A Touching Story of Faith Among the Rules
The Church’s Rosa Parks (one of many)
I read lots of blogs about church life. Lately, I’ve responded to several written by church leaders who try to label or categorize congregations by assigning not-so-kind labels as if that might be helpful. Other church leaders chat in forums about their feelings of betrayal. There are few details. Other interpretations are never presented.
Although many of the writers are learned church people and no doubt well-intended, there seems to be a common denominator. They don’t understand laity. Sometimes they don’t seem to like us much less love us. There is a sense of entitlement. Laity are to be followers. Any sign that followers will not follow, for whatever reason, is a betrayal.
This is a root of many church problems and conflict. Perhaps we should ask questions. Why do lay people choose the role of follower in the first place? Why do lay members become disgruntled? How do we express discontent when clergy control all forums?
I wrestle with these issues personally, having been effectively excommunicated from our family’s multi-generational affiliation with the Lutheran Church. The first step when our congregation dared to challenge a leadership decision, following the rules of the church, was to make sure we had no voice—anywhere.
Churches don’t quite understand the web yet.
I am surprised and deeply touched by this post in the National Catholic Reporter. It shared the lay point of view!
It reveals with compassion and humility that decisions made by clergy 50 years ago might have been tragically wrong. A loyal lay person, who felt church rules were not in her family’s best interest, was pointing the way. She kept her decisions quiet. She had no desire to cause trouble. She was no revolt leader. Her decision was personal. She sat still in the pew, the Church’s Rosa Parks. Labelled as unworthy, she remained loyal.
She kept her hurt private. Had she been public about her views, she would have drawn attention. She wasn’t intent on reform. She was a mother. She just wanted what was best for her and her family and to do what felt right.
Read it. It might bring tears to your eyes. It might help you see the role of church leadership through the tears.