When Your Church Lets You Down (2)
By: Beth McHugh 2010
In our last article on this subject we looked at how Susan could not find a nun in her diocese to pray with her for a period of two weeks while another nun went on holidays. Susan was going through a deeply distressing time and she found the comfort of praying with her nun friend very comforting. But it wasn’t so comforting when not a single nun would volunteer to step in for the fortnight and help this distraught woman out.
But this sadly is not restricted to the Roman Catholic Church. Lyn had just divorced her alcoholic husband and had two teenage boys on her hands, one who suffered from ADHD and was constantly in trouble with the law and had had made several appearances in juvenile court. The other son was also a handful as his mother did not have the emotional energy left to deal with him.
Both Susan and Lyn were seeking counseling from mental health professionals, but they both wanted an extra spiritual dimension to help them through these difficult times in their lives. But just as Susan had found, it wasn’t forthcoming.
Lyn was desperate and went to see her local Baptist minister. Lyn was not a regular churchgoer but here she was, fronting up for the help she thought she would get from the church minister. Holding back her tears as best she could, she told the man of her plight and the fears she held for her sons and the loneliness she felt at having no choice but to leave a man who was in the process of killing himself with alcohol.
Instead of listening, and offering an ear of comfort, the minister proceeded to tell Lyn about all his own personal problems. Lyn was not a very assertive person and so for 45 minutes she listened to the man’s own woes. Finally she could stand it no more and left.
So, what were these religious people thinking? Two people in need of help, willingly approaching a spiritual leader asking for help and being turned away? There is no question that there are some amazingly giving religious people out there, but if churches are concerned at all about dwindling numbers within hallowed walls then perhaps they need to have a look at what it is they are offering.
There is no shortage of human pain, but certainly there seems to be a shortage in some circles about how to deal with it. As Lyn said: “It felt like being rejected by God”. I’m sure that is not the message that other, more active church leaders are wanting to give out to the masses.
Lyn never went near a church again. Susan has her nun friend still, but remains astonished and perplexed that no-one would pray with her. It all seems counter-productive to mainstream churches to me.