Blessed are the Unbullied
Blessed are ye, when anyone shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. – Matthew 5:11 (KJV, modified)
I know at least a dozen pastors, mostly women, who left the ministry abruptly, early in their careers. They felt bullied. They were at the end of the line, with Covid and church closures and empty pews and leaking roofs at the front.
Yes, this devotional is a calling in, not a calling out. If you have used your tongue to gossip or said things about pastors or lay members that you haven’t said first to their face, stop it. Don’t come back till you can speak your truth, however difficult, in love.
Don’t come back till you have memorized Matthew 28 and its conflict resolution commandments: Speak directly to the person who has offended you. Take someone else with you if they can’t hear you. Take it to the church if that doesn’t work.
A word to the bystanders: If somebody in the meeting is bullying somebody else, no matter how unaware they may be of doing it, call them in. Name it. “I don’t think so-and-so likes being called ignorant or irresponsible. How can we help each other help each other?”
The worst thing for the bullied is the silence of those who see and don’t speak. Don’t add to the trouble. Subtract from it.
O God, who showed up as Jesus, help us take our best selves to church and leave our angry and scared and powerless ones at home. Let us be almost as good at church as you were. Teach us the gospel arts of un-bullying those whom Jesus knows as blessed, anyway. Amen.
Donna Schaper works nationally for Bricks and Mortals, a NYC-based organization that provides sustainable solutions for sacred sites. Her newest book is Remove the Pews: Spiritual Possibilities for Sacred Spaces, from The Pilgrim Press.