HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO MADPRIEST

My, my, my, doesn't time fly when you are just hanging around, waiting to die?

It's been exactly one (ecclesiastical) year since I presided at my last mass and worshipped in a church.

During that time not one person from the church has contacted me to enquire about my spiritual wellbeing. I mentioned this to the archdeacon over the phone recently to which he replied, "Well, what sort of welcome would I get?"

Which pretty much sums up the Christlessness of the Church of England hierarchy.

Comments

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO MADPRIEST — 74 Comments

  1. Odd that, one is the same number that enquired following my departure. I wonder if it was the same person? However, I would still advocate that you get off your backside and engage with a church once more.

  2. MadPriest, I second theme. Don’t I always? If you’d like to see the church reflect the Body of Christ, get back in the church and act Christ-like. Do your part. You are the church. I am the church – officiating or not.

  3. Most of us go to Church to receive Communion – not to be told how wonderful we are.

  4. Your comment was a platitude. If you want to give me advice then answer the question I asked TMTIM. In other words less waffle and more constructive and definite ideas.

  5. It’s been over two years since the elders of my church kicked me to the curb. When I see the elders out in the community they go out of their way to avoid me. And regular church members say hello but have never asked why they don’t see me in church anymore.

    It used to bother me. But now I ask myself why I wanted to be in community with these people to begin with?

    Don’t let the asshats get you down.

  6. Mp,
    This will probably seem less than constructive but we had the same issue with a church that ulitmately went “over to the dark side.” We simply moved to a church that does keep tabs on us. We, of course are not clergy, but we try to think of ourselves as Christian. It may be difficult, but keep on keepin’ on!

  7. For a sacked priest to go back to church is like an alcoholic going back into a pub.

    Or would it be like an alcoholic going to an AA meeting?

    Go to church as a layperson. Many of us do. It’s not that bad, really. Do your part in the worship service. Join in the prayers. Sing and make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

    Volunteer in church activities that serve the least amongst us.

    Offer to visit the sick and the housebound. You served well in that capacity in the past.

    I have other thoughts, but I expect that you’d find reasons why my ideas wouldn’t work for you. You’re a creative person. It would be best if you came up with your own thoughts on ways to serve in the church – that is if you really want to.

    Or turn your back on the church as a hopeless case and let it go, as 8th day planner says.

    I want to say, “Shit or get off the pot,” but that’s not the way of the church, as I see it. The church is a place of second chances, third chances, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

  8. But the problem is that I was a priest. My relationship with a church can never be the same as a layperson’s.

    And no. It’s not the same as going to an AA meeting. It’s the same as an alcoholic going into a pub and not being allowed to drink alcohol.

  9. I really don’t know why women make so much fuss about motherhood. Anybody can be a mother. They’re as bad as those dancers with the Royal Ballet who think they can dance better than the rest of us.

  10. Of course! But what is your point in the digression?

    Why do I suspect that all you want from me is sympathy? All right. Poor MadPriest!!! There now, all better?

  11. Why do I suspect that all you want from me is to be someone for you to kick when you are in one of your bad moods? There now, I’m duly kicked.

  12. Luv, I’m not in a bad mood, truly. If you want an example of the force of my shoe-shod foot when you’re on the ground, I’ll give a demonstration. I’m trying for the light touch here, but you won’t cooperate.

  13. I agree with Mimi. You wouldn’t take this from me, you’d expect me to “Viking up” and not take any crap off of anyone and just do it. What a huge way to flip the bird to them all – by just showing up and refusing to allow them to beat you down. Fuck ’em. Just Do It.

  14. Then I think you should go for sympathy only on this one. I don’t think anybody who is not a priest could offer empathy or advice regarding how an estranged priest can re-engage with the church.

  15. I like your logic, Tracie. But I don’t trust the clergy. I think they would regard it as their victory if I just showed up.

    And you have to remember that I can’t go to church as a layperson. It’s against Church law in England unless I resign my orders.

  16. And how does a sacked priest without permission to officiate do that?

    If you want to give me advice then answer the question I asked TMTIM. In other words less waffle and more constructive and definite ideas.

