Especially we Church People tend to consider ourselves to be friendly (especially to visitors and guests), tolerant, and generous. I visit a lot of congregations comprised of the gracious and well-mannered as bulletins are distributed and friends are welcomed. But increasingly, I notice that – when fewer people are looking – they are mean. They don’t even realize it.
I don’t realize it either. I find myself saying something unnecessary or untrue. And I barely realize I’m doing it.
A wise person said to me yesterday, “Some of our congregations need exorcisms.” Ouch – and yet she’s right. The foundational DNA of too many of our congregations is snarkiness and suspicion. Maybe we can resolve to be less snarky and suspicious of each other in the new year. Or maybe we need an exorcism.
It’s kind of painful and shocking to realize how much we need to check ourselves. Overheard in the last month or so in church meetings/events*:
- “Expect a couple of people to bitch that we aren’t singing all five verses of that hymn.” (During a bulletin review before worship)
- “We had hoped to go to Florida this week but our nephew decided he needed to ruin that and get married in Minnesota this weekend.” (Said without a sarcastic twinkle)
- “Maybe it was wrong to pass that rumor about the pastor, but some of us think it’s true.” (By a church elder)
- “Why does she have to bring her baby everywhere?” (About a church leader who is also a single mom)
- “What does our pastor really do all day? (To a room full of people drinking coffee. Note: Why don’t you ask?)
*Details have been changed.
So, remember that Bible verse about being known by our fruits? We can do better.