A lot can happen in 20 years – Part 2
This follows on from Part 1.
As mentioned in Part 1, I realised that it’s exactly 20 years since I entered the full-time workforce, and a lot can happen in that time, so thought I’d share my road to reason.
I was welcomed into this new church with open arms, possibly because of attendance crossover between churches, and over time I found myself with more and more responsibility, leading the youth group band, singing in the choir, mentoring new youth group members and younger church members, providing general counselling or advice to those who asked for it, and eventually I began attending bible college with the intention of becoming a qualified pastor. At this point I was doing 3 evenings per week plus at least a day per weekend: this was a serious commitment.
It was at bible college that I began thinking critically, which quickly led to a number of questions (not the least was why hadn’t I done so sooner, but that’s another topic). I brought these questions to the people training me and received insufficient responses, ranging from outright dogma and answers made up on the spot right through to outright hostility. Not receiving the answers I needed — and with some alarm bells dully beginning to ring — I brought my questions to the church elders and pastors, believing them capable of answering difficult questions without the brimstone zealotry, but I received the same kinds of responses. Rather than make a bad situation worse, I put those questions away and continued with my studies, which of course led to more questions. In a short time I found myself gradually being firewalled away from my responsibilities within the church: another person would take over youth mentoring, the youth group needed a change of band and leader “to inject new fire”, an elder’s wife really wanted a position in the choir so would I mind being a gentleman (of course, it could have been my voice), the youth group were given a timely reminder only to spend time with people who were edifying and “at peace with the Lord”, and so on. Eventually I was asked to stop attending bible college, too.
In a combined state of incredulity and despair, sometime in 1992 (aged 20), I decided to stop attending everything and watch what happened. The vast majority of my friends — indeed my closest friends — were members, so I had no doubt whatsoever that I’d hear of events through them. To my utter astonishment, nobody ever contacted me again — not even my friends. It was as if I had ceased to exist.
It wasn’t until 1998 that I happened to meet one of my friends from that time (coincidentally the daughter of one of the church’s senior elders) on the bus and we chatted. Naturally those events came up in conversation and she told me that her parents had advised her and the church that I had moved to another church in another town and wanted to make a clean break of it, requesting that nobody try to contact me. These upstanding church elders had stood up and lied to their children and the entire congregation (addressing them all because of “my” unusual but specific wishes), effectively excommunicating me in a way that would minimise any rational fallout upon the members.
Continued in Part 3.