    I don’t think anybody who is not a priest could offer empathy or advice regarding how an estranged priest can re-engage with the church.

    Make up your mind.

  17. Against Church law.

    Unless you resign your orders.

    O rly?

    So what do you care? If you’re so convinced you’ll never serve as a priest again, might as well just smash the hell out of the laws, right? What difference does it make?

    And if you DO think you’ll serve as a priest again, that means you have more hope than you’re letting on. You are refusing to cross Church law because you don’t want to pre-emptively burn any bridges that you might need to cross in order to serve as a priest again later down the line.

    How close to right am I?

  18. Hey, Mimi, I’m just agreeing with everything you say now, in an attempt to get you out of the bad mood you’re in.

  19. You misunderstand me, Tracie. It’s not that I’m not allowed to go to church. It’s that I have no lay rights in the church. I’m forbidden from being on the PCC or voting at meetings. I am not, at this moment, allowed to vote for either lay or clerical synod reps. I couldn’t be a churchwarden.

    The Church views a priest as different to a layperson. So when they constructively dismiss a priest (in other words sack a priest without due process) that person becomes a nothing – not lay or clerical.

    The only way round this is for me to resign my orders, to renege on the promises I made at my ordination. I would have to accept that I should never have been a priest in the first place and that my calling was my own invention and had nothing to do with the Holy Spirit.

    Maybe, you are right, and I should do that. But at this moment in time I am not strong enough to let go of all hope. To do so would involve accepting that my life has been a complete waste of time.

    Having a purpose is not important to everybody but it is to me.

  20. MP, could you go to a church and participate as a layperson as long as the church in question is NOT C of E? I am thinking Methodist or maybe Baptist? (I am American but was married to an Englishman for years. I can’t remember what other Christian denominations might be available in UK.) I don’t see why it would have to be C of E, and I don’t think any other denomination would give a shit what C of E had to say about anything.

  21. Methodism is an option but to be honest their services in England are rather boring – what we call hymn sandwiches. And they are only into very occasionally sharing communion. Baptists in England tend to be evangelical and bible based in a bigoted way. There are some independent catholic churches but the local ones are into theosophy.

    I think the answer will involve getting the hell out of Dodge (Newcastle Diocese).

  22. Hymn sandwiches! That is awesome. Maybe Lutheran then? In US at least there are some very liberal Baptist churches. I attend one. I do miss the liturgy and the frequent communion but I have found the emphasis on social justice to be very heartening and the welcomes sincere. At any rate, you are in my prayers and I wish you the very best.

  23. Troll, don’t include other people in your delusions. I am only insulting you and it’s got nothing to do with whether I disagree with you or not. I do it to get some fun out of your tediously boring comments. In fact, you could say I redeem your pathological piffle by turning it into an opportunity for entertainment.

    Most people would just stop commenting if they found themselves in your miserable situation. But, of course, you can’t stop yourself and until you agree to take the medication you’re supposed to take you will never be able to.

  24. and the welcomes sincere

    I can believe that. The only local Christian who has regularly contacted me in the last year to see how I am is a Scottish evangelical and he’s completely sincere.

  25. ‘I really don’t know why women make so much fuss about motherhood. Anybody can be a mother.’

    I blog about motherhood and call myself a motherhood activist. You are wrong, not everybody can be a mother. But that’s another point and argument.

    MP, go to the Methodist church. They are much more progressive than the CoE.

  26. The only local Christian who has regularly contacted me in the last year to see how I am is a Scottish evangelical and he’s completely sincere.

    theme? Has he not been in touch?

    I know you’re depressed, MadPriest, and you have reason. When you’re depressed nothing looks good or hopeful, but perhaps you will not always be as you are now. Perhaps (soon, I hope) when you ask yourself, “Where do I go from here?” you’ll be able to see positive possibilities.

    And I truly don’t mean to kick you when you’re down; I mean the very opposite, but perhaps my efforts go awry.

