In the beginning seasons of Gilmore Girls, Luke disappears for one day every year. Lorelai cannot figure out why and Babette informs her it’s his ‘dark day’. On the anniversary of his father’s death every year, Luke removes himself from society. He shuts down his diner, goes fishing and remembers.
Yesterday was my dark day.
Four years ago, in the name of loving me, the church I belonged to and was volunteering for declared me to be a “damaging and harmful” individual in the lives of teenagers and both implied and outright said I had engaged in inappropriate behaviour. They complied a list of evidence, which I was not permitted to see, and gave me no chance to respond. They ordered me to cease working and interacting with all young people immediately. While they communicated they hoped I would stay within the congregation I am not entirely sure how they expected me to. It took me three and a half years to consider joining another institutional congregation. There are so many nuances of that day and that event and that reality. Know I take responsibility for any of my actions which appeared on that list, but I will never agree with how I was treated or spoken about.
A significant piece of me died that day. I lost a family, an identity and a place. I felt moorless and afraid to go out into public in that town in case I ran into someone. I was asked to never speak to any of the young people ever again even in public and I tried to take that request – which was a little insane – seriously. If I saw them in Target, I walked out. If I saw a parent at Chilli’s, I left. I essentially turned into a hermit in my house. I lost friends and there are people I thought would be family for me forever who have rarely spoken to me since.
You can imagine that whenever people talk about ‘church discipline’ I get a little antsy.
For anyone reading this who has not been a member of a congregation, this may seem a little insane. It was just a horrible set of things said to me – why the mourning? I completely understand your confusion. Let me say these people had verbally pledged to me to be ‘family’ and to love me and guide me through seminary. Instead, they shunned me. I now also get a little antsy when institutions use family language.
So every year on that day, I take a dark day. I remember and cry and mourn the moments which shifted the direction of my life. I may also say nasty things about the man who compiled that list. I pause to remember the girl who trusted the church to be a good place who would love her and believe in her and champion her and how I’m not actually sure I miss her. But then I remember the past four years. The years of healing and hope, the years of people who rallied around me and assured me I was not a bad youth worker and did, in fact, have a place in the Global Church. The ways in which my definition of church has changed and how I like it better. I’m proud of how I have risen from that day and who I am now.
However, the 25th of April will always be marked with deep breaths, quiet reflection and gratefulness for hope and resurrection.