Bekah (blueashke) wrote in bad_service,

The post about the Catholic church issue made me decide to post this story. The very short version: At 13 I joined the church. 8 days later, I was excommunicated, along with my whole family.

First, some background. I apologize that it's long. And yes, it could be that I could give less, but it's my post and my story. :P

I was raised in the church. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church to be more specific. New Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church in South San Francisco to be exact (why no, I don't hate them with the fire of a thousand suns at ALL!). I was baptized at 8 days old, raised as what's called a 'non-communicant member', meaning that I was a member of the church, but had not made a profession of faith or officially become a full fledged member, allowed to take communion etc. My father was an elder (think assistant pastor), my mother did most of the special music. They'd been attending this church since before they were married in 1976. This story takes place in late 1994/early 1995. I was 13, my younger sister was 11. She'd actually taken the classes and joined earlier that summer, leaving me the sole member of the family still non-communicant.

The other background you need to know is that my father had multiple sclerosis. He was wheelchair bound by the time I was 6, and in the summer of '94, had an exacerbation (attack) bad enough that when he got out of the hospital, he moved to a nursing home, where he would live until he died in May of '97.

In late June of '94, we had what our family has come to call Hell Week.
Monday, my mom had a procedure done to remove precancerous tissue from her cervix.
Tuesday, my dad had his attack and was taken to the hospital.
Wednesday, his entire family was flying up from LA to help us make decisions about life support, feeding tubes, etc.
Thursday, in typical my dad fashion, he bounced right back and was released to the nursing home for the remainder of his life.
Friday, my mom received a panicked call from her OBGYN. The procedure she'd had done was NOT supposed to be done on a pregnant woman. Which she was.

Dad had been paralyzed from the waist down (and I later learned was snipped anyway) for two years. Guess who had been cheating? Not only that, but it was with her best friend's husband, we'll call him Joe. Now Joe and his wife ALSO attended our church (and this is more of why you need the background). In fact, they'd been married there.

Now my mom didn't tell anyone except Joe until late August. In the OPC, a pregnancy conceived out of wedlock must be confessed to the elders. Then they'd send out a letter to inform the communicant members of the pregnancy, ostentatiously to 'prevent gossip'. That would be a whole level of bad_service in and of itself IMO. But anyway.

My mother told Joe that she was going to tell my father on Wednesday. She had an appointment to meet with the other elders (my dad had gone on indefinite leave since his hospitalization, but he still attended church with us on Sundays) on Thursday. My sister and I were out of town until the following Monday, Labor Day, and she'd tell us when we came back (the day before school started no less).

So while my mother was at my dad's... Joe took it upon himself to confess all to the elders, telling them that 'the guilt is eating me alive and Sara won't tell you!' This of course, put them right in the frame of mind that it was all my mom doing the seducing, etc. Let's just suffice it to say that I know my mom was wrong to do what she did, but this man was a LECH and definitely started it all.

When she told me and my sister, there were two elders wives there to make sure she told us the truth and to control me in case I acted 'in a manner unappropriate' (read: keep me from screaming at her for being a slut). By this time she'd learned she was due in March (when the rest of us have our birthdays incidentally). I was rushed through catechism classes to make me into a full member because supposedly it would help me to heal and rely on the church. Really they just hated having one less person paying church dues (yes my 11 year old sister was paying church dues).

Fast forward to December. My mother is six months pregnant, and we now know that she's having yet another March daughter. She comes rushing in one night from the grocery store, without groceries, and rushes back out, telling us she had to go see our dad. We later learned that she and Joe had been caught in the backseat of her Geo Metro in flagrante. In the parking lot of the grocery store. The one TWO BLOCKS from our pastor's house. By the pastor and his 17 year old daughter.

So now there's even more uproar. Let me say that my father was a wonderful and forgiving man. He forgave my mother, and always, ALWAYS wanted her to keep this baby. My sister and I hadn't forgiven her at that point, but we, too, wanted this baby in our lives.

On New Year's Day of 1995, I and one of the other elders' daughters became full communicant members of the church. I was 13, she was 11. The following Sunday after church, my parents were taken aside by the elders and informed that Joe had come to them and told them that his wife, Linda, wouldn't be able to 'handle' seeing his baby at church every Sunday because they married after she had gone through menopause.

Due to this, they had decided that my parents would give 'it' up for adoption. They refused to acknowledge that we knew the sex of the baby. It would be a closed and private adoption, to someone else in the presbytery, but that my mother would sign away all rights. She would not see 'it' after giving birth. She would never be told who had her child. If she went to a Hymn Sing or some other church gathering, she very well could come in contact with 'it', but she wouldn't know for sure.

My parents were shocked. They went home and talked to me and my sister. We helped them write a six page letter to the elders, citing Scripture and expressing our dismay at their unloving attitude. We stated that we would NOT be giving her up. All four of us signed it. The next day, we were excommunicated. We are not permitted to set foot in their precious place of worship. The pastor's wife taught at my school, and when I had her as a teacher the next year, she acted as if she'd never seen me before. Our friends were told the 'truth' according to them, and it took years before they were able to get out from under the church's thumb and befriend us again.

When we found a new church to attend, the pastor contacted our new pastor repeatedly, telling him about all my mother had done, and that he'd been 'forced to excommunicate the entire family.' Thankfully the new one was a wonderful loving man who basically shrugged the whole thing off.

My little sister was sure enough, yet another March girl. She turned 13 this year. Joe has never seen her, though he's been welcome to. And his wife? The one who 'wouldn't be able to handle it'? Has met her several times, though my sister didn't know who she was. My father got to see her turn 2 before he passed away, and always treated her as his own, though she does know now that he wasn't her father.

The church to this day finds excuses to send angry letters about my mother to her pastor, hearing this or that through people who dared to remain her friend and forgive her. The pastor is still the same one, still angry and cruel. Me, I grew up to be exactly what the icon says, so I wouldn't be welcome there anyway.

Wow, that got even longer than I expected. Sorry!
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