The most memorable part of yesterday at Fairfield Uniting, for me, had to have been Rev. Kava's sermon. Once again, a message delivered with a passion and an obvious conviction. More about the sermon, its fit to Fairfield Uniting and, yet again, the technical hitches, later.
These post are, in the main, about recording and contrasts and I will continue that theme. Comparing the differences I have experienced in the last few weeks between Fairfield Uniting and another church/congregation.
Firstly, some weeks ago I was invited to a breakfast for men; the first (hopefully) in an effort/outreach specifically to men. It was attended by 50+ individuals, from the various congregations within a parish, with varied view-points and needs. The scripture verse chosen to underscore the event was 1st Timothy 2:8.
The second invitation received, from within the same parish, was to attend a Sunday morning service which had a special meaning for a particular person. Both Judy and I attended and it was a joy to be able to worship amongst people who have a desire to share Gods word in a genuine manner, to be worshiping with other family members and to meet new people.
Why are those two events of significance and why do they draw attention to the contrast in attending, a worship service at, Fairfield Uniting?
Point one; after attending the two 'special' events I received a communication from the 'Superintendent' minister, of the church concerned, thanking me for my attendance, voicing his pleasure in meeting Judith, offering some biblical information to read and outlined the bible passage being followed for the next (the week just past) week – (part of) Romans 13. (Chap' 13 covers duties towards the state and one another: advice very applicable to Fairfield Uniting)
Now contrast that effort and outreach to that which I experienced when I arrived at Fairfield Uniting yesterday (31Aug'2014). On my entering, Fairfield Uniting, four others were in the same small entrance space: An Elder and Church Council chairman, another church councillor and two others. With the exception of the person handing out the order of service sheets each of the others made a particular effort to ignore my presence!
There are many ways to look at and react to the leader’s behaviour; in the main though, for me, I simply find it sad. It highlights the contrast of leadership and it shows how, if allowed, human nature and personal agendas can stand between what a functional Christian Church stands for and how it is run and viewed by others. When examined critically, it is not me who is hurt by the continuing process of vilification. It is pointless me feeling anything but disappointment in each of the individuals, Elders and Church Councillors involved. It is a crying shame they could not have listened to Rev. Kava's rousing sermon and, hearing what was said, take immediate remedial action; or is that too much to ask of Fairfield Uniting's leadership?
The contrast, in leadership, between the two congregations, highlighted herein, feeds directly into Rev. Kava's theme for yesterdays sermon; “Behave yourself like a Christian”. That theme and Rev. Kava's entire sermon went directly to the heart of Fairfield Uniting's (leadership/congregational) problems. Behaving as a Christian, to me, means placing Jesus's teachings at the core of all we do as a Church and individuals. At Fairfield Uniting this is not normal practice: that is so clearly highlighted in these postings.
Why is it so important, to the leadership of Fairfield Uniting, that me, my family (and many others who have been pushed away) should be made feel so un-welcome in a church which has been our life for decades. Additionally, why is it the leaders in Presbytery, Synod and the Assembly choose to 'pass us by on the other side of the road', ignoring our requests for help? I repeat: if I am not worthy, in their eyes, is it not church I should be attending, should not Fairfield Uniting leaders be encouraging me to follow their example, 'right principles' and actions; or is that the problem?
Let me provide another contrast relating to the 'welcoming'. It has become a feature at the commencement of announcements made during the morning service to 'welcome' people. Not unusual, I would think, in any/other church(s), but at Fairfield Uniting it has a particular ring: a false ring. Sharp to the ear and, to those who know better, a hypocritical ring. The welcome often includes the statement “it is great to see you here.....etc.”. It points to the fact those attending the service are important (and they are) and welcome(?). But what it masks is the fact ONLY SOME ARE WELCOME, NOT ALL! Made patently obvious in the reception(s) I received yesterday and on previous (written up) occasions. You are and will be 'welcome', at Fairfield Uniting, if you understand it is a requirement of participation you MUST do only that which is 'defined' acceptable to the Fairfield Uniting Church Council. Said another way: you must adhere strictly to the Tweed/Solifoni dictums; one example, I quote Foni, “I am in charge!” therefore.....you must.....etc.
Rev. Kava's theme “Behave yourself like a Christian” is a particularly important energy which should be found radiating from all Christian Churches into their surrounding communities. Taking on the 'challenge' of being a Christian, in a world of contrast and contradiction, can be quite difficult. At the point you 'claim' to be a Christian the responsibility to act as one, in all you say and do, becomes an imperative. No longer do you get the varied choices the world has to offer: your choices now are reduced to two; continue to follow Christ and act accordingly or change you mind completely and turn your back on Christ and being a Christian. For me there is little middle ground. Equally, for me personally, that commitment has created great difficulty, highlighted in the absurdly contradictory situation I face at Fairfield Uniting. There is no doubt Fairfield Uniting is being tested, as am I, as are the Elders, Church Councillors and the wider congregation.
My considered opinion, at the moment, is we ALL are failing the test, and there can be no argument that is the case. But why?
