Pastors carry around a lot of secrets.
Some of them are the personal secrets of an individual (“I have liver cancer but I don’t want anyone to know.”). Some of them are corporate secrets. (“The elders fired the secretary because she had embezzled money from the church.”)
Secrets can be kept for good reasons: to protect the innocent, to maintain privacy, to allow others to tell their own story in their own time, to prevent shaming.
This happened many years in a Marshall’s store while I was trying on a cheap pair of shoes:
Church Lady Who Was Once A Member Of My Church: Jan! I didn’t know you shop at Marshall’s.
Me (what I wanted to say): Well you shouldn’t be surprised. My salary’s not a secret.
Me (what I actually said): I love Marshall’s!
CLWWOAMMC: Did you hear that Pastor___ got fired?! I am so upset about it! I think the other pastors must have been jealous of him. He was the only one who was truly a pastor to me. He was the only one who cared! I think they just woke up one morning and fired him for absolutely no reason. I am so upset about it. I really am.
Me: (what I wanted to say). Actually Pastor ___ was caught assaulting a woman in the sanctuary after a meeting last weekend. You heard me right- the sanctuary.
Me: (what I actually said): You need to trust your leaders.
There are many reasons why leaders are not trusted. Basic trust in authority is rare, in these days of both conspiracy theories and valid examples of untrustworthiness.
Relationships help us trust each other.
Years after this conversation in Marshall’s, terrible things were said about me regarding the firing of a loved church staff member for very good reasons. The elders kept the reasons for the sudden firing a secret to protect the former employee from shame. But the rumors were ugly and I was the target.
I came upon a local businessman about that time who was not part of our church. He knew me well after years of a friendly relationship and he told me the things he’d heard about me. (Greedy bitch was my favorite.). The stories were all over town. He had told them that that wasn’t the Jan he knew and that there must be more to the story.
This is what relationships do. They temper. They invoke trust. They keep us moving ahead.
Pastors need to be trustworthy.
Parishioners need to trust their leaders. But it takes time and patience to have faith in each other. God helps.
Image from The Post Secret project of the thousands of secrets sent on post cards.