Exile

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I walked the campus in sunny California, breathing in the warm air, feeling the peace of being 1,000 miles away from the chaos in Mountaintop.  We would be moving soon after I returned home, and I hoped that this Conference, put on by the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus, would be good for my soul.

It was.

Reta, my feminist professor friend from Messiah College was there and one of the presenters.  I met many passionate, gifted women, many of whom had left the institutional church behind.  They shared their painful stories with me and listened to mine.  I didn’t think I could actually leave the Church.  However, I was haunted by that image of the pastor who killed himself in the church sanctuary.  “NOW is it enough?”  Also, on my last visit to Messiah to have lunch with Reta, I visited with my friend and former psychology professor, Phil.

He knew my story.  “Peggy, I think you’ve outgrown the church.”  That conversation stuck with me.  In a way it did feel that way.  Not that the Church was “beneath” me, but somehow my experiences and gifts had outgrown what the church wanted from me.

During the Conference in California, I met all kinds of women.  Some were professors, some were writers, and some worked other jobs but had a passion for women’s place in Christianity.  I felt embraced and affirmed in my disillusionment of the structural Christian church.

The seminars focused on women in the Gospel stories, both named and unnamed.  Linda Allen, a folk singer from Bellingham, Washington, provided the music.  The songs were folk songs about women’s reality, everyday lives, and the struggle to find our story within the Christian story that is so focused on male “heroes.”  I learned more about Wisdom-Sophia, as referenced in Proverbs and the Apocrypha. Wisdom was with God in the creation of the world.  Many scholars believe that Jesus is the personification of Wisdom.

I bought some of Linda’s music.  One song that stood out for me was “I Cannot Call You Father.”  It was about women whose relationships with their fathers were abusive, certainly the opposite of grace-filled, and therefore the association with God as Father made it difficult to relate in a healthy way to God.

Growing up in a house with three brothers and a father who tried to be the center of our worlds, I had lived most of my life embracing the male point of view.  My father’s psychology and perspective dismissed female experience as inferior and less important than the males’.  I didn’t have a lot of strong-female influence growing into adulthood. In fact, my strongest experience of female grace was also one of profound loss: Sandie.

The Conference was an immersion of grace.  It was OK to be female!  It was OK to feel the way I felt, to see things the way I saw them.  It was a huge blessing to know that being female gave me a unique and important perspective– not an inferior one.

I also realized that my image of success in the Church was skewed by my father’s perspective.  Success in the Church meant climbing the ladder in the Annual Conference, getting bigger churches and bigger salaries each time.  Having the congregation lavish you with expensive gifts.  Honoring you with “This Is Your Life” or expensive trips.  That was a profoundly male image of success.  And very secular.

I’d been given the “prize appointment” in the Wyoming Conference and it nearly destroyed me.  And my marriage.  That image of success, I realized, was not really what I wanted, but what I was taught to want.

I came home to Mountaintop to pack up and get ready to move.  I was filled spiritually, emotionally and mentally.  I’d spent a powerful few days feeling connected to other women who weren’t competing with me, who were actually impressed that I was ordained in a mainstream denomination.  They also listened to my pain of that year, and affirmed that I wasn’t crazy or “too sensitive.”  That my deep pain was legitimate.

Larry and I would be replaced by a pastor who’d always eyed Mountaintop as the ultimate prize.  He was chomping at the bit to get there.  Many pastors could not understand how we could walk away and thought we were fools.

Nevertheless, after the Conference, I had hope.  An intense image of Grace that I carried with me from the experience was Linda Allen’s song, “Lay It Down.”  It described a comforting mother, a comforting wife, allowing her loved ones to lean against her in her arms, and ended with the image of God as Mother inviting us to lay our burdens down upon Her breast and rest.   I was refreshed.

Poor Larry was not.  He was still broken, exhausted, angry and stressed.  He was not  hopeful in his new appointment.  He would be associate to a harsh woman pastor who had just come off of being a D.S. She had to prove herself at Elm Park, following a white-haired man who’d been there for many, many years. The Church had once been the biggest in the Conference– many years ago.  Now it was a huge stone building, very majestic and beautiful inside, but attendance every Sunday barely filled 1/4 of the sanctuary.  As associate, Larry basically would run the youth group and do whatever his senior pastor did not want to do.

