When a Church Is Unable

If you have experienced church hurt or faith shifting and you want a safe place to land consider joining with a private group of rejects wondering and wandering – my Front Porch Facebook Group HERE.

I sat out on the front porch of my parents’ church parsonage for the last time this summer. We watched from our perch on the front porch swing as they pulled the moving truck up to the curb and began to load all the boxes we had packed. They wrapped furniture in fabric and we found our hearts wrapped in sorrow. It was the end of 12 and a half years on that front porch stoop. This is what happens when a church is unable

Being Able

I often discuss how essential it is we as human beings be ABLE. There is something to be said for being able.

I remember having a conversation once with a church woman who admitted she and her spouse were not willing to be ABLE. They believed they were too old, too set in their ways and beliefs. Really what she meant was they were too RIGHT. Because they were not willing to be ABLE, to be teachable, to confront their prejudice and bigotry and learn new ways of doing church – they set about destroying the evangelical gathering they would abandon.

If they couldn’t have the church on their own terms, then they would make sure the pastor couldn’t have it either.


I watched the sunset on that church building for a final time.  I paused in between taking pictures and thought about all the babies we had dedicated and baptized here. I remembered kneeling in the church aisle watching my brother get married. I thought about the time dad let me tell my church story from the pulpit and how my story received weird reactions. Instead of hearing the truth behind my path they wanted to know how I felt about gays. They were like a repeated lesson on missing the point.

It’s one of the token ways churched-folk determine your worth: where you stand on cultural issues and where you go/or not to church.

And so we sat on the front porch stoop as a family for the last time. We wept and laughed. We told stories of what we had done here. We signed our names on the banister. The kids climbed in the tree in the front yard for the last time. This tree which had been an accidentally transplanted sapling when my parents first moved into the house more than a decade ago had become a towering beauty. It opened wide its branches to children learning to climb. It listened to their stories. It sheltered the front stoop from weather and afternoon sun. It stood firm in too many storms. That not so little tree had become a symbol of home for us and our children – my parents’ grandchildren.

When they first moved into the parsonage there had been only one grandchild, our oldest daughter. Since that day my brother had celebrated a wedding beneath those branches and we had all brought eight total babies onto that stoop.

church storm watermarked

When a Church is Unable

What I have witnessed for this past decade as a pastor walked a church to its graveis a people who were not willing to be ABLE. I witnessed church women and church men chew up a man God called and they called into their midst because in the end they weren’t really wanting a leader. In truth they were wanting a maintenance man who could keep the property from crumbling beneath them.

Some churches, some denominations have had the foundations around them crumbling and faulty and shifting for decades. They are UNABLE to really see and then believe what they see as true, and then make the changes necessary to do what needs to be done to be healthy, whole, and true into the world.

Community without truth is artificial harmony. (Pete Wilson)

Instead they systematically and intentionally eviscerate the heart of anyone who shares a message they do not want to hear.

Time will tell how UNABLE some denominations and church gatherings have become and how ineffectual they are in the lives of the people they have been called to serve. Our children will tell the tales of lack.

My own faith story has been touched (not in a good way) the last decade by watching how a church community navigates a pastor. I do not believe this story is growing in isolation – I believe the truth of this one church and this one denomination is the story of many.

If we would have eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand the message being shown to the churches.

My faith journey has been informed watching how denominational leaders go about the business of Christianity/churchianity. Hint: it pays for those who play the game well and look the part and speak the denominational tongue.

American Evangelical Christianity is a space of big wealth for some, but a place of destitution for many others.

It broke my heart to witness the manner in which the small circles of churched men and women go about being UNABLE and how they resent anyone who tries.

Thankfully the doors of that one ineffectual church were permanently closed. Ineffectual meaning – to lack the ability. I will be honest after all the years of tears – I celebrated the closing. I rejoiced that this one can no longer do harm.

There is one less denominational horror show murdering pastors and communities in the name of God and church community out there in the world.


Final Thoughts: New Beginnings

In the end my parents’ front porch swing would be taken down and packed into the back of a trailer we would haul home here to Baltimore. When we pulled into the driveway after our long journey north and began the process of unloading all the remnants of my parents’ downsizing it hit me hard.

Mr. Hubby pulled the porch swing off the trailer and carried it onto our front porch and my heart wept. Because the ending of eras is painful.

I had them hang it where I can see it from my office work space.

Just yesterday I listened to our children tell stories with neighborhood children pushing the swing high above the porch floor boards. It will go on to be cherished here with many new memories and conversations, but the ending of things still hurts.

Releasing places you have known as HOME is hard.

I look forward to many hours spent on our own porch – carrying forth blessings from the past into the present and future as we learn to live life in the overflow.

We as individuals and families learn to be OK and to grow and to move forward even when the church is unable.

There is something to be said for being ABLE.


During the month of October I will be doing a series on Confronting My Church Wounds – come back to visit as I tell the tale eight years and a lifetime in the making. ♥ You can sign up below so you don’t miss it.

If you have experienced church hurt or faith shifting and you want a safe place to land consider joining with a private group of rejects wondering and wandering – my Front Porch Facebook Group HERE.


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