Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Email Barrier That Saved Me

There's a story that goes around our denomination about a pastor's wife who made a big mistake. It was moving day for her and her husband. Moving day is extremely stressful for the pastor's family. You're moving to a church that you don't know, surrounded by people you have never met who suddenly show up to unload your moving truck and then start pulling apart your boxes and going through your stuff. You have to remain pleasant and wifely, but you really just want to scream and ask everyone to leave so you can put your stuff where you want it, not where you are just going to have to move it again 3 or 4 days later. Then you have to worry about your confidential things, which certain church members of every church delight in finding and "sorting" through. It's a trial for even the best of us.

But this one poor wife will never be forgotten. She was in the process of unloading her truck. She and her husband had been in their house for just a few hours. She hadn't even seen the church yet. Congregants were swarming all over her and she was just trying to get through it. She hadn't even unpacked her kitchen stuff when the head of the women's group came up to her and told her about the bake sale the church was having the next day. Moving day occurs in summer and traditionally churches are very busy then. Church doesn't stop just because a new pastor is coming in. But this woman approached the pastor's wife and said, "Of course, we can expect 3 dozen cookies from you tomorrow for the bake sale?"

The pastor's wife didn't even think. She was tired, hot and sweaty and fed up with all of these people going through her stuff. She just reacted. She said, "I'm not making any DAMN cookies!" And with that her fate was sealed. There was an audible gasp and she was never able to overcome that one moment. The story still makes the rounds everytime moving day comes around as a warning to the wives to be careful what they say.

And no, I am not that wife. But I could be. Our soon-to-be new church is really pushing my buttons. Now, they have a pastor who is retiring and has been fighting cancer for several years. He has not done anything but preach for a long time and the church has been sustaining itself without his help. So needless to say, the church is overly excited about getting us, getting a real pastor who will actually do things.

It all started with Facebook. Once the announcement came that we were the new pastoral family, people I didn't know started friending me. I don't use FB as a clique kind of thing. I use it to stay in contact with old friends. But these people have never met me and I can't tell them in person yet because... THEY DON'T KNOW ME! Hubby asked me to go ahead and friend them because it would be really awkward if I didn't. So I did. But now they're sending me all this crap AND they took my personal email address and started forwarding me those "God" memes that I hate. Don't forward snivel to me, PLEASE!!!

But I am trying to be patient and see it from their side. They just want to incorporate me into their family as soon as possible and want me to feel at home there. But I am just feeling like screaming "I DO NOT GET PAID BY THE CHURCH!!! YOU ARE NOT MY JOB! LEAVE ME ALONE!"

And then last night Hubby got an email from the soon-to-be church's VBS coordinator. They are holding off until after E gets there so she can take part. We're going to have been there one week. ONE!! I need to find a job, paint the rooms, get E settled. I very specifically told them at our initial meeting not to expect to see me on anything but Sunday for about 6 weeks while we got settled. I really did. I know I don't normally speak up for myself, but I made that very clear! But the email said, "We have set VBS and, blah, blah,blah. By the way, we hope MW will help with the meals."

"I'm not going to cook the DAMN meals!" I screamed at Hubby. Enough! I can see that I am going to be really disliked for a while at this church because I am going to have to set some firm boundaries. I always take part in my husband's ministry. That's not a ridiculous thing to assume by the church. BUT....I need some time to settle. I need some breathing room. I need the stupid memes to leave me alone.

I really don't want to be the damn cookie wife, but I will if I have to.


Jeannie said...

You are in a tough position. They of course assume that as an avid follower of Christ like your husband you will love the memes. (I have deep resentment for them myself) If I were you, I would drop out of facebook (after telling your old friends that you'll be on myspace or something instead under a pseudonym) Tell enquirers that you were being stalked and had to shut it down. When you figure out who the biggest gossip is at the new church, drop a hint that you get so inundated by mail from family and so many old friends that you only have time to read and respond to strictly personal messages and forwards unfortunately get deleted. You wish you had more time. sigh. (sell it)
Label very personal items as "old junk - basement" or somesuch and put a couple old yearbooks on the top in case someone decides to get nosy.

I can't imagine being under so much pressure and scrutiny. I would definitely be the damn cookie wife.

Expecting you to cook for VBS a week after a move? But they held it just for you! You poor thing. Can you boil hotdogs for it?

Anonymous said...

Can you send them a letter or email, something like: 'hi, I really excited to be joining your church. We are moving and in the process of getting settled in. I will be at Sunday services but will not be able to start fully participating in church actities until xx/xx/xxxx. Thank you for your understanding in giving me the time I need to make this transition for my family as smooth as possible.