  27. MP! You are in a spiral of anger>rejection>anger>more rejection, etc. Please consider what the Archdeacon asked of you!
    If he tried to talk with you, would you seriously consider what he said?
    You want to be a Vicar an that seems to be your concept of priesthood. But a person isn’t a doctor because he writes prescriptions and has an office. He is a person has studied medicine and taken an oath etc. You are a priest because God called you, you studied, promised obedience and were ordained! Many priests who are retired or not working for one reason or another become part of a congregation and parish life.
    Please start working on your pride and humility. Start working with a spiritual director (doesn’t have to be a priest)
    You are ordained in the C of E but if u can’t be a
    vicar or person of authority, you want to pick up your marble and go away angry. Ask sincerely what u have to do to repair your relationship with your church and ask yourself if u r willing to do what is re uired?

    check with your Dr. re: meds for depression, do they need adjusting?
    Know that we really care about you, but agreeing with you isn’t alway the most helpful thing we can do!
    Nij

  28. MP! You are in a spiral of anger>rejection>anger>more rejection, etc. Please consider what the Archdeacon asked of you!
    If he tried to talk with you, would you seriously consider what he said?
    You want to be a Vicar an that seems to be your concept of priesthood. But a person isn’t a doctor because he writes prescriptions and has an office. He is a person has studied medicine and taken an oath etc. You are a priest because God called you, you studied, promised obedience and were ordained! Many priests who are retired or not working for one reason or another become part of a congregation and parish life.
    Please start working on your pride and humility. Start working with a spiritual director (doesn’t have to be a priest)
    You are ordained in the C of E but if u can’t be a
    vicar or person of authority, you want to pick up your marble and go away angry. Ask sincerely what u have to do to repair your relationship with your church and ask yourself if u r willing to do what is re uired?

    check with your Dr. re: meds for depression, do they need adjusting?
    Know that we really care about you, but agreeing with you isn’t alway the most helpful thing we can do!
    Nij

  29. Perhaps (soon, I hope) when you ask yourself, “Where do I go from here?” you’ll be able to see positive possibilities.

    Er? That’s what I have been doing for the last year and I have found nothing positive. That’s why I’m depressed, I expect.

  30. Look, I have never posted here before and you don’t know me, I am just a middleaged American woman who is a fairly new christian but who knows something about heartbreak and betrayal and loss. My advice is to telephone your Scottish evangelical friend and ask to go to his church. Tell him you don’t want any attention paid or whatever. Then go. Bad analogy but it will be perhaps like a lunch date with someone new and not your type after your soul mate ripped your heart out and you think there is nothing left for you, no chapters left to read. And maybe on that lunch date nothing clicks, you aren’t happy but maybe as you look around, for a split second you have the feeling that one day you won’t feel quite as awful as you feel right now. And sometimes that can be enough.

  31. I do get it, MadPriest. I got sacked just about two years ago now.

    I have been to church occasionally – just in order to remain officially a “communicant in good standing” but (with Episcopal churches) I always arrive late and leave early so I’m not in the position of needing to talk to anyone.

    I actually feel most comfortable at a Lutheran church that’s not too far away. I know the Lutherans are very thin on the ground in your neck of the woods but it might be worth a try.

    I do think the idea of getting a spiritual director is a good one. (I would say that, wouldn’t I?) Actually finding one who knows what he or she is doing can be difficult, of course.

    I have not received a pastoral call myself, by the way. Three members of the clergy have contacted me but they really wanted pastoral care from ME. I’m still in touch with the retired bishop but he has also been ostracized by the current bishop so he’s persona non grata in this diocese. One person in lay ministry (a director of religious education in a big Episcopal parish) invited me to give a talk for a week night education program. (No clergy person was present.) Other than that, the only church connected work I’ve done has been with the Lutherans.

  32. Let me just say “hello”, NJP, and that I’m glad you took the trouble to comment.

    For what it’s worth, I rather like your analogy and I’m going to remember it.

  33. Yep – that’s the church– when I was sick and almost died – no one from church called me – not even the clergy. My non-Christian friends called and prayed and helped me to laugh. The church will always break your heart. It has all the potential but no will. If you are priest it is even worse — no one knows what to do or say so they just stay away. I have been kicked out of church — but you know what it is not “their” church – it’s Gods and that who I work for — looking for the little cracks where the light shines in and one can grow up between the concrete. It is depressing and maddening – the depression is often anger turned inward. I found getting out and directing my anger towards something constructive – ala Matt 25 — helps.