Waverly and Factoryville UMCs were linked for the first time.  They couldn’t have been more different.  Waverly was a high class, wealthy town that had a reputation for being very uppity.  Factoryville was a blue-collar community with a university in town.  Waverly  averaged about 25 people per Sunday, but had enjoyed having their own pastor, Ted, for many years.  They did not want to be linked with any other church, much less Factoryville.  Factoryville wasn’t thrilled to be linked with Waverly, a town that had a reputation for looking down on the surrounding communities.

The Waverly members were hostile from the beginning– with few exceptions–because they adored Pastor Ted.  He did everything they wanted him to do, had no boundaries, and had the time to visit every shut-in several times a week.  They thought he was wonderful.  He told them, as many pastors do, that the Conference was moving him against his will.  However, I did know that he had asked to leave.  Go on to bigger and better things.  He was appointed to a bigger church within 10 miles away.

I started off with a positive attitude, determined to serve these two tiny churches the best way I could.  Factoryville was a small but passionate church, full of many enthusiastic leaders and down-to-earth people.  They were thrilled I was there.  They liked me from the beginning.  They received my preaching and worship with enthusiasm.  They were very kind.  I wasn’t able to give them my best after all, and I do regret that.

The day we drove into Waverly following the moving truck, I was anxious.  I knew they resented me already for replacing Ted.  They also believed that they “had” to be connected to Factoryville just to give me an appointment.  They blamed me for that.  Despite their low numbers, they believed they didn’t need to share a pastor with anyone.

Larry pulled up to the curb on the narrow Church Street that day, behind the moving van.  I anxiously jumped out of the car to meet the parishioners that were out on the front lawn awaiting our arrival to help us carry things in.  Just as I opened my car door, a white Cadillac Escalade drove past us, hitting the car door.

The car door was intact, but I realized that a side mirror on the Escalade was sheared off, laying in the street.  “You go,” Larry said, “I’ll take care of it.”  He went to talk to the passengers in the Escalade while I greeted my shaken parishioners.

It was not a good first impression.

My hope quickly diminished.  The parsonage was huge, right next door to the white clapboard church, and in fact shared a driveway with the church.  They had done what they were supposed to do, painting rooms, touching up here and there, fixing what needed to be fixed in the house.  There were no carpets, but all hardwood floors.  It was a beautiful house, really.  But it never felt like home.

They weren’t impressed by my preaching.  In worship, they were cold, I had no sense of Spirit or connection that I normally experienced in worship.  They were visibly reticent and detached towards me.  Sarah, 9 years old, sensed it immediately.  She requested that she attend church with me at Factoryville and then go home during the service at Waverly.

I struggled in worship at Waverly.  Usually I felt something coming back to me, that I wasn’t in worship alone, summoning the Spirit.  Worship felt like work at Waverly.  Still, their faces were expressionless, ungiving.  I couldn’t get them to laugh, much less smile.  Worship was a drain there, no matter what I did.

At Factoryville, they embraced me, responded to my preaching and worship.  I hated that I had to rush off to Waverly after service.  I wanted to stay for fellowship time.  Be with those people.  They were real, down to earth, devoted in their faith.  The choir was especially powerful.  The director happened to be a professional music director, and the choir was unusually good for such a small church.  They blessed my soul every Sunday, and I told them so.

Sarah made friends at Factoryville and even had a little boy follow her around who had a crush on her.  For Children’s Sunday, she was asked to do the sermon, and she did an excellent job. (Of course)  At nine years old, she preached about the gospel elements in Harry Potter.  She did so without my help.  I was so proud of her.  She loved hanging out at Factoryville.  Sometimes parishioners let her stay for Sunday School with the promise that they’d drive her back home afterwards, to Waverly.

My relationship with Waverly was contentious from the start.  I resented them for not giving me a chance and they resented me for just being there.  During my first Pastor-Parish Relations Committee meeting, they listed all the things I did wrong. Or the things I wasn’t doing.  I’d had no chance to heal after Mountaintop, so my mental health was already shaky.  I broke down crying in the meeting.

“What the hell is wrong with you??” Stella shouted at me.  Stella was a large, elderly woman in the church, well-connected in the community.  She’d been “like a grandmother” to Pastor Ted’s daughter.  She kept in touch daily with Ted and his family.