It sounds like they've had to run the show there for a few years, don't let them run your show.

Can you set up a seperate church facebook profile (and email addy)?

Anonymous said...

PS, sorry for the typos :-)

Have a nice (stress-free)holiday weekend!


Green said...

Dude, privacy settings! They are your FRIEND, use them! I don't want my parents or potential employers seeing what crazy things my friends post on my Facebook wall. So as long as I know somebody, if they send me a friend request, I accept, but I block them from seeing pretty much EVERYTHING on my wall. Then if they ever ask, I have no problem saying I don't really use Facebook much. Who's to decide how much "much" is?

What is VBS? Please keep in mind your non-churchy readership who does not know your acronyms.

I had three friends help me move three weeks ago. I packed all my clothes myself, plus my laptop, iPod, etc., and then shoved personal things I didn't want to lose or have others handling into the bag with the laptop. Those two bags were never out of my site the entire day.

My mother taught me that helping is OFFERING, but it's not helpful to just bust in on someone else's turf and take over. So there's nothing wrong with you saying "Thanks, but I think we've got the unpacking covered, why don't you go enjoy your weekend?" and marking some boxes "Personal" and then having them set on the floor of your bedroom closet or wherever. These people can't honestly expect to be unpacking your underwear can they?

Maybe I am a bit nutty or rude, but I see nothing wrong with when people say "We'll look forward to your bringing in [expensive request here] to work Thursday, I just look at them all confused and smile while saying, "Oh, I specifically didn't sign up for the [whatever] this time, but maybe next time."

I will NEVER be shamed into not participating in something that's not convenient for me. Maybe I don't understand the inner workings of church politics, and if so, I would love for you to explain more, because I'm fascinated by it. But I'd think these church people would be so happy to get a younger .... shit, is it minister? pastor? sorry, I forgot. Anyway, they'd be so happy to get you guys they wouldn't want to drive you away by being horridly overbearing which it sounds like they are already.

Wishing you luck with these people. (Sorry so long)

Living in Muddy Waters said...

VBS- Vacation Bible School. A lovely gathering of tired and sweaty kids for several hours a day for 5 days to teach them about God. They get hyped up on sugar and brain-washed on catchy praise chorus songs. Granted, Methodists aren't as bad as Jesus Camp, but E's eyes still glaze over with happiness when she knows she's going to the matrix, I mean VBS.

And as for FB privacy settings...I can do that? You're kidding! I'm off to FB right now.

And Green, you really want to know the inner workings of the church? I'll do my best!

Anonymous said...

Does anything good ever happen in your life? Anything??? Or is everything an xcuse for you to wine and say "poor me?"Must everything besuch a chore? You should have titled your blog"Bitching Victim in M.w." or "Look what terrible bad horrable nogood thing happend to skrew mylife up today!" I must say, you got the bitching part down pat-your quit good. I am not hating.I just hopeyou can soon start to look for ansers instead of expecting gloom. You might actuallysee the sunshine and smile. Xpect good and you justmight alsohave to rename your blog.

Read this book-Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life by Shakti Gawain

Anonymous said...

Bitch all you want to, I love your blog.My hubby is an avid churchgoer and he's on the Vestry. I only go 1-2 times a year out of respect for him but even then, they can be some mighty pushy people. I get interrogated every time about why I don't come more often, blah, blah,yadda..thank goodness my mum raised me to lie,:)) they wouldn't like my truths.
I'm not religious or Christian though I was raised in the Hindu/Buddhist/Sikh faiths and I've pretty much OD'ed on some white chicks changing their names to Shakti, Shanti, etc and saying namaste 10 times day and thinking they have all the answers to everything. They then have to gall to write books lecturing the masses about their new found drivel and sadly, the masses buy this crap and make them rich.
Maybe I'm in the wrong profession..hell, if I wrote a book about achieving shanti and nirvana, at least I speak the language and can pretend to look the part of the South Asian sage


Bubblewench said...

I bet this is tough, but 'knowing' you, it will go as smooth as possible.

You really do need to set the boundries! If you already told them no before, remind them of that.

Like Jeannie said.. big sigh, sell it how hard it can be to move to a new town and get to know everything all at once.

Anonymous said...

I'd totally fill a huge box with sex toys and other totally naughty things if I were you, it would certainly be the cautionary tale that goes around that possibly put an end to the "helpful neighbours" but I'm a total shit starter.

Good luck.