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Welcome back to My Story series on the podcast. This week I recall the good, the bad, and the ugly about the time I was on staff at a church. I hated the politics, the backbiting, gossip, and legalism that went on behind the scenes. I explain why I haven’t been to a ladies retreat in 15 years and the times I was being traumatized on Sunday mornings before I got up to sing. In the midst of it all, I had to pretend that everything was perfect at home. At the end of the podcast, I feature my new song, O Divin Redempteur, so be sure to listen until the end.
Song: Repentir, O Divin Redempteur composed by Charles Gounod. Arrangement and orchestration by Diana Winkler. Pianist Paul Ross. Produced by Brian Winkler at Winkler Creative Studios.
Available for download and purchase here: Repentir, O Divin Redempteur MP3 | DSW Ministries
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Hi everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. Continuing with my story today. This is part 15, so if you haven’t heard the rest of my story, you might be missing some really important relevant events. So go back and listen to previous episodes. They’re all labeled “My Story” and they are numbered in order.
I did cover my childhood abuse by a school counselor, high school years, in college, getting saved, getting called into the ministry, et cetera. If you don’t wanna listen to all of them, I would say go back to, at least when I started dating my ex. To get an accurate picture of where I’m at right now.
When telling your story, it is really challenging to put the events together, what to leave out. It’s also really hard to relive these memories and describe them the way that they happen to me. That’s pretty typical for a survivor. We all have our different stories. They are all valid. Some are more severe than others, but unless you’ve experienced certain things like gaslighting, manipulation, and emotional abuse, you don’t realize how hard it is to set the scene with all its complicated
twists and turns and miscellaneous tidbits that drive you nuts, but you don’t know how to fit it into the narrative. I’m trying the best I can, so I’m trying to break them up into time periods that have a start and a finish. Details I can remember relevant to that time period. That’s easiest for me right now.
Today I will cover the church that we were at for five years on what happened related to the church, Cactus Flower Baptist Church. And then next week I will start in on more of what happened at home behind the scenes. Trying to mix them together would be a really long episode. So last week I covered our first year moving to Phoenix from Danny’s job transfer.
We bought our house, This was actually our first home as a married couple, and started attending Cactus Flower Baptist Church. We were members there for five years. That’s a long time. Now, of course, I joined the choir, drama team. I sang solos and formed a music trio. I taught voice lessons privately, but I was also asked to teach a group class in church on singing.
Now I think that went very well. Except for the choir director always being a class clown and trying to derail my class.
At that time, I started working for a check printer. It was a good, well paying job. I was in the call center taking orders for checks. I was there for about a year, and then the pastor asked me to come on board as the pastor’s secretary.
What was our church like? Let me paint a picture for you. It was a typical, traditional Baptist church. We had traditional choir music. Women wore skirts or dresses, men wore suits and ties. We went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night. We had Thursday night soul winning. We had a bus route, so we had bus visitation.
Pastor John was an average preacher. I don’t remember any spectacular sermons, but I also don’t remember any really bad sermons. And thankfully he was not one of those screaming preachers, but I think he was sincere in the gospel. I did notice he had a prayer life, and he was in the word as far as I could tell, or my memory serves me.
He did mostly exegetical preaching, which means that he went through the Bible verse by verse, instead of individually singling out of verse and creating a sermon out of it. He would do book studies and
he would preach through the Bible with series. So I just didn’t like how the rest of the church was run. It was a back biting, gossipy, judgmental church. I’m sure that you have been in one of those churches. The same old senior citizens would ask me, why don’t you have children yet? You don’t wanna know the answer to that question, but you can’t really jump on the little old ladies. So back to the job, it was a big pay cut and no benefits, but I was so starry eyed just being asked to be on the staff.
That I had no idea what was to come. Pastor John said he chose me because I had a Bible college degree. So I quit the job at the check printer, like a dingaling, and I was really sorry later. The job itself was kind of boring. A lot of the job involved listening to the pastor snorting and blowing his nose in the office next to me.
I did the bulletin for Sunday. The pastor would give me clippings and cartoons and little quotes to put in there, last week’s offering, fun stuff. Whoever’s birthday it was. And anything else pertinent to what we need to know. I sometimes questioned the quotes that he would give me to put in the bulletin more than once.
He would give me this Latterday Saint President quote, and I called him out on it one day and I said, Why is a Baptist church quoting an LDS prophet when we have plenty of Baptists to quote. All he said was “Duly noted”. So I answered the phone and I transferred calls to the pastor. I did all of the organizing for the missions conferences and the revivals, the ladies luncheons.
I organized the supply closet. We had a Christian school at the church, so I got to know all of the teachers that came into the office to use the copy machine, and I would have lunch with them outside on the picnic benches. It wasn’t always rainbows and unicorns, though I kept finding stamps missing from the desk drawer, reams of paper missing.
I was in charge of ordering the supplies. I labeled my mechanical pencil with my name on it so somebody didn’t walk off with it. That made the pastor mad. I was also in charge of dealing with those that came to the church for financial help. The school principal would always put them to work on the church grounds in exchange for gas money or for food.