Depression and anxiety set in quickly.  It didn’t help that Larry was miserable at Elm Park.  He had so many gifts to offer the church, but he was in a position that wanted none of them.  He spent many days in his office reading his books from seminary.  He couldn’t make up enough things to do to fill his day.

Every day each of us drove through Clarks Summit.  In the middle of Clarks Summit was the bridge from the PA Turnpike exit, towering several stories above the road.  It was called “Freedom Bridge,” which many locals found ironic, because it was a popular suicide spot for jumpers.  Sarah called it “the jumping bridge.”  Both Larry and I drove under that bridge with dread, haunted by how desperate we both felt.  Hopeless.  Neither of us could comfort the other.  We were out of hope entirely.

But I managed to preach every week, which was my lifeline;  always having to scour the weekly Scripture lessons for hope and grace.  My preaching didn’t suffer, oddly enough.  It was always my strongest gift for ministry– that and funerals.  That year, my preaching kept my head just above the water, making me have to continually search for good news while everything else felt so dark.

There was grace in the midst of the darkest days.  When I was still in Mountaintop, I’d asked Jim Baker, my former D.S. and Sarah’s surrogate grandfather, to meet with me every so often over lunch to talk about ministry.  To serve as my mentor in an unofficial capacity.  We kept that going during that year in Waverly, thank God.  He gave me much-needed pastoral care.  He prayed with me.  He listened.

I also  went to Maureen for counseling regularly.  Those two were my gentle, gracious incarnations of Jesus, helping me to walk through one of the darkest times of my life.  I felt beaten up.  In my journal I wrote, “This year feels like a spiritual flu.  It’s emptying me out, leaving me weakened… I’ve lost my passion for the Church… I feel used.”

It was August, 2004, just two months into my ministry at Waverly/Factoryville, where I wrote of a deep sense of my own pulling away from the Church.  My relationship with the institutional Church was like a marriage falling apart.  The passion was certainly gone.  I had a difficult time imagining staying in the relationship.

“Why would you give me these gifts for ministry, only to punish me?  To waste me here, where they don’t want what I have to give?…”  I’d rage at God out loud in the echoey emptiness of our parsonage. Some days I got out of bed to walk Sarah Gene to the bus stop, then go home and go back to bed.  I’d get out of bed and shower in time to walk across the square to the small deli where I’d buy a couple of sodas and meet her bus in front of the store. It became a gracious ritual to sip our drinks there and have her tell me about her day.  It literally got me out of bed.

There were stacks of unopened boxes in the dining room.  I knew I wouldn’t stay.

It was not a friendly town.  The postmaster at the post office on the square was always rude and impersonal.  I’d lived in so many small towns where I came to know the postmaster and exchanged pleasantries every day, picking up my mail.  Not with this woman.  The deli became my safe place.  Our afternoon ritual of sipping sodas, sometimes adding a sweet treat, became the highlight of my day.

One day I visited a shut-in that Stella had specifically asked me to visit.  Frank was an older gentleman that was bed-bound and had a 24-hour caregiver in his home.  It was a very nice home, and the caregiver, a young, large man in a T-shirt and sweatpants, ushered me through the house to Frank’s bedroom.

I approached Frank’s bed.  I took his hand.  “Hello, Frank, I’m Rev. Peggy.  Stella asked me to come see you.  How are you doing today?”  I rubbed his hand as I spoke.

Frank’s eyes turned toward me and he yanked his hand away.  I was startled, but didn’t take offense.  He had an oxygen mask over his face, which he removed for a moment.  He struggled with his breath.

“How….” he put the mask on again and drank of the air.  “How do they…” He sighed, seemingly gulping the air between phrases.

I smiled pastorally and touched his hand again.  Again, he yanked it away.  “It’s ok,” I said, “take your time.”

He removed the mask again.  “How….do they…. let you… be a minister??” His eyes glared at me as he replaced the mask and sucked in the much-needed air.

I froze.

His young caregiver approached the bed, hovering over his face.  “What the hell did you just say??” Frank turned away from him like a petulant child.  The young man looked up at me and back at Frank.  “You apologize to her right now!  Why are you being so mean?”

I smiled at the young man and quickly moved away from the bed.  “It’s OK,” I said, putting up my hand with surrender.

“No it’s not,” he said angrily, still glaring at his charge.

“Don’t…. come back….” Frank struggled to say, momentarily moving his mask away from his mouth.

