Writing for Five Minute Friday on the prompt “Community”:


The other day I read it: another blogger telling of a certain dark part of her life in which she “hid” herself “away.” And I said it to Husband: “Maybe I’m hiding.” And he smiled: slow, knowing smile, just looked at me with that smile, and that was the clearest reply. Drawing tears.

Yes, hiding. From community.

Ever since that night. When we stood before that group we’d called our community and (supposedly) had the nerve (no nerve for me, only jangled “nerves”) to “make a motion that the congregation recommend to the board that they rescind” a decision. A decision unethical, unbiblical, violating their own by-laws, unjust, and cruel.

And the place turned into a bad dream like swirling fog, recalling “Vanity Fair” in Pilgrim’s Progress. And a group who ordinarily sat silent and asked no questions before voting unanimous yes to every board decision… now was erupting in bizarre behavior and noisy chaos.

Nothing from that point on happened by Roberts’ procedures, except what we tried to do… And no one in leadership called for order…

No one had ever told us the secret rule. It wasn’t written down anywhere: You don’t. do. that. here.

But I knew. Somehow I’d known beforehand. That’s why I had trembled all day. Called friends, enlisted prayer. Couldn’t eat. Prayed, “Lord, I can’t do this!” repeatedly. “Lord, I don’t want to do this.” “Please take this cup…”

Now here I stood, thinking of Luther saying, “Here I stand.” And silently praying forgiveness for these people I’d thought so well of, and who were now thinking and speaking so horribly of us, for “Lord, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

We had breathed on a house of cards. We had peeled back a strip of pretty latex paint and exposed a bit of leprous wall (Lev 14:34-41) — just a little part of it — and panic now seized a community who clung to an illusion of near perfection.

I pause.

My hands are shaking. My heart’s been pounding. And now the tears are threatening. My timer says I have more time, yet I feel frozen in it.

There is more to write… So much more to write…

That night, he bent sideways toward me, murmured just loud enough that I could hear above the cacophony, “I want to leave before this is over.” And I nodded, grim. Definitely. My bones felt chilled. I wouldn’t imagine the crowd in the narthex after meeting dismissal.

We slipped out of our seats while a previous item’s vote count was being awaited (unanimous, I was guessing…) And having gotten stuck with a pew near the front — last place we’d wanted, but all seats behind filled or spoken for when we’d arrived— we now filed to the back to where the escape exit was, back, back, past pew after pew, sea of strange-familiar faces, flushed red with anger, or wet with tears, or deflated and limp, or twisted with the tension of dealing with this phenomenon of someone actually questioning, of even supposing leadership could ever sin or even err.

“Don’t we trust our pastor? Don’t we trust our deacons?” she had sprung up and exclaimed, loud. It echoed in my head.

And later, only later, I read it, this sign of a groupthink group: “If you bring up a problem, you become the problem…”

And so the following Tuesday, when I knew said pastor would be elsewhere, I slipped back into that quaint country church, endured the pretend-it-never-happened small-talk with the secretary whose office I had to pass, and went to that room where we’d gathered around that table, women on Sunday mornings, class shrunk twice because of social upheavals that no one, including myself, had questioned as the odd things they were… and stripped it bare of all my things, of the hearts on the corkboard, of the little feminine décor items that said, “We’re a female community…”

Welcome no longer. Husband also, welcome no longer, but he’d already cleared his room…

and I put the envelope on the pastor’s desk.

And climbed the steps and left the building, and the door swung shut behind me. On community.

And yet…

I think I’m going.

To a ladies’ luncheon in a church so different and yet far too similar…

And to Allume in October.

And linking. To the communities below.

We all long for

safe community.

The safety lies in Christ.

Okay, I really cheated this time.

Time spent writing: I have no idea. I got frozen amid the 5 minutes, and stalled at later points, and, timer no longer ticking further on, I just kept writing.

Time spent on finding links and photos: several minutes

Time deciding whether to publish: Over an hour. No, make that two.

Time to publish: I asked husband.

Overdue, he said.

I have blogged for years now, and never broke that rule of silence. (Why?!) There is more to write. Much more. About a long-repeating pattern of church abuse, hidden… a disconnect from scripture, from Christ Himself, true head of the church — and a few seemingly insignificant weak spots that make many now-decent churches vulnerable to becoming abusive, even cultic, more than they would ever guess…

Here and there, in weeks to come, now and then, bit by bit, by God’s help, I hope to share what I’ve experienced and learned, what I know I need to share, what others need to know. Thank you for grace. And prayers?

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14 thoughts on “Community is What I Fear

  1. Visiting from five minute Friday. Standing up for what is right in a community so quiet, so rigid, so unquestioning is one of the most difficult things ever. The unwritten rules that happen there, the reaction is what we fear. But remember, it is God’s standard we are called to uphold. It is God’s rules we are to follow, not man’s…no matter how hard it might be. When we hold to what He has called us to do, He will be faithful and we will find community with Him. And that is what matters.

    1. Oh, thank you so much for this encouragement, Erin. And you are so right: Our most important, and most blessed “community” is with Him. God bless you richly!

