. Anyway, I don’t think Paul was misogynist. His interpeters until recently have been, though.

          • Definitely food for thought, Gloriamarie. Thank you. Perhaps I have fallen into the trap of not looking past that “wives submit yourselves to your husbands” stuff. Of course, I did. You are absolutely right about the further direction to husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Unfortunately, that part is often ignored and has been through the ages. Maybe Paul isn’t an appropriate target, just those jerks who have kept women down for centuries and continue to do so. Thanks for making me think.

  28. Good Job John , Addressing the real issues of life , the heart of mankind ,
    as we go to and from church we all have our own reasons from the heart of why.
    Yes Why?
    this is something we ,you, i have to address each and every day as I hear the news, see whats changing around me and changing culture.
    But the Bible is real Clear about church , For the Building of the body , Not evangilism . Church is for uplifting saints, reasurrance, bond s of unity in christ jesus and worshiping the savior together with one mind, one accord , one purpuse .
    Unbelievers who come in are always welcome. alway s feel out of place. and not part of the fold, group, club or what ever you call it.
    OUR Job as believers is to Extend the right hand of love, acceptance, fellowship to all no matter how they look, how they smell, how they act , or how discusting the appeal to you or me. God is Love , Humility is lowlyness and full acceptance.
    I think the hardest thing you will ever do is to embrace, hug, accept, love someone who is different, off, odd, or not to YOUR Standard . That is what Love is.
    ONLY Thru a relationship with Jesus Christ can you or I fully let our guard s down to embrace change, and others as our self.
    Thats right Race to Race, Language to Language , Odd to Odd , Full Acceptance requires change on our part .
    Love , Acceptance, Humility thru a full Knowledge that we , I , you are that same way to them. others
    Jesus Breaks Down Barriers and Allows us , you, me, I , to accept fully.
    May God Open our eyes so we see Truth Clearly and embrace people others for Salvation thru Jesus Christ , leading other to Christ , living so other s see YOU belong to Jesus Christ , Seeing that nothing last except the word , Bible , Truth, Love of God sent to man to forgive, break the barrier , the separator for a restoration of Gods Holy church Thru Holiness, only thru Holiness

  29. Resurrection – Brother, Give Us A Word
    Inbox
    x

    SSJE via mail98.atl71.mcdlv.net
    5:00 AM (4 hours ago)

    to me
    Resurrection
    Wherever in your life is victory; there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is joy, there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is wonder, there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is resurrection, there is Christ calling you to follow him out of death into his larger and more glorious life.

    -Br. James Koester
    Society of Saint John the Evangelist

  30. Until I read this, I was OK with my loss of church family. Easter weekend and I had nothing but yard work to do. I talk with God daily, and I study His Word. But I haven’t picked up an instrument in more than 3 years ,and i miss that most of all .

  31. I so wanted to go to church on Easter Sunday. I bought a new outfit and made plans, but the pain of the indifference I have encountered and the extremely painful experience of our last visit to church at Christmas. We don’t go to church often because my son is in the final stages of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and sleeps at least 12 hours a day. When we went to the Christmas pageant last year, we sat close to the front with my son in his wheelchair in the aisle. Although we had done this many times before, we were politely asked by a female usher to move to another spot that is designated for persons in wheelchairs (although there is no seat for their companions. When we were moved, and someone was going to find me a chair (our church has fixed pews), a well known church members proclaimed that she could not see with us seated in that spot. I told the usher that it was “okay” and we moved to a different spot. Ironically on Christmas Eve, we sat in our usual spot close to the front (with my son’s chair in the outside aisle). this woman and her entire family came in and sat right in front of us and did not acknowledge us at any time during the service.

    If this was the only problem I had encountered this past year, I could shrug it off as it being “just one person”, but I live in the Bible belt and I have had many church members criticize my political posts on my FB page because I do not support Mr. Trump. Apparently one is only entitled to their political opinion if it agrees with the majority of the church!

    Almost a year ago I let my Sunday School director and teacher know that my son’s health is failing and we won’t be in church much. Over this past year, I have received two notes from my Sunday School teacher and a total of three from two different class members. I have received no phone calls and no visits. (When my son was hospitalized in November, we did receive visits from the church staff and our Minister and his wife did visit to deliver a gift from one of my son’s former Sunday School teachers.)