I swallowed and backed out of the room.  The caregiver followed me, apologizing profusely.  “I am so sorry, he can be a real bastard sometimes, but that was uncalled for.”

I shook my head, waving my hand in dismissal, as if his words were just a cloud of gnats hovering around my face.  I swallowed the sour taste in the back of my throat.

“This town,” he said, “Can be very mean.”

I laughed bitterly.  “Oh, trust me, I know.”

.

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Side of the Mountain

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I held the bowl of water in front of me reverently, waiting for the service to begin.  Beneath the surface I saw a myriad of small seashells, their patterns blurring under the movement of the water.  I wore my familiar exhaustion like a weighted blanket.

We were at a Pastor’s Convocation in New York State, put on by the Wyoming Valley Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  The mandatory convocation was a pastor’s training on conflict management.  In our previous 7 months of serving the Mountaintop UMC, Larry and I had read every book we could find on conflict management, healing after sexual misconduct, and clergy abuse.  The common thread in all of them was that needed support from the church institution–in our case– the Annual Conference.  It was unthinkable that we could do it by ourselves.

I was soul-weary.  It was February, 2004.  Our months at Mountaintop drained both of us.  We were angry, exhausted, and depressed.  We wondered, sometimes– often– what we’d done to receive this punishment.  From God?  Maybe, sometimes.  But mostly from the United Methodist Church.  I believed that the UMC just didn’t want me.  Lake Winola had been my only crisis-free ministry, and I still didn’t make above the minimum required salary– which wasn’t much.  In the shadow of my father, I was a failure.

I was understandably cynical about the mandatory convocation.  An exercise in futility.  A check mark in the Conference’s report card.  Did that.  Moving on.

One bright spot was the fact that I was a member of the Conference Worship Committee, led by my on-again-off-again friend Vicki.  I loved planning worship, and we were given a lot of creative freedom.

The opening worship service for that event was a service of Remembering Our Baptism.  I was one of two clergy holding a bowl full of shells.  The clergy in the group were to line up and approach us, take a shell out of the water and touch it to their face as we said, “Remember your baptism and be thankful.”

Since it was a small Conference, I knew everybody, or at least could recognize faces of all the clergy present.  Except for one.  There was a man in the back of the room whom I did not know.  He was an older man, perhaps in his 60s, and sat alone.  He slipped into line near the beginning and as I faced each worshiper I was hyper-aware of his approaching presence.

As the stranger stepped in front of me, I looked directly into his eyes and said, “Remember your baptism, and be thankful.”  His eyes were warm. Brown.  His hands were clasped in front of him in a reverent stance as he returned my gaze.  He paused.   Without breaking eye contact, he reached into the bowl and picked up a small shell from the water.  As his dripping hand rose from the bowl, I expected him to touch his face.  However, instead, he deliberately and ever so lightly touched my lips with the dripping shell.  In a kind of priestly blessing, he ran the shell across my lips, and still looking directly into my eyes, returned the shell to the water.

Woe to me, for I am ruined… For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips…

I’m not one to memorize Bible verses, but in that moment I was hushed.  Isaiah’s words flowed gently across my awareness.  My lips felt tingly, my body relaxed.  I had been blessed.  By a stranger.  As if to say,  You are ok.  Be faithful to the call.  You are not alone.  

Tears came to my eyes as the next person came to the bowl.  I repeated the words, but my heart was still connected to the stranger as he found his way back to his seat.  I looked at Larry, who was sitting in the front, and he gently smiled.  He was tuned into The Moment.  I smiled back.

I later discovered that the stranger was the Rev. Tim Savage, the leader of our Conflict Management convocation.  He was the founder of L.E.A.D. Conflict Management Consultants, held several postgraduate degrees, and specialized in church conflict. He was a licensed psychotherapist, ordained minister and spiritual director.

Of course he was.

There was a spirit about him, a presence.  As he spoke and shared stories of churches he’d dealt with, he exuded a spiritual connection that was genuine and calming.  Over the next several days, he laid out his strategies for addressing conflict in churches.  It involved bringing in an outside team from L.E.A.D and getting to know the congregation and training them to be a part of their own healing.  I thought he was an answer to prayer.  I approached two D.S.’s during a break and told them I felt that Dr. Savage could really help Mountaintop.

