One word characterised this new chapter of my church ministry: Release. Quite ironic really because it also represented a message I’d often portrayed when speaking to different groups. While I was training to become a minister, a friend of mine had come across a magic dealer selling all sorts of props and gimmicks. He purchased a handcuff escape routine and I believe I was the first person to witness it. The impact of the illusion captivated me so much that I had to be taken to the same shop.
During the years that followed I expanded my repertoire and found that the use of conjuring tricks opened doors. I was able to visit all sorts of establishments and would always finish my set with an escapology routine and then expound a short talk on how faith can release a person from all sorts of problems that could bind one mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually.
I had been released of Sandra’s insecurity or dare I say it, jealousy over my own talents. I no longer needed to suppress my ability and slowly I was able to have my confidence restored.
I had a great team of church elders working alongside me and we had a fantastic working relationship. I don’t know what their thoughts were when they first learnt that I was going to be leading their church. I imagine that they might be concerned for the workload I would be taking on. I could envisage that they might be worried that I was carrying too much baggage to be an effective leader of their church. For me, communication was essential. I met with my leadership and was absolutely amazed that their first concern was over my well-being.
Tragically, many church ministers resigned because of friction between themselves and their church elders. Meetings between the two could be fraught as some church elders took these meetings as an opportunity to tell the minister where they were going wrong. Church ministers often would approach these meetings as a means to justify some dictatorial decision. Knowing the egos of some church leaders, I could sympathise with some elders. For myself, experience had taught me that consultation with elders was always the wisest approach.
The church elders did express their concerns to me, but it was apprehension that I was doing too much and they were fearful that I would exhaust myself. I was overwhelmed that here was a group of people who actually cared. Most church ministers are criticised for doing too little. For the first time in my career I was even told that if I needed a weekend off at any time, just let them know and they would sort everything out. It was a pleasure to work alongside these lovely people who I now count as close friends.
I’d shared with the church elders why my marriage had broken down as I felt that I was accountable to them. Members of the congregation knew nothing other than I was separated and as far as I know, no-one was gossiping or trying to pry into my circumstances. Again, this was a rare experience with the Church. Many church attendees love a juicy snippet of tittle-tattle. This church was unique in that everyone attached to it really cared. They weren’t concerned with rumour, but were focussed on the mission of the church.
This was the happiest and most fulfilling time of my ministry and I felt released and able to be myself for once.