I took a 2 week hiatus because I wasn't exactly sure what to say about the recent goings on here at My Life with Dogs. I felt to publish posts that simply chronicled our family photos and random acts of the children would be doing our readers a disservice because it would be hiding the real issues that were occupying our time.
Many of our readers know that Swanny and I belong to the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Ottawa, IL. I can only speak for myself, but I LOVE my church. I love its vision and mission. I love the message of its ministry. I love how mission-minded we are. I love that we are Open and Affirming and extend a welcoming hand to everyone. I love the people there--they make me feel both comforted and challenged. They help me grow spiritually and intelectually.
Our church has recently encountered a crisis, to put it plainly. In the past 3 weeks, we have had a member (also a church employee) arrested and charged with 2 counts of arson as well as with embezzling a rather large amount of money from the church. (The arson being an apparent attempt to divert attention from the money matter). No one was physically injured in the fire and the fire was not set at the church, but it was an act of violence against 2 other members of the congregation.
To say that we all have felt betrayed on a personal level is quite literally an understatement. The person in question was someone who was close to many of us, including our children. She was in fact, Peanut's sunday school teacher. She was the mother of 3 children herself and my heart simply breaks to think of what those children now have to live with and face.
The initial shock of what happened took days to sink in and still longer to process. The magnitude of the financial situation is still something I personally am grasping at and I think will be something that will take a long time for people to fully understand the depth of. We are all grieving at this point--for our church, for missions and other causes that likely never received money they were due, for having always operated on trust rather than on good business sense, for a family that has been torn apart and will NEVER be the same again, for people who have suffered a devastating loss of their home and property, which while they may get much of that back, they will never get back the time, energy and emotion they have spent and will spend dealing with the situation.
I don't know what the future holds for sure for our member who now sits in jail, awaiting a trial they say some time in June. I don't know what the future holds for her girls or her husband, but I think of them every day and pray that they know they still have a church family who loves them. I pray that they feel the mercy and love of Jesus and of His church here in Ottawa.
While I don't know exactly what the future holds for our members who have been displaced from their home, I do know that they have significant trials ahead of them and lots of work to do in putting their lives back together.
I don't know what the future holds for our church. SIGNIFICANT changes in policy and procedure will need to take place, but the tricky thing is, we all see this situation from different shoes. We all had different relationships with those involved and bring different experiences to the table when we put the pieces back together. Listening to each other with patience and open hearts is all we can do.
Radical forgiveness and mercy. Our pastor has taught us that revenge is nothing but violence continuing a violent cycle. She has taught us that Jesus is our role-model of mercy, compassion and love. I have been AMAZED at how this has come to life in our congregation. I think it was best explained as we have noted we love and support our members who have been displaced from their home due to the fire but we love and support our member who is accused of these awful deeds and her family as well. That is who we are as Christ's church.
As the path unfolds for our congregation and at least one very troubled family, we'll all learn and grow. I know that I have witnessed the Gospel being lived out right in my own church, which is amazing, despite the "bad stuff" we're living through too....