One of them got angry.  “What?  Are you kidding?  We don’t have that kind of money to bring them in!”  (This D.S. was on the Board of Directors of L.E.A.D)

“What are we here for, then?” I challenged him.

“To handle our own conflicts ourselves,” he said condescendingly.  He brushed me off and moved to talk to someone else.  My own D.S., Tom, shrugged helplessly.  He was impotent and incompetent as a leader.  No help at all.

I was incensed.  They dragged us up here in the middle of winter to attend a conflict management course, introduced us to a resource they were unwilling to use on one of their largest churches and pat themselves on the back for doing a good thing.

During a Question and Answer time later with Dr. Savage, my anger was boiling over already.  With heart racing and my blood pounding, I stood up.

“Yes?” the innocent leader pointed to me.

“Tell me please, how can we as pastors teach our congregations to resolve conflict when we don’t know how to resolve conflict among ourselves?”  My jaw was set.  I heard several people respond, “Yeah!”  There was whispering and murmuring.  Some uncomfortable shifting in their seats.

Dr. Savage was used to angry people.  He said something benign– and went on, but didn’t do so condescendingly.  He understood, and he said so later.  He understood that some conferences weren’t willing to go the extra mile.  They brought him in to speak at us, but they weren’t willing to get involved in the dirty work of mediation in their own churches.

He said it kindly.  Of course.

Anger was a part of my everyday mood those days.  I was exhausted and resentful.  I was angry on our own behalf but also on behalf of the victim of our predecessor’s sexual misconduct and her abandonment by the Conference– and also on behalf of Mountaintop.  They were victims, too, but most of them didn’t even realize that.  They’d been viciously and spiritually betrayed by Pastor Bruce.  Their covenant between pastor and congregation horribly shredded.  And now abandoned by the very Conference that made a deal with the perpetrator so he could keep his ordination.

I was livid.

During lunch one day, they had cute little activities for us, related to conflict.  It felt like we were in Vacation Bible School.  One activity was for each table to come up with songs related to conflict and sing them to the rest of the group.  When it came to be our turn, I’d recruited my table mates to sing with me.  I stood up, looked right at the Bishop at her table, and angrily sang, Take this job and shove it!  I ain’t-a workin’ here no more!”

People laughed.  Clever choice.  But the passion behind my choice increased my fury.  I could hardly see straight.  I felt so helpless.  Irrelevant.  Discarded. Sacrificed. I meant every word.

We spoke with Dr. Savage and requested to meet with him during one of the free afternoons.  He was more than willing.  We laid out our story to him.  We described what happened at Mountaintop, the deal Bruce made with the Bishop (a female, liberal Bishop) to keep his ordination, and the Conference’s refusal to get involved with the congregation’s healing.  He listened… as was his forte.  He affirmed us.  He agreed, too, that the Church needed outside help.  We weren’t trained for such a degree of congregational abuse and clergy misconduct.  He told us what he would recommend for us, but regretfully sympathized that we weren’t going to get the help we needed.

It felt good to at least have someone hear us, to affirm that we were in way over our heads, and that yes, we’d been abandoned by the System.

During one of his talks, Savage shared a story that has stayed with me since.  He described a clergyman who was in the midst of a complicated web of conflict in a large congregation that he served.  He tried everything.  He was a kind, devoted, faithful pastor, and hoped that offering them his gracious ministry of caring would help.  But they were an angry community, broken by an abusive history.  Finally, one day, the pastor sat on a chair in the middle of the church chancel, pinned a note to his chest that simply said, “NOW is it enough?”–

and shot himself.

It was a powerful story that sucked the air out of the room.  No one seemed to breathe.  I knew that many of us had often felt that way.  Though I would never go through with it, I understood that man’s desperation.

And that alarmed me.

NOW is it enough?  It was a common question on any clergyperson’s mind and heart.  Is it ever enough?  For some congregations, it just isn’t.

As we returned to Mountaintop, both Larry and I were haunted by that image and also angry that once again, the D.S.’s seemed indignant at our request for help and resources.  They were willing to spend all that money on getting all the clergy together for several days in a hotel for a conflict mediation educational event and pay a nationally-known speaker to come– but they weren’t willing to spend that money on one of their own churches.

My relationship with the United Methodist Church system was severely breaking down.

