Tuesday, August 12, 2008

One step back

I'm feeling sort of sad. I am probably also feeling sort of angry, but I'm really trying HARD not to feel judgemental.

Our congregation partners with a very special non-profit organization in our community that works with youth and young adults with disabilities. Most of their clients have developmental delays combined with various physical and medical challenges. It is a fantastic organization, and although there are growing pains as our partnership continually evolves we love having them in our building, and, in fact, they probably use "our" building more than "we" do. It is a purely "secular" organization in that other than our arrangement of space-sharing, there are no religious programs or ties. (I do hope to someday help provide a spiritual enrichment ministry to these families, but that's another post for another day.)

The group runs a summer day camp, and all summer long they have been working diligently with two daughters of the church (one a new special ed teacher and the other a choral instructor, both of them sisters to each other and a high school brother with autism) to prepare for a summer's-end musical. The performance is here in our sanctuary Wednesday night, and I couldn't be more thrilled!!!

The mother of the daughters and son just mentioned came to me after the youth had all been picked up yesterday and asked, "What do Jehovah's Witnesses believe?" I was caught off-guard and had to admit that I didn't know too much about them. My grandfather's third wife (again, another post for another day - - or maybe not!) was a sort-of Jehovah's Witness. I mean, she didn't practice much, but she did go to Ohio to be with her family, or more correctly, away from ours and our celebrations at Christmas. That was about all I knew.

Well, it turns out that the leading lady in the musical is a Jehovah's Witness. Her mother decided to pull her from the production when she found out it was being performed in our sanctuary. She was LIVID to find out that her daughter had been practicing there for the last couple of weeks. Apparently it had taken her a few years to finally become comfortable enough with the location of the day camp inside our church building to even let her daughter come participate. In years past she wouldn't even enroll her because they would have to step through our doors.

The daughter was heart-broken to find out she wouldn't be performing. You could just hear her crying throughout the building. It was so sad.

Again, I'm trying to be understanding. I'm trying not to be judgemental. I read a little about Jehovah's Witnesses yesterday and found though that they don't want their children to be "corrupted" by other false religions and this prevents them from even walking into churches of other faiths. I'm impressed that the mom let her daughter come this far after reading what I did, but I'm still extremely puzzled, a little offended, and deeply saddened that this is the state of ecumenical affairs with this particular tradition. Have we not come further than this?


Ronde said...

It sounds to me like a case of lack of communication on all parts.

Nothing to be judgmental about, just that everyone did not know everything about everything.

Pam Tolliver said...

I agree that we undoubtedly don't know everything about the situation. It may have nothing to do with where the event was being presented, especially since the girl had been attending activities within the church for some time already.

She Rev said...

Oh no - we do know why her daughter was pulled. She told us very clearly it was because it was in the place of worship, I mean the actual sanctuary, that was not of their tradition. The organization has known for several years that was why she was not allowed to participate in the regular day camp in years past. The mom finally agreed to bring her this year, though. She brought her with no stipulations about where in the building her daughter could be probably because she had no reason to guess her daughter would be going into the sanctuary or because she didn't even know how she herself would feel if that occurred. The teachers and volunteers, not knowing the ins and outs of the tradition or the mother's feelings, didn't even think to wonder if she should be kept out of the sanctuary.

So, yes there was some missing conversation that if anything like this were to ever occur again the organization would know to ask, but at the same time I can see how no one involved, the mom or the organization, would think to have this conversation up front.

I am just trying hard not to judge a tradition I don't understand (or a mother's application of it) as I watch a heartbroken girl who doesn't get to participate in the play she's put so much work into.

Pam Tolliver said...

Yes, I agree that there was a lot that needed to still be discussed if the mother was so particular. After all, she knew the building her daughter was going to the summer program in was a church building. If I had given my permission for that, I wouldn't have punished my daughter by dragging her out in tears, after finding out it was going to be in the sanctuary. It might have been a good thing to have a calm, heartfelt dialogue with my daughter, asking her how she felt about it, and if she was set on doing the program in the sanctuary, OK but henceforth we would make sure that future programs would not be in the santuary. To let the girl do it, after all her work and practice, would have been a better witness, I think, than dragging her out of the building in distress.