    In the mean time (and it is a mean time) prayers to bear your through these days.

  34. Never forget that the pharisees want you to be depressed. They need you to be miserable so they can say “See – we knew he was no good, and what we did was perfectly justified.”

    Don’t indulge the scum, and never buy their lie that your vocation depends upon their recognition. You were called by God, not them – no matter how deluded they are to the contrary.

    It takes time, a long time, but learn to laugh in their faces. Living uproariously is the thing they can least tolerate: Christ’s riotous behaviour was what his critics most hated about him.

    And never forget that a lot of people care about you – those who want you crushed would give what little remains of their souls to see you lose sight of that.

  35. Jonathan, my own experience of being betrayed was in a different sphere from yours, although the effect (in terms of loss of employment and future prospects) might see some comparisons made. I was very fortunate in suffering what might best be described as a nervous breakdown within some eight months later.

    I say “fortunate” because that resulted in my getting proper professional help, initially from the local CHMN team and ultimately from a Consultant Psychiatrist. Within a year, I had accepted that a change of career was needed and was back in employment (albeit in a completely different profession).

    Four years on, completely out of the blue, I was approached and asked if I would allow my name to go forward… which was very tempting, but I said no and don’t regret it. But it’s interesting that the opportunity only came some years after I’d accepted that sphere of my life was now closed to me.

  36. MP – I thought nij had some good things to say above, especially that you need a spiritual director. The only thing I’d say here is that forgiveness heals the person doing the forgiving, not the person being forgiven. There’s a lot else I’d like to say but it would sound much better over a pint…

  37. I am 52 years old and have never born a grudge before in my life. When me and the wife have arguments it is always me who apologises first because I just can’t be arsed to remain angry. I’ve always fought other people’s battles and never fought my own. If you need proof of this just look at how the Elizabeth Kaeton argument panned out.

    Heck, I grew up with an alcoholic, gambling father who used to be deliberately nasty to me because he thought I was growing up gay. And I feel no bitterness towards my dad.

    I think people who are glibly recommending the forgiveness option are underestimating just how much I must have been hurt for me to want to hurt somebody so much so long after the offence. Perhaps if I had got one of those 75 jobs I would have moved on. But at the moment I am reminded of what has been taken from me every morning I wake up and have to face another long day of uselessness. I am reminded every time my wife moans about our lack of money and suggests I get a job in Sainsburys. I am reminded as I am selling all my books and records on eBay because the house we can afford to move to is no bigger than my former bishop’s garden shed. I am reminded every time I pretend to be a priest by putting up prayer lists on the blog and putting together phoney eucharists.

  38. Well — you ARE a priest. The prayer lists have tought me to pray and ask for prayers so that is of some small value. I wouldn’t presume to tell you to do the forgiveness dance. Perhaps you could ask God to lead you to wellness and then be blown away by what S/He comes up with?

  39. But it’s not about my health, Susan. It’s about my wife’s wellness and that requires me getting a job.

    I have always been very honest about this being a man thing.

  40. Not health — wellness. Which is something like what ever the F God wants of us. I’m not doing too well at responding to what God wants of me (or rather what God wants to give me) in terms of wellness at the moment but I keep asking the “I believe, help my lack of trust” thing. You may not have my problems and I not have yours but let us ask God for help for each other. So hard sometimes to accept Grace as something not earned. Just given.

  41. Jonathan, I have no answers nor comfort. Just empathy. A year ago I was at a pinnacle in my profession, highly respected, awarded, and sought out. Today I am a demoted, salary-cut, nobody who will be let go within a year. I don’ t know what my job will even be in 3 months at this time. It’s demeaning, frightening, depressing and totally unfair. At 50 it is unlikely that I can relocate and start over in this profession, even if there weren’t a climate of hostility and anti- public education laws weren’t sweeping the nation as schools everywhere fire teachers right and left. I am bankrupt, alone, and slipping deeper into depression and resignation very day. I pray and pray and pray and I hear nothing, see nothing, and receive nothing that I can discern as helpful. My health is starting to fail and I can’t possibly afford care.

