So I guess it's been (over) a year since I got fired from my pastor gig. The last time I preached was actually the first Sunday in May of 2013. Then I 'thought' I was on sabbatical for several months. It was sometime in late July - as I was preparing/looking forward to returning - that I was informed the church leaders (and a few others) didn't want me to return. Some days it seems like it was just yesterday, or that it didn't really happen, but most of the time.... I really couldn't care less at this point.
I think I've pretty much come to grips with the getting fired aspect. Certainly there were a ton of things I could have - maybe even should have - been fired for in my 14 years of ministry there. But I have to admit that I still don't understand the logic as to why or how it was actually done the way it was. I guess I mistakenly thought I had the full support of the church leadership in taking a sabbatical - because I was burned out. I admitted I was, I confessed it before the entire church, I sought help to rectify the situation.... I 'thought' that was the right way to go about it.... But apparently not in everyone's eyes.
The counseling was a huge help to me. I had actually been working with my counselor on my return strategy, a plan for the next year at the church, a way to assess my continuing or leaving... and he had even asked me to write a booklet on sabbaticals for small church pastors. Then the rug was just pulled out from under me/us - without anyone from the church so much as having one single conversation with me. In fact, the only time any of them have even spoken to me this whole time was the night two of them came to our house and told us that we were no longer welcome in 'their' church.
There are many things I miss about the life I used to live, personally, but I can't really say that I miss pastoring. I have no desire at all to preach or lead worship. My creative juices have pretty much dried up. I also don't miss the hospital visits, the agonizing over struggles and burdens others were going through, the social occasions I didn't really want to attend, etc., etc., etc.. However, I/we do desperately miss being part of a church family. We miss our friends. I miss 'church' discussions. I even miss our old church (the people AND the building). I guess it is what it is though. None of us really gets to determine our life situation. We take it as it comes.
So, I have accepted the firing. I have accepted not being a pastor. I have not, however, gotten over the betrayal by the people I thought were our friends. At one point I had forgiven them, but their behavior since then has made forgiveness seem like a candle in the wind. I just don't see it happening anytime soon. I maintain to this day that the people we thought were our very best friends lied to us, lied about us to the church, and then just completely ignored us... and in our deepest time of need. That's going to be hard to get over. I mostly blame one person for the entire thing, but there were several accomplices.
As far as church goes.... I am pretty much just a Sunday attender now. I would like to be more involved. I would like to be in a small group or bible study or something... We just can't seem to find our way into one. I also seem to have a hard time finding church leaders who want to talk to me - other than Tom. Sure, many will make small talk, but Tom is the only one who is willing to discuss discipleship, or strategy, or books, or ministry in general. I probably miss that more than anything else. I suppose that's the Apostle in me. My online friend, Dan, has been perhaps my biggest source of encouragement. I thank God for these guys (and a handful of others).
As for the denomination (or at least the Regional leadership), I am still deeply saddened by their role in the whole thing. Not surprised, but disappointed. The initial response - which they openly shared with me - was they thought I got too nice of a severance package, and they were worried about the precedent that might set. That was their main concern. Personally, I thought they should have been more worried about the precedent the church set in firing a pastor who was on sabbatical. But... what do I know.
So.... here it is... August 2014. I/we are getting by. I still think we have something to offer. I think we did a lot of good things. For sure, I was not perfect, but contrary to what the leaders at my old church have led me to believe, I think I was good at some things. But now... I honestly spend most of my time fighting the urge to drink-so-I-won't-think, and smoking to try to occupy my restless heart. So that's pretty much where I am. Fortunately I/we have had a small group of friends from outside the church that have helped us immensely. God certainly works in mysterious ways. And my soul right now is... okay. Even with a smoldering smidgen of pain and anger.