  2. A very courageous post, Sylvia, about a very courageous stand!

    I find myself becoming increasingly convinced that anything worth writing is potentially controversial.

    That is a very uncomfortable conclusion for me to draw, because I don’t like controversy, and can easily become discouraged when people I respect strongly disagree with me on something close to my heart.

    Yet, if all I ever do is reinforce what readers already believe, why is my voice even needed? Shouldn’t I challenge readers to view God’s truth from a fresh perspective? Shouldn’t we challenge belief systems that don’t conform to God’s word?

    Thank you for the encouragement of such a courageous post!

  3. I’m so glad if this actually encouraged someone else, Joe. Thank you for encouraging me. It took me a long time to click that “publish” button, not knowing how this post would be received. It certainly seemed at odds with most of the linked-up writings.

    I don’t like controversy, either, especially controversy just for its own sake. And I dislike conflict more. But you are so right: If my writing only reinforces what a mass of readers, especially fellow writers, already think, “why is my voice even needed?” And holding back on truth because it doesn’t fit “the flow” is copping out, isn’t it? God bless!

  4. Sylvia, thanks for being honest. I have been hurt by ‘community’ too. It’s hard. But there is hope and joy on the other side and I pray you find that as I have. God knows and is at work. Be encouraged and keep being honest! We need more honesty from people like you!

    1. Dear Ruth,
      Thank you so much for kind encouragement. I am sorry you have suffered this way, too, but am glad to hear you have found “joy on the other side.” God definitely IS at work, and I believe we’ll find, more and more over time, that these hurts and difficulties have good purpose, both to equip us for His service, and to bless us personally.

  5. Oh, yes. So much disconnect in the church – from Scripture, from Christ. We’ve become complacent, blindly following false teachers instead of hungering for truth. Thank you for taking a stand, and thank you for sharing it with us. It is truly, truly appreciated.
    Praying for you.

    1. Ah, Mary, prayers are something I appreciate more than anything. Thank you. You are right about our becoming complacent. In our concern for people’s needs and our zeal for evangelism, I believe our focus has shifted a bit too much to horizontal instead of vertical (God-ward). So glad to see you express a passion for truth, too. Hope you get some “catch-up” time this weekend, with needed R & R!

  6. I read this today, and I felt that same hurt in the pit of my stomach that I felt years ago when I walked away from a church that previously had meant everything to me. I know where you are, how you feel, and I hurt for you deeply! I left, put my house up for sale, moved far away, and I hid for years without entering a church door. I thought no community would be better than risking pain again. But I did, and so glad that I did. Because having no one just left me a lonely, dried up prune with a bitter heart. It’s takes courage to stand up for what is right, but it takes a close walk with God to walk away without bitterness. Thank you for writing — and for going past your 5 minutes! It was well worth the read!!!!

  7. And thank you for this, Cora. Thank you so much. I see we are sisters in many ways. You give me more confidence of finding that flesh-and-blood group fellowship on an ongoing basis. God bless you as you walk on with Him.

  8. Sylvia–two things:
    1) So glad you ‘cheated’–the Holy Spirit put that fire in there and it had to come out.
    2) THANK YOU–there are hundreds of stories like yours that must be told–if for no other reason to give people courage to listen to their ‘knower’ when they know in their spirit something is wrong.
    I look forward to hearing more about the new life and freedom God is continuing to bring!

    1. And I’m so thankful you stopped by here and commented, Jody. Yes, evidently there are (sadly) thousands of those stories, and just enough of them breaking out of silence might help influence change and prevent future wrong, and bring much healing. This “bad” experience has utterly overflowed with good as well. He makes all things beautiful in His time. God bless you!

  9. Dear Sylvia,

    I have become increasingly aware of this groupthink you talk about and I love your line

    If you mention a problem, you become the problem, ah, yes, I do remember George Owell and it is way past 1984!

    You have only hinted to me of your struggles as you so adroitly helped me with mine. I would like to hear the “blow by blow” (so to speak) and how you came to break. There is much for all of us to learn, hearing others’ journeys.

    And to Cora, “It takes a close walk with God to walk away without bitterness.” This was gold, my Sister!
    Bitterness is our arch enemy and just the emotion Satan uses to keep us bound. This was in the comment column for me.

    My sister was in K-Mart yesterday and ran into a woman who had been falsely accused and fired from her job five years ago. She was full of rage and sick with the carrying of it. My sister had the same thing happen to her but got extensive counseling and worked through it. When the woman was finished talking she just said to my sister, “I wish there were someone who could just take this rage!” My sister simply said, “There is. His name is Jesus.”

    I have tears in my eyes,

  10. Wow, Dawn, another “God-incidence,” your sister there having this conversation with this woman at just the right time! I am sure that God will bring each of us (commenting here) “co-incidences” like that, and that the darkness He has brought us through will help give others light. Thanks so much for your comment. I love when, in the commenting, we end up interacting like a little mini-COMMUNITY ourselves! Isn’t He wondrous?

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