The move in 2003 took us away from a district we had lived in for over eleven years to a different part of the country leading a new church. When we arrived in the town, the local paper wanted to interview us both and take our photograph. Sandra agreed to her picture being taken but wouldn’t speak to them, saying she’d rather I did it. When the news item was published, she was livid that they had printed her age . She rang up the paper and complained in extremely strong terms. The paper issued an apology the following week as a gesture of good will, but subsequently didn’t give the church as much good press or free publicity as it had previously done.
While at this church, Sandra had a clash of personalities with a young woman similar in age. What ignited it, no-one could determine. Sandra was adamant though that she did not want to stay living in that community so insisted that that I approach our bishop and request another change of church. I felt I had little option but to comply with her demands. I asked for an interview, gave some reasons but never revealed the real reasons for wanting to relocate yet again. The Bishop agreed and so, we were now moving again, to our sixth church in thirteen years.
When we were given notice of where our new church was to be, Sandra was adamant she did not want to go there. This time I stood firm throughout all her ranting knowing full well that any refusal to move churches, particularly as we had asked to change, would be counter productive. Unfortunately, Sandra made it plainly known that she did not wish to be at the new church nor did she wish to enter into the life of that church community. The new church community found this attitude hard to cope with. I was caught in the middle, I wanted to be the best church minister for that community that I could be. I did carry private reservations about the situation, but they remained undisclosed to anyone. I also felt a strong sense of loyalty towards my family. I tried to balance two conflicting views without compromising my own sense of ministry.
Matters weren’t helped by an incident that occurred at our church inauguration service. This is suppose to be a joyous occasion in the life of any church community. Just before the commencement of the service, a press photographer turned up unannounced at the Church. He wanted a photograph of Sandra and myself for the local newspaper. Sandra absolutely refused to cooperate and was quite abrasive towards the photographer and church elders who were attempting to coax her into co-operating. I felt totally embarrassed by this, even my pleas asking Sandra to oblige, fell on deaf ears.
The church authorities had instructed me that my main task would be to bring together two neighbouring churches that historically had two separate church buildings, two separate manses, two different sets of church leaders and different members into one church congregation. The church authorities reasoned that this would be the most economically viable proposition as it would reduce overheads and reduce the administrative burden upon the church. At my first church elders meeting, I spoke about the forth coming merger and how this would be an exciting and new chapter in the life of the church and I immediately sensed the atmosphere in the room darken. The impression that I had been given of both churches wanting and ready to come together as one church body turned out to be false. Both churches did not want this amalgamation imposed on them. I had just effectively announced myself as the agent of change that was going to see this plan through to completion. Coupled with the ill feeling that Sandra had caused, I’d effectively signed my own death warrant as far as my leadership of the church was concerned. The church elders met with the Bishop, the Bishop met with Sandra and I. Sandra berated the Bishop about the whole situation and this Bishop saw a glimpse of Sandra’s hidden character which I had to cope with and had lived through for the last fourteen years. Whatever proposal the Bishop put to Sandra, nothing was good enough. When the Bishop asked her, what she would do in his situation, she had no idea.
The Bishop’s decision meant that we would be taking up leadership at our seventh church in fourteen years. For me, those years had been long, silent years of hurt and pain. Years of pretence, appearing the ultimate professional on the outside but deeply hiding the mental and emotional scars where no one could observe them. These scars would soon burst open with severe consequences for myself but would remain invisible to others for a few more years.