Monday, March 19, 2007

Leaving People of Praise

What drove me out of the POP wasn't the coordinator's telling me, "It's not the coordinators who have rejected you, Adrian. God has rejected you." Although that was a painful thing to hear, I was at that point prepared humbly to accept criticism in order to grow. (There was also a certain amount of common sense to what this leader said, however cruelly he may have put it. I am not an organizational leader. I don't have that kind of personality or those gifts.) I can point to three principal things that helped to push me out.

1. At a meeting of charismatic leaders that I was administering, Fr George Kosicki kept going on about Our Lady. His Marian devotion didn't make much sense to me, so during a break I asked him how he could be so devoted to Mary. He responded, "Just ask Jesus to introduce you to his Mother." That sounded fair enough. Shortly thereafter I started praying the rosary as I went in to work. I also found the reports of apparitions in Medjugorje strangely exciting. At this same time I began to have growing doubts about some of the things going on in the POP. Since one of "Satan's tactics" is to sow sees of doubt to undermine our covenant commitment, I prayed hard to renounce these "bad thoughts". The problem is that the more I prayed the rosary the more these thoughts bothered me. My new Marian devotions was leading me spiritually away from POP.

2. At this time (early 1980s) I was working for the conference department of the POP's outreach, Charismatic Renewal Services (CRS). Since we were into renewal of the Church, I thought I ought to read the Documents of Vatican II. There, in Lumen Gentium, I read that the Eucharist is the source and sign of unity in the Body of Christ. That was disconcerting, because in the POP the Eucharist played no role. So how could we have a covenanted unity without the sacrament of unity? It was wrong. Also, if Christ comes to us in the sacraments through the ordained ministry of priests, how could our lay leaders fulfill the role of pastors? Our community order and spirituality did not fit with the vision presented in Lumen Gentium and other Council documents. Then in 1984 CRS sent us to Rome for three months for me to work on a Worldwide Priests' Retreat. There I simply fell in love again with the Catholic Church. Love for the Church was important to our being free from covenant community.

3. Live in POP was becoming increasingly burdensome to Marie, who could not accept what she saw going on. But to give it one last try, she submitted to counseling from a "Handmaid". This woman (who had no formal training or qualifications) gave Marie advice that I recognized to be counter to sound spiritual teaching and to the express teaching of the great masters of Catholic spiritual advice. But, I figured, this isn't a big problem. I could just let our coordinator know so that he could correct the Handmaid. I was not prepared for his response. He said the problem was not with the Handmaid, but with Marie, who was subverting God's plan for her life, throwing up theological smokescreens. My job as her husband and head was to call her on it and bring her back into submission.
Initially I was dismayed, dreading the scene that obedience to Dan would result in. But then I had a moment of grace. "Wait a minute," I said to myself. "Marie is a grown woman, mother of four children, all well cared for. She is baptized and loves God. Her favorite saying is, 'I want to be the Lord's nickel,' to spend wherever he wants. She has always tried to listen to him and do what he wants." But if this is true, then it's God's job to convince her of things, not mine. I can say what I think, but if she doesn't go along ... well, she's a grown-up too. And she loves God. So I decided not to do what Dan told me.
When I got home, the atmosphere in our home had already changed. Our relationship was dramatically improved. And -- equally important -- I had decisively broken the bonds of headship by rejecting what was supposed to be vitally important direction for my life (and Marie's). As I moved further from community leadership, Marie and I drew closer together, largely because I was now free to respect her. (Interestingly, she was able to respect me, to. I was no longer the coordinators' toady.)

Of course, there were many other things that happened, but these three are principal and paradigmatic factors


Cygnus said...

Thanks, Adrian. I'm hoping to rediscover my faith in a similar fashion as you did.

What led me out of Lamb of God was my participation in a 12-Step group, which the Coordinators could not abide; how dare I learn to think for myself! The 12-Step group was everything LOG was not: tolerant, decentralized, and supportive of the individual. My eyes slowly began opening.

Molly Hewitt said...

Hello. I want to share my experience with the people of praise. I understand and respect your position, First of all. But I want to see if I can help with your understanding of the community. I grew up in the people of praise, though currently I have chosen not to be a member. One common mistake I think people make is misunderstanding what the People of Praise actually is. It's a community, not a church. This means that you shouldn't be seeking your entire religious fulfilment from people who, as you said, are not spiritually trained to do so. It's not their job, and it's not the community's job. Every time I went to a meeting with my parents, it was in addition to church. I would go to mass with my mom, who is Catholic, and service with my dad, who is United Methodist. I think my parents found peace in being able to worship and praise God in an environment that was familiar for both of them. I admire that in the people of praise, though you seem to condemn it. I think this is where the unity aspect comes into play. You, and many others, have expressed concern in not understanding how the people of praise can "preach" unity, but be ecumenical at the same time, especially if the sacrament of unity is the eucharist and half of the community doesn't recognize the eucharist. The point of the people of praise is not to be brought together in that type of unity. The unity they're seeking is the one my parents found every week in being a couple, and worshipping the same God, hands raise, voices singing. I'm not sure if this is something that one can understand if one hasn't grown up in an ecumenical household. But it happens to be one that I find very important. Now, as to your other issues, I can't help you. This could possibly be because it was the 80's, before the people of praise reformed itself to be more inclusive and less "wives being submissive". The role of a handmaid today is not to give spiritual guidance, something she's not trained to do, but to be a sounding board almost. I am personally friends with a wonderful woman who just became a handmaid. Her role is to simply check up on the women in the area. If someone is going through a hard time, to be a person she can go to if she has no one else. She's supposed to be a reliable friend, not necessarily someone qualified to give spiritual advice to. Anyway, I'm sorry your experience with the community was so horrible. I encourage you to revisit. Quite a lot has changed and, though I have chosen not to be a part of it, I've never been told that God is rejecting me and I still have very wonderful friendships with people in the POP