I said earlier in this post, about Rev. Kava's sermon, “It is a crying shame they” - (Fairfield Uniting's leadership) - “could not have listened to Rev. Semisi's rousing sermon and, hearing what was said, take immediate remedial action; or is that too much to ask of Fairfield Uniting's leadership?”
The question to be answered first is, was the sermon applicable to me? Am I applying, to my actions, the Christian principles/advice Rev. Kava eloquently delivered. In particular his statement “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.
In amongst all his other points his 'insistence' evil should be overcome by good is of particular relevance to me and, it is knowing the importance of this, I have followed the path I have. It may appear contradictory to some, but it is important to any person looking into what has/is destroying Fairfield Uniting to understand it has been a practice, at Fairfield Uniting, to not assertively enforce, the application of Christian principles into the decision making relating to the corporate management of the church; in particular when it came to challenging the decisions and actions of some leaders*.
I have mentioned this before by stating, whilst there were enough of those doing the correct thing it ameliorated the influence of the leaders doing the wrong and the damage being caused. But following the path of “not wanting to cause wave” and or just doing the correct thing anyway has not proven the correct course. Those who worked hard and followed a true path have been worn down and ejected, resulting in Fairfield Uniting being reduced to the management we have now; similar to the past, with the same wrong intent, but without sufficient 'opposing good' to prevent a slide deeper into evil.
“Peace should be your aim”, said Rev. Kava. How true. “Bend over backwards for peace” he continued; with the caveat “do not compromise”. I am going to take issue with the first two of those three points; not because I disagree but because they are applicable when looking at what is/does occur within Fairfield Uniting.
*The truth is it has been the aim for many to try and 'keep the peace' and 'bending over backward' - particularly where Mr. D. Tweed (Elder/Chairman of the Church Council) is concerned - is what people have done for as long as I can remember; as I eluded to earlier. The reward for that effort was not an improvement; it simply brought, those doing wrong, time and opportunity to wreck havoc and wheedle, for selfish reasons, greater control.
Is peace my aim? It sure is and always was and quite frankly I have 'bent over backwards' in looking for different ways to get those who are taking Fairfield Uniting down a very treacherous path to recognize what they are doing, why they must reconsider and change, or perish! In taking the route(s) I have, I have proven beyond doubt who is responsible for and on whose shoulders Fairfield Unitings problems rest.
Is it me who rocks-up to church and verbally bullies people? Is it me who slanders family and church members? Is it me who tells people they are not welcome at church and to leave?
“Do not compromise” said Rev. Kava, again he is correct. Compromise is what too many of us have done for too long at Fairfield Uniting. What I now also know is Presbytery is guilty of this as well; they have understood for many years about existing, and looming, problems (at Fairfield Uniting) and have made some curious 'decisions' which, for all intense and purposes, seems to be mostly to sit on their hands, the fence and ask for things to be done which leave the issues in place and make 'the problems' worse. Synod and the Assembly, well, they just don't seem to care.
Rev. Kava had another point to make, I thought it a cracker. He said, “to overcome your enemy make him your friend”. A classic statement for the simple reason it defines what I have often been employed to do in the industries within which I work. “Fire fighting” is an expression some have used to describe what I have done and, whilst the requirement to “put out the fire(s)” has often been why I was inserted it has always proven important, in each of those situations, to 'win over the enemy by making h/er/im my friend'.
What is so frustrating about Fairfield Uniting is that 'the issues' in contention have absolutely smashed long standing friendships. Many of those who have left, unhappy, Fairfield Uniting are people and direct family members with whom my family have grown up with, with some family ties being several generations in length. The Solifoni family were welcomed along with many others into an existing Fairfield Uniting congregation 'maybe' sixteen years ago, what's happened there?
So, within a 'Christian environment', Fairfield Uniting Church, friends have become enemies. How is that possible? Can friends who have become enemies, once again, become friends? The answer lays in understanding forgiveness and what that may mean in the context of Fairfield Uniting. The lack of thought, consideration and an un-willingness**, by the entire Fairfield Uniting Church council, to consider the importance of their actions and their failings in suing for peace and forgiveness is the sin standing between Fairfield Uniting growing as a church – in more than numbers of attendees – into a church based on the Christian principle of loving your neighbours, enemies, those in need or seeking spiritual guidance.
Making an enemy a friend in my business dealings firstly required me understanding why they were, or had become, an enemy of the company. It needs to be understood, in the context of Fairfield Uniting, I would appear to be the enemy and yet, I have no animosity toward those who see me as such. Curious ain't it. Cranky I am, at each of them, of that there is not much doubt, but that's it. If there is one thing I do know it is, if the Fairfield Uniting Church Elder/Councillors do not address their problems I will not be their judge. My anger and frustration, with the Elders and Church Councillors, is the knowledge they may suddenly find they are in the position of not being able to rectify their wrongs and as a result will be brought to account by the one who will judge us all.
In truth that has already happened: several of those long standing members, who have been pushed away and out of Fairfield Uniting are no longer with us; no longer can they be asked for or grant forgiveness. That is very sad and is quite likely to be repeated.