I even saw him making lunch whatever we had in the pantry. Of course, I was always in earshot of the pastor’s counseling sessions. And Danny knew that. He always wanted to know what was going on with so and so and so in the pastor’s office today. So one of the boys got a girl pregnant and everybody in the church knew about it.
Danny would ask me what was going on and I told him I wasn’t allowed to talk about what I heard in the office, but he was very pushy and got mad at me when I wouldn’t give him all the latest gossip.
There was another gal that got pregnant at the church. She was actually one of my voice students. Her dad ran the sound with Danny, and he was the one that told me about it. Her dad said she was living with her boyfriend and I just happened to walk past her mother who was in the church pew. And all I said was that I was praying for her family and praying for your daughter’s situation.
Oh, she just got so defensive and denied everything that was going on. She accused me of spreading lies and I just flat out told her, Your husband told me about this. I’m not spreading any gossip.
But wasn’t anything I could do I know she was probably trying to save face and was embarrassed, so I kinda, let it go.
Oh, the women’s retreat. That was a big deal at the church. I remember the last one that I went to was actually at this church, and it was the one that I had to plan because that was my job. So I was supposed to go make some gift baskets for door prizes, and it was given a certain amount of money to go shopping, which wasn’t much.
I think it was.
I’d say maybe a hundred bucks if my memory serves me. So I bought a bunch of bath items and lotion and I don’t know, whatever else you put in a gift basket. I forget. So I got back to the office and put the baskets together, and later the pastor’s wife came in and she looked at what was in the baskets and she just criticized me and said how pathetic my baskets were.
And they hardly had any stuff in them. And, well, I had a budget. I was given a budget by the church treasury. So she went out and bought all this crazy expensive stuff to put in the baskets and put this shrink wrap on. I’m okay, fine. Don’t ask me to make gift baskets again. So then there was a signup sheet incident.
Pastor told me to create a sign up sheet for the ladies to sign up for the retreat, And I had it on the desk. And the pastor’s wife came in and I don’t remember why, but she came in and she scribbled all over it. I cannot remember why she did that, but she didn’t like the sign up sheet. And so she left and the pastor came in and asked,
what happened to the signup sheet? What is this? I said I didn’t do that. Your wife came in and scribbled all over it. Well, he just flipped out and yelled at me for criticizing his wife. Don’t you ever talk about my wife like that! Come in here and make excuses about your poor work and then you blame it on my wife and I didn’t wanna argue with him because he was really mad and I was just gonna let it go.
I was crying for the rest of the day cuz I didn’t do anything wrong. And I thought, Oh boy, I’m gonna be fired for that. And the treasurer came in and she did her best to comfort me. I had a feeling she knew what I was going through being in the church office as well. Oh. But then we had soul winning on Thursday night.
We were the only two without a partner, so the pastor’s wife was complaining to her husband and he just gave her a look like, sorry, dear. You two are just gonna have to get along. And yes, it was very awkward. I knew she didn’t like me. At that time I wasn’t thrilled with her either. The ladies would pair up Thursdays to go knock on doors and visit those that came to the church. They had the first time visitor sign up cards and we would welcome them to the church.
So we got into the car and I just pretended like nothing happened. I was very professional.
So back to the retreat because after all this happened, I didn’t even want to go to the retreat anymore.
I tried to get out of it saying I had to stay home and help my husband with the roof, some ridiculous excuse, but they said that I had to go. It’s a requirement of my job. Looking back, I was trying to remember what happened at
that retreat. I must have blocked it out of my mind. The only thing I remember from that weekend, Was that I took my own food because of my food allergies, which I still have, and they ate at McDonald’s while I ate my sandwich or whatever I brought, I remember that the gift baskets were a big hit, I guess.
No thanks to me, but that’s fine. I’m glad they enjoyed them, but I don’t remember anything else. It must have been the trauma of the whole thing. But I will say the previous retreats that I had been on in other churches, I did remember some of it. I remember there was no games, no activities. We had a dress code, means skirts, dresses on a retreat.
I remembered being preached at to submit to your husband and being sexually available to him at all times. And of course, being a good mother. Well, all that was a joke in my house if you’ve been listening to my story up to this point. So I never went to another lady’s retreat. That was in 2003 I believe.
I never went to another lady’s retreat until this year at my current church, which was really great. I was invited to go to the ladies retreat at my now church by my lady’s bible study teacher, and they offered to pay for it..
Because I was outta work. And I had no reason not to trust the ladies at the church. They had been very good to me and so far not traumatizing for me. I do admit that I was waiting for the shoe to drop. I was bracing myself for somebody to say in the messages or the activities, something that would trigger me because of my previous trauma.
But I’ll happily say to make things short that I had a great time. Everybody was very nice. We had wonderful activities outside and indoors and great food, great fellowship, great lessons. I think the theme was on suffering and nothing to trigger me. So if you’ve had a similar experience with ladies retreats or conferences maybe give that a chance in the future if you find a healthy church to be in.