As we stumbled through Lent and got closer to Easter, we were all aware of the approaching anniversary of Bruce’s abrupt departure.  Larry and I shared preaching, taking turns every other week, and my turn fell on Palm Sunday.  I honestly don’t remember what I preached that Sunday–the anniversary of Bruce’s last–but I remember the intensity.  It was palpable, the sense of grief in the air.

I do remember talking about that grief, naming it for what it was, which was something many people were afraid of.  Talking about it.  In that sermon I affirmed their sense of loss, their confusion, their pain.  I affirmed their anger.  I encouraged them, though, to think of it as something we all had to face together, and therefore begin to accept healing.  Never in my ministry did I do an altar call per se, but at the end of the sermon, I invited people to join me at the chancel rail in prayer.  To pray for our congregation.  To pour out our pain before God, acknowledge it, but also open ourselves and the community to healing.

I instructed Jack to keep playing as long as people were at the rail, and sensing the trembling in my legs, I made my way down to the chancel rail to pray.  It wasn’t long before I could feel the presence of other bodies all around me– beside me and behind me.  I heard weeping and sniffling.  I didn’t open my eyes but tried to concentrate on my own prayers, my own letting go, surrendering my rage and pain.  The sense of physical community growing around me was a balm on my heart.  For that moment, I felt connected to them.  I loved them.  I forgave them their rage toward us and began to forgive their love of Bruce.  I could have curled up on the chancel kneelers and just gone to sleep right there with Jack’s organ music playing, the congregants still singing behind me, and the sense of release.

I was so tired.

As I sensed people finally moving away back to their pews, I stood up.  The last few soon followed, and Jack ended the hymn.

As I always did in any church since the beginning of my ministry, I sang the benediction.  That Sunday it was a verse of “There Is a Balm in Gilead.”  My legs felt like lead as I ended the song and moved toward the door.  I was spent.  I felt peace… strength from the sense of a job well done.

Many people came through the line, shaking our hands on their way out.  Some came with tears still in their eyes, noses red, and took our hands in both of their’s and simply squeezed our hands.  Some said, “Thank you.”  A couple of people hugged us.

When all had come through the line, we started to move toward the office, unsnapping our robes, ready to go home and take a nap.

“What the hell was THAT??” Ellen burst into our personal space like a needle across a vinyl album.  Startled, I turned to her.  She went on. “You didn’t give me any warning you were going to do that!” She got into my face, his eyes wide and seemingly possessed.  “I can’t believe you did that without telling me!”  Her anger always hit me like a baseball bat to the side of the head.

Stunned, I stammered something about it being a spontaneous thing, which wasn’t entirely true, but she scared me.  It was like being 9 years old again being accosted by my own personal fourth grade bully who wanted my lunch or else she was going to “kick my butt.”

She ranted on and on, but I finally walked away from her.  I doubt I got my nap because I was too churned up by Ellen’s attack.

It was soon after Easter that the Church Finance Committee announced at a meeting that they were $35,000 behind budget.  It was no surprise to us, but no one was going to question the many months of paying Bruce severance pay in addition to our salaries.  There was also the issue of angry church members no longer financially supporting the church in the wake of Bruce’s removal.

It didn’t matter.  The writing was on the wall.  They could not afford two pastors.  It was a relief, really.  Neither of us felt like we could spiritually afford another year of pushing a rock up Sisyphus’ mountain.

The Sunday we announced our departure, the Church Treasurer–who knew all the figures– said to us, “So, you’re giving up.”  I couldn’t speak to her.  I don’t know what Larry said.

The truth is, we felt like failures.  Thank God for Jim and Yvonne who listened to us, let me cry, and gave us a place to feel safe and loved.

We got no compassion from our own D.S., just a “doubt” that there was “much available” in regards to where we could move.  I didn’t sense that he was making much effort.  He simply didn’t care about us.  He didn’t seem to care about anyone but himself.  He was independently wealthy, he consistently reminded us of his two PhD’s and he was condescending.  I didn’t know the term narcissist at the time, but his picture could have been by the word in the dictionary.

We were informed late in the spring that Larry would be the associate pastor at Elm Park in Scranton (the appointment I’d turned down a year before) and I would serve Waverly UMC and Factoryville UMC, two very small churches outside of Scranton.  When we left the D.S.’s office I collapsed in tears.

I didn’t want to be a pastor anymore.