    But I won’t give up or give in. I am heartbroken at the thought of losing the job that I’ve loved for over 20 years and the realization tha I won’t ever be able to do it again in the way I am used to. I plan on fighting somehow and some way until I drop for the right to be alive and fairly content. I trust God even if I don’t perceive him.

    Why this is happening to you, to me, to Doorman Priest and Ellie and so many others is above my Ken to decipher. But I know that whatever is happening and will happen God is there in the middle of it. Without that knowledge there really is nothing left. Stay strong and survive for Mrs. MP and those of us who love you. It’s redeeming in and of
    itself. Namaste –I see the God light in you still, come what may. . . .

    And God, about this worldwide Job thingy — HELP!

  42. I have to believe that that the “crosses” we encounter are not idle. Maybe that’s idle thinking, but if so, I’ll hold it idly for you.

    Peace,

    KJ

  43. Brian, I just want to say that I really appreciate your comment. I’d like to say more but it’s late where I am and I’m a bit more tired than usual so I don’t think I’m up to making much sense.

    But what you said is meaningful to me and I pray God’s blessing for you.

  44. Joe lost a vocation too.

    His was in the Army. He is convinced he was meant to be a US Army soldier.

    But after an accident with some explosives that landed him in the hospital, which wound up resulting in him being outprocessed from the military (honorable discharge – medical reasons), he fell into a funk.

    He left Germany (where he was stationed at the time) and went home to Arizona and just drifted for years. If he needed a little money for smokes, he just took some piddly little job and didn’t care much about it and felt very blah.

    He didn’t put himself back in school for a long time. He didn’t seek any other job training either (he was a combat engineer, so all of his military training was in explosives, construction, demolition, etc). He just wandered around aimlessly – through Phoenix, LA, Minneapolis, Terre Haute, Tampa and eventually Orlando. By the time Joe was 25, he’d packed 40 years of living in.

    Next month, he’ll be 45 years old, and he’s now feeling the effects of his decision not to start fresh after his discharge from the Army. It does disturb him. A lot. He likes the trade show industry, but there’s not a lot of work there, even via the union. He’s got work this week, but he didn’t work at all in April. :sigh:

    All in all, he really feels you, Jonathan. Take some comfort in that you’re not the only man to have gone through this. Not by a long shot. Others have walked this path before you, and many have eventually made things work out for themselves.

    I think one thing Joe has on his side is sheer bloody-mindedness; he refuses to allow life to beat him down. He’d have to be 6′ under with sand between his teeth before he truly gives up. I’ve never seen determination like his before.

    I wish I could bottle up some of that moxie for you and send it to you, Jonathan.

    But….yeah. Just a “you’re not alone” friend.

  45. PS: Joe was even homeless in Tampa for a while, and he managed to pull himself out of that. You’ve got a base to work from; you’re not having to dumpster dive just to eat like he was. I’d consider taking advantage of what you have at your disposal and using it to get yourself on your feet as quickly as you can, while it’s there. Don’t end up homeless like Joe was. It’s not fun.

  46. With all the vacant churches I’ve seen on the net in the U.K. you could open your own church. Or just screw church all together and go back to driving a lorry.

    Depression is my first and middle name and living alone with no friends is no help either. I’m stuck, almost broke, no legal car, and I’ll probably be homeless in the next couple years, so don’t be expect me to join your pity party, I’ve got my own troubles.

    (word verification – preest)

  47. Prior to leaving the church I attended and served through various ministries for over a decade, I observed a number of people leaving the church and promptly being forgotten by their former fellow parishioners and the clergy. Some were spoken of disparagingly after leaving. I also knew a very devout man who stopped attending his church, wrote good-bye letters to those he most valued — and heard nothing back from anyone.

    When I left, I managed to stay in touch with a handful of people but was impressed by the utter lack of graciousness from the clergy who ignored my polite and respectful farewell.

