Saturday, 1 May 2010
I read a blog post a while back which was about the difficult decision to leave one church and join another. I have seen this situation from both sides of the fence and know that the process can be painful and hurtful for clergy and laity.
There are two basic ways that people usually leave church. The first and most common is that people don’t voice dissatisfaction but melt quietly away, they may give up their positions, attendance drops off and then they disappear altogether. This can cause a degree of heartache for the vicar of that church; “It would at least have been nice to have been told whether it was just that the sermons were crap”, as my dad once put it.
The other type is Mr or Ms Malcontent, they DO voice their dissatisfaction in no uncertain terms and then they stick the knife in by explaining that everyone else in the church feels the same way as they do, but just doesn’t want to tell you to your face... Needless to say, this approach really isn’t good for the morale of the incumbent concerned, nor is it very Christian.
Leaving a church is usually painful for the leaver. It can be a wrench to give up friendships, familiar patterns of worship, roles within that church and the memories and history that belong to it. Those who use the melt away approach often find that nobody gets in touch to check if everything is alright. The person leaving, who may already have their own hurts, often interprets this as a lack of care; it is much more often the case that people don’t want to infringe on privacy or to interfere or pressurise.
If someone seems to have disappeared from your church, I personally think that getting in touch is a good idea, although I do understand that people worry that they may make the situation worse.
If you leave a church, it is probably courteous to tell the vicar, be graceful and be as constructive as you can. If you really can’t say anything positive, you may have to melt away. Finally, whichever option you choose, don’t be surprised when no one phones.