As it was a real refreshment for me. So back to my story at Cactus Flower, I had a trio that I had put together and that consisted of Fred, Marilyn, myself, and we wanted to add another tenor to the group and there was this trumpet player in our small orchestra that wanted to sing in our quartet.
And so we said, Okay, great. We’d love to have you. There was just one problem. He wore an earring. And I asked the pastor if he could be in the quartet if he took his earring out. Cause I knew that was going to be a problem. And the pastor said yes, but the choir director didn’t like it.
I didn’t understand why he could be in the orchestra but not in our quartet.
Anyway, we rehearsed a song that we were scheduled to sing on Sunday. I think it was Sunday night, and we had rehearsed it after church with Paul, our pianist, so it wasn’t a surprise that we were working on the song. So we got up there waiting to be announced for our song, and the problem was that the choir director announced us as a trio instead of a quartet.
I don’t know if he did it on purpose or he didn’t turn around and look to see that we were a quartet. So all four of us got up there. There were a couple Snickers in the audience, , but our tenor did not have an earring as promised. And after that congregation stopped laughing at the foible, we started our song.
Which was a great song. Did a good job. When it was over, we sat down. After church, the three of us got a stern talking to about letting our tenor sing with us. Apparently taking the earring out wasn’t good enough. He wasn’t up to the church’s standards for special music for some reason. I still don’t know why.
The worst part about being in this church was that I had to pretend that everything was okay at church, keeping up appearances. Danny would have these mood swings at church. I don’t know if he was fooling anyone. A normal occurrence for us was that we would have a fight on the way to church in the car.
Have you ever had one of those? I bet you have. And you pull up to the church parking lot and you have to wipe away the tears and paste a smile on your face. And most of the time I had to sing that day. I normally had a solo sing or I sang with the trio, or I was in the choir.
Now I have videos of me singing on such occasions. It’s like watching a machine singing. Some of them might still be on my YouTube channel. I’ll have to double check that, but I have this deadpan expression on my face. I remember very specifically, it was Resurrection Sunday and I had to sing, how wonderful it was and joyful that Jesus rose from the dead, and my face was expressionless because I was just traumatized right before I got into church.
I don’t remember any of the conversations that we had. It was just a regular thing. So I was always trying to find activities to avoid going home. I’d work late. I’d practice with the trio with Fred and Marilyn. Danny’s always been accusing me of having an affair with Fred. Fred’s wife was also suspicious of us, and she would accuse Fred too, but there was never anything going on between us.
We were just good friends. We loved music,
and we are still good friends. We still keep in touch. I remember we did this drama skit for Christmas with the choir in music. It was kinda like a radio show where you stand in front of the microphones and you have your script and then the choir would sing in between this, a different scenes.
Well, the director paired us up as married characters in the play. And I gave the choir director a hard time. I said, our spouses are already accusing us of something going on. He said, Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing. It wasn’t nothing. It was never nothing in my house. I don’t know if I mentioned Danny had
his motorcycle that he drove to church sometimes, and when he would blow up at church in one of his mood swings, he would jump on his bike and zoom away. Have you been listening to my story for very long, that is a pattern for him. That’s what he does when he doesn’t get his way. It’s like he’s a two year old having a temper tantrum.
One day, Fred and I, we were out on the front porch when Danny got mad at something that Fred said. They were talking about baseball, I think. And so Danny got mad at Fred. Took off on his motorcycle, and Fred just laughed his butt off as he zoomed away really loud.
Oh. Then he was always accusing me of cheating on everyone from the choir director, the aerobics instructor, the librarian. He would track me whenever I went.
This is not the worst church that I’ve been at.
I mean, compared to some of the others that I have talked about or that we will be part of in the future. Except for that they unjustly fired me. It was definitely humiliating. But I will tell you the feeling was mutual by the time that the end came. So I will leave you on a cliff hanger for next week.
I will tell you what happened and how it went down in flames. So next week it will be, what’s it like being fired from a church, And I will get into more of what’s going on at home. So I’m including my new music again this week. Now, if you remember last week, I had O Divine Redeemer. It is the same song except I sang it in the original French language.
Oh, Divin Redempteur. So if you like French culture, Or you’re morbidly curious about how my French singing is . Enjoy the song. I really worked hard on the French Rs, just so you know. And I even had my sister and her French boyfriend, a native French speaker to listen to it and they said, Manifique! They could not tell I was not a native French speaker, so that’s a huge compliment for me.
Anyway, this is one of my favorite songs. It has a beautiful melody. Again, the English version was on last week’s podcast. Or you can listen to that song on my website, DSW Ministries dot org. Along with all of my other music, it’s under the tab called Listen to my Music and if you like the music, you like me and want to support me and my ministry, the podcast, it’s also available for purchase in my store, the link is
next to the song that will take you to the store.
So until I see you next week, God bless you. Thanks for being here with me, listening to my story and take care of yourself.