There were a few things that happened the very first month at our old church that should have tipped me off right away that things were not going to go well. Most pastors receive a stipend for utilities as part of their salary. A smart church has the utilities in the church name, pays the utilities and then seeks reimbursement from the pastor when the stipend has been spent. This protects the church's credit rating. This also prevents some of the confusion about who owes what when a new pastor enters the parsonage because there is no name changing or start-up fees. Our old church didn't do that. They paid the utility money directly to the pastor. Well, the outgoing pastor took the money but failed to pay the utilities. We came into the parsonage with accounts in arrears and an empty oil tank that the company refused to fill until last year's bill was paid. Now, Hubby and I were younger and stupider about money back then (if that's possible) and decided we would be nice and discreet, so we simply paid the arrears and back-owed amounts out of our own pocket and kept our mouths shut. But that should have been our first foreshadowing of what was to come. No, the church had no control over how the pastor paid the bills, but someone in the church should have been aware of the fact that church bills weren't being paid!
So, we spent about two days unpacking our boxes when we first moved into the parsonage. Whenever I opened a cabinet to put something away in the kitchen, I would see a giant gaping hole in the back wall. It was, I thought, where someone had started and stopped a very bad hole for a water pipe. Why did they have jagged holes throughout the kitchen? I wondered. Well, on day three I decided I wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And this I will never EVER forget. We always keep our bread on top of the refrigerator. I don't know why. There's no reason for it, we just do. So I reached up, took out two slices of bread without looking and put the bread out on the counter. Then I went to get the pb and j. When I returned to the bread I noticed that both pieces had a huge bite taken out of them. I was tired from unpacking and cleaning and not in the mood for Hubby's games, so I turned and yelled at him.
"Hubby, if you had wanted a sandwich, you could have just said so. You didn't need to eat my bread!"
"I didn't eat your bread!"
"Well, I didn't eat my bread and there's a great big bite missing from both pieces!"
And then everything started to happen in slow motion as the reality of what had really happened hit me. I flashed on the gaping holes in my mind. I reached for the loaf of bread off of the refrigerator and saw that the bag had been bitten to pieces and was surrounded by mouse droppings. My house was infested with mice. And, dear readers, this was made all the more disgusting by the fact that I had TOAST for breakfast that morning.
So, I immediately got on the phone and called the "committee" and told them about our mouse problem. He told me this was the first he had ever heard of it. (UM, with those holes, I beg to differ) It was probably just one mouse and that we should stuff some brillo pads in the holes and put duct tape over it, that would solve our problem.
"But what about calling an exterminator?"
"You don't need an exterminator. This is the country. All houses have a mouse or two."
"NOT MY HOUSE!"
I did go through and put the brillo pads/ duct tape solution in place. An exterminator DID come out but all he brought was sticky trap and I could have done that. We didn't see any more signs of mice after that, but that was the start of my tense relationship with the church.
But that's not all, oh no, that's not all....
To be cont.