Another of Rev. Kava's points follows; “when anger lingers in the (your) heart it poisons all you do” Nothing could be closer to the truth and I know this at a very personal/family level. That experience is one of the main drivers behind what I am doing right now, and in writing these posts. I get very angry on occasions, for differing reasons, but in the main it is almost always to do when I see another person doing something wrong toward another or, in a business environment, if dangers or safety, too personnel is ignored.
Being very open now, I must say, Fairfield Uniting makes me very angry on occasions for 'spiritual safety' reasons. The actions of the Elder and Church Councillors, toward me, my family, the congregation and others, is putting their salvation in danger and they, for some inexplicable reason, cannot see that fact. Why?
These posting are a reflection of my anger: having exhausted so many other avenues to 'bring Fairfield Uniting's leaders to their senses' and having been unsuccessful due to their un-willingness** I have chosen to 'vent my spleen' and record the pain. Maybe that will cause some reflection on their behalf, maybe it might lead another to intervene and make them see the error of their ways. Who knows what tomorrow may bring ;-)
Does anger poison what you do? Yes and no I would answer; Cyanide is recognized as a poison but it is used in medicines as are other chemicals and compounds. Anger in a person can serve to bring focus and this is the case with me; anger does not frighten me as it does others and when I feel anger, even to the point of rage, I know I need to check myself and ask why.
As applied to Fairfield Uniting my anger/rage is also against the injustices metered out by our Elders and Church Councillors. eg. The unjustified attack on Judith, the forcing of Ruth (and others) out of the church, the physical, verbal/slanderous bullying experienced, all make me angry. However, all of the problems which currently plague Fairfield Uniting can be laid squarely at the feet of the Elders and Church councillors/family members who have allowed their anger to poison their thoughts and have controlled their actions at church, and beyond, for a long time and, include those laid bare in my posts.
“Are you quick to condemn or forgive?” asked Rev. Kava.
A question we all need to direct to ourselves before applying it to others. I know exactly what it would take for me to forgive Fairfield Uniting's Edlers and Church Councillors, Presbytery, Synod and Assembly leaders, for all they have done or not done in relation to the matters I, and others, have endured and highlighted.
Focusing on Fairfield though, do David & Pat Tweed, Foni, Rachael and Ma'ata know what they need to do to be forgiven? I wonder? Who, in 'maintaining his rage' has fought to have the 'wrongs righted' and, who, in 'maintaining their rage' have collectively sought to continue their hurtful, selfish, vindictive, slander, 'exclusinistic' control of the Fairfield Uniting Church and congregation?
For 'enemies', at Fairfield Uniting, to become friends again rest entirely in understanding the answers to the immediately previous questions and understanding just how Fairfield Uniting has arrived to the point where those questions need to be answered.
Rev. Kava's sermon had a more subtle message which I understood to indicate if you try and correct a (persons) wrongs and they fail to listen or correct their 'miss-deeds' then it is no longer 'your fault'. It was a fleeting reference which I may have miss-understood but it was very similar to a comment Rev. Lunney once made, directly to me. In Rev. Lunney's case it was in response to a comment of mine about having to carry others burdens. Rev. Lunney's inference was clear: to him, I had made my point, got nowhere and should therefore walk away. I was appalled, then I felt enormous disappointment. Here was a clear indication that the hurt and damage wrought at Fairfield Uniting should be just simply ignored & “passed by”. I think Rev. Kava's reasoning is somewhat different.
**I am going to float one last argument I this post. We know Fairfield Uniting 'problems' continue as a direct result of the actions of the Elders and Church Councillors. The responsibilities of Uniting Church Elders and Church Councillors are well documented and (in theory) understood. So why is it that we do not see those attributes reflected in Fairfield Uniting's Elders and Church Councillors working towards a solution. 'Fighting corporate fires', rebuilding co-operation and trust with the aim of improving the business environment is often about loss! Who loses what and how much.
Negotiators talk about 'win win' etc. 'Win win' is another way of saying, reduce the loss. Once there is a joint understanding of who loses what and how much, solutions are often found. When no solution 'can' be found there exists a loss which has not been addressed, not been tabled for consideration/discussion; often deliberately. That is what we face at Fairfield Uniting.
David and Pat Tweed have an arena of losses to face and the Solifoni's have similar problems multiplied by several distinctly proprietary personal issues. When each of those individuals are prepared to willingly face 'those demons' then it will be possible to find the solutions sought and for them to ask for and, be forgiven. Then also, Fairfield Uniting will be able to move forward as a Christian community.
I close with; having delivered his sermon Rev. Kava concluded it by asking the entire congregation to read allowed, with him, a paraphrased version of Romans 12:9-21. It was a brilliant way to conclude his poignant and strongly delivered message. It had the power, if taken on board, to bring about a substantial re-think in the Fairfield Uniting congregation. Will it?
I thank Rev. Kava for his considered, forthright approach and I look forward to what he might be instrumental in achieving at Fairfield Uniting.
“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good”
(King James version)