    Church is not friendship. Church is not love. Church is a social club and a power base with a few fringe benefits. Occasionally true friendships are forged on a personal basis. But I have found more genuine warmth and unguarded acceptance from the world at large since leaving church than I ever did within church.

    Thank God church does not have a copyright on Jesus. He’s free. And everywhere. As is love. As is humanity. There is much to be grateful for, always. Thanks Be To God.

  48. MP, I know where you’re coming from chap. Being in church in a lay capacity when every fibre of your being is calling you to exercise your priesthood hurts – and it hurts intently. Like you say a recovering alcoholic walks into a bar….

    I too had to walk away for a time. For me it was years. During that time I kept kidding myself that I could make it on my own, do my own thing, but ultimately being part of the Body of Christ means being with the Body of Christ.

    So I made my way back, via cathedral services initially so I could keep myself anonymous. You know what? It still hurt like hell but I realised I needed to be there to be built back up.

    When you’re called, you’re called and no blasted institution can stop that calling, even if they can initially prevent you from exercising it.

    I truly believe options will yet present themselves. Praying for you buddy as I know how it feels to be treated like crap by the institution. Whilst I recognise I didn’t necessary help my case at times in how I responded to the Church, to be told that you’re not the priority to support in a dark time is a kick in the guts. I thank God I know that’s not how Christ would be and that I’ve been privileged to be on the receiving end of true Christ-like support since then.

    It will happen. If it can happen for me it can happen for anyone.

    Harrytic

  49. I like what Tracie, Battersea Boy, “Sir”, and Brian have said. I’ll keep on praying for you, Jonathan. Sorry this is rather a brief comment but I don’t feel there’s a lot I can add.

  50. Geez this is all a bit heavy. Time to throw the switch… to Vaudeville!

    There once was a Priest with the grumps
    You could tell he was down in the dumps
    He did sure need a laugh
    But he wished to be staff
    At a church! Yeah, a place full of CHUMPS.

    Prayers for you, Mad Priest.

  51. Hello MP–

    I’m an Episcopal priest who, after some very satisfying years, found myself in a difficult and dispiriting position that left me wondering what I’d do if I found myself unable to live out an explicitly priestly vocation because 1) I didn’t have a priestly job and 2) I found myself estranged from the institutional church by my own anger, frustration, cynicism, and (let us say) disenchantment. Here’s what I ended up thinking.

    Quakers. I’m speaking from a northeastern US context here. I know the Friends my be different in the UK, but here’s what I would find appealing about them as a priest trying to rediscover his Christian identity apart from a presbyterial identity:

    They are different, and they see themselves as different. They “march to the beat of a different drummer.” They believe that their differentness should play itself out in the way they live their non-church lives. They’re against even the most popular wars, which makes them very different in our war-glorifying culture. They’re social-justice oriented (their Abolitionist past is a big part of the way they think of themselves). They’re as Christian as you want to be, but thoroughly non-dogmatic (the college-town Quakers I know best have a subset that defines themselves as “Atheist Friends”). They’re non-liturgical/non-sacramental/non-ecclesiastical — three terms that don’t describe me, but would allow me to attend without critiquing or resenting my clergy colleagues up-front. I can enjoy silent worship in an different way from the way I participate in liturgy: it’s not a lesser liturgy, it’s just not a liturgy at all. They have no hook on which to hang my clergy identity, and would be less likely to view me through that lens.

    Might not work for you, but I thought, as I have thought this out but not yet had to make use of it, I’d pass it along.

    Peace to you,

    Mark.

  52. MadPriest, reading through this thread has been comforting and healing for me. I hope others have felt it as well.

    Sincere thanks to all who contributed, and thank YOU, MadPriest, for making it possible through the courage of your own soul-bearing honesty.

    The Lord may be using you in ways you cannot even imagine.

  53. When I was in seminary we would go to Quaker meeting on our Sundays off. Lo, there we also found our parish supervisors on their Sundays off as well, silent with the rest of us. The Quakers: where Episcopalians go for a rest from it all. Note to self: check out nearest Meeting to my home. This does sound like a good thing, MP. Prayers had continued through the day.