    For the past nine years I have taken care of both my parents during their final illnesses and now I am the soul caretaker of my son, who is both physically and mentally disabled. In other words, I cannot leave him at home alone to even take a walk around the block. Since November, I have had some help from hospice, but it has not been very reliable. My point is that I have not had any offers of help from any members of my church. (My Dad was also a member of this church and I had meals delivered and help provided during that time. I have to say that as uncomfortable as it is to accept help, it was nice to have, but I also feel guilty that I have been on the receiving end so much in the recent past.) I would like to add that I have been a SS teacher for children and youth and then I assisted in Children’s Choir and summer retreats. Having been a single mother of a special needs child and having an extremely demanding profession, I did not have as much free time as others.

    Frankly, the sting of indifference has been so great that I am just hanging on until my son passes. This is the only church he has known and I do want to have his memorial service at this church. Also, I am in no position to find a new church.

    When I see posts from my SS members of their mission trips to Haiti and South Sudan, on one hand I am jealous that I cannot give in this way, and on the other hand, I think, why do I feel that they should meet the needs in the church as well as in “the world”?

    I am hoping that once my son is gone that I can find a church home where I am welcomed and accepted. Am I asking too much?

    • Marsha M, As the wife of a retired minister, you aren’t asking too much. You should not have to ask. My heart is breaking for you because it should not be like that. You should be cradled in the loving hands of your congregation. This is one of the things my husband fought all his career. Somehow it’s wonderful to help the heathen babies in other countries but not so wonderful to help the faithful or otherwise in this country. You have my prayers for you and your son. Please know that not everyone out there, in the church or out of the church, are like that. I hope you can find peace and a new home. Peace and Love,

  32. I abandoned the Roman Catholic Church more than a quarter century ago because of their pathetic treatment of women. The subsequent pedophile priest scandals, along with other irregularities, only justifies by separation. I feel so much better now. I’m more spiritual. Without the brutal confines of a critically-structured religion, I’ve been able to grow more fully and happily. Other sects of Christianity (especially evangelical Protestant), as well as Judaism and Islam, convinced me long ago they are violent, bigoted enterprises that have been the source of such extreme human pain and agony.

    Going to church, synagogue, whatever is a waste of time. Some of the worst people I’ve ever known have been devoutly religious. Aside from all that nonsense, Easter in America has metamorphosed into nothing more than a parade of high fashion and affluence. Who needs to visit a supposedly holy place to see that shit?

    • Same here Alejandro. I left the Roman Catholic Church in 2004. I tried Methodist for a while but I dropped that after 2008. I believe that my experience with the RCC has actually helped and hindered my journey of self-discovery after I was 17. Much like a plant that outgrows its pot I eventually became root-bound especially after 2 years study in the RCC Memphis Diocese’s Institute for Liturgy and Spirituality. I am now free to grow. I may one day go back to the RCC but with the Vatican and the Notre Dame school being increasingly at odds about “tradition” I don’t see this happening anytime soon.

    • What treatment of women is “pathetic” Alejandro?

      I receive the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass. How can it get any more spiritual than that?

      • Seriously? I have to explain this to you? Women comprise more than half of the world’s estimated 1 billion Roman Catholics, yet they’re still not allowed to advance within the Church beyond the position of nun. The RCC still refuses to allow women into the priesthood to conduct mass and other sacred ceremonies, such as weddings and baptisms. There are no women serving in roles as bishops, cardinals, etc. I remember the heated debate about allowing girls to serve on the altar; positions that had always been reserved strictly for boys. I should know. I was an altar boy in the late 1970s.

        The RCC also forbids birth control and certainly forbids abortion, even in extreme cases such as rape, incest or a life-threatening situation. Unless they’ve changed, I believe those remain steadfast policies.

        Aside from the convent, female congregants do a lot of organizing and other clerical work for such events as bake sales and festivals. They also do much of the cooking and cleaning for these events. Male congregants also do a lot of work; more labor-intensive type stuff (which is not to say cooking for a 500 people isn’t labor-intensive). Meanwhile, the priests stand off to the side in their designer gowns, overseeing the flurry of activity, issuing orders, and taking credit for everything that goes right.

        I don’t know what the “Body and Blood of Christ at mass” has to do with it. But, if you need to know anything else that’s pretty much blatantly obvious (e.g. where the sun rises), please consult the Internet or an encyclopedia.

  33. Thanks, again, John
    Most of the comments above are by people ‘on their own’ spiritually. This is such a waste. We might ‘believe’ on our own, but we can only grow in love, with others. To be alone on a traditional day of religious community is very hard. It brings to mind, not only the faults of that community, but of the lack of any community. The challenge for those of us who have left, is to find others with which we can grown and share. If we don’t do this, all of creation is the lesser.

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