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True Church Stories - #23

This story concerns an older woman named Doris who attended our church in Maryland.  A problem arose within just a few times of her attending.  Right in the midst of the most sacred part of the service as we were singing intimately to God in worship, she would literally let out a scream like a siren.  It would start real low, and then she would just wail...gradually in a crescendo type sound.  (I can imitate it perfectly and have much to some people's amusement over the years, but this is a blog so you'll just have to imagine the sound.)  Picture an ambulance as it's far away and then getting closer and you will have a good idea of what she sounded like.  She claimed this was part of her pentecostal heritage and that it was a "gift" she shared with the church as she was in worship.  [sigh]

This all happened when we were very young pastors in our early twenties and we were not as experienced by far in dealing with things like this whether it be use of the gifts of the spirit that were not done within biblical order, or just a crazy disruption of another kind that needed to be addressed.  After the first time of Doris doing this we never imagined she would do it again -- we thought maybe she was just having an off day.  I know, how naive.  If Doris screamed during the praise portion of the service people might not have even heard her over the band, or other people clapping and shouting.  The issue wasn't so much WHAT she was doing as the TIMING.  She would wait until the most reverent and quiet portion of the service to do this.

We were young pastors who didn't know our heads from a hole in the ground.  Larry warned me that if Doris ever did this again he wanted me to sing and play louder and just drown her out and hopefully she'd get the message to not do it anymore.  This is kind of hard when you are at a lower volume point in the worship service where you are tenderly singing something like, "I love you Lord and I lift my voice" which is typical of a song we would have sung all those years ago.  You can't all of a sudden pump up the volume and shout an intimate worship song.  I mean it just sounds ridiculous.  So when Doris would do this, and was at the low point of her ambulance like "wail"  I would go into another song.   We'd quickly flip from "I love you Lord and I lift my voice" to something like, "Come on and Give the Lord the Highest Praise."  It was comical.  I'm surprised the congregation didn't get whiplash.  I mean it was THAT jerky, spiritually.  Imagine for a moment that this Sunday your worship leader is singing, "The more I seek you, the more I find you..." and you have people lifting their hands, and some crying, and others kneeling just loving on God, and the next moment your worship leader jerks that song right out there and starts jumping up and down and shouting, "One Way!  Jesus!  You're the only one that I could live for!!"  The congregation would be ready to send you for counseling and put you on meds for manic depression.  So...

This craziness repeated itself for a few weeks in a row because back then we did not know how to handle these things properly and Larry just felt that rather than out and out confronting this woman maybe  just taking the service in another direction would give her the hint.   It didn't.  It exploded things in all the wrong ways.  And, we lost at least one really good visiting family who told us that "the lady screaming during worship scared our children, and we won't be back."  Ugh.

At the end of the service after another one of these times of attempting to drown Doris out and take the congregation on this bumpy worship ride, Larry and I were standing at the back doors greeting people on their way out.  Doris came through and gave me a hug and as she did she scolded me saying, "Pastor Deanna, you sat on God this morning."  (Oh my stars, that statement alone is hysterical!  As if I could truly sit on God literally or metaphorically is laughable.)   When she made this statement my husband knew she what she was referring to and he gently took her arm and said, "Doris, I would like to speak with you in my office."  And she looked back at him angrily and forcefully said, "IN JESUS NAME!  RELEASE ME NOW!!!"   Everyone in the back of the sanctuary could hear this and it was so embarrassing.  The bizarre thing was, he was not holding her tightly, he had simply put his hand on her arm gently when he asked her to come with him to the office.  But then again this whole thing is bizarre.  He took his hand off of her elbow and then said, "Doris, if you come back here to worship at the church you will need to meet with my wife and I first in the office, so please call for an appointment if you plan on coming back."  She stormed out of the church and left that day and did not come back, but...

She called two of the deacons and one of our women's leaders that afternoon and told them all, "Something needs to be done about our pastor.  He's a very angry man, with fire in his eyes.  I'm very scared of what he might do.  And his wife doesn't have any understanding of the things of the spirit.  Maybe it's because they are Assembly of God the Church of God they understand my gift.  I'm leaving the church and going back to the old Church of God, but just wanted you to know about this so that something could be done about the pastor's anger problem."  The deacons and the WM leader found her call humorous and were truthfully glad they were not going to have to endure screaming admist the worship anymore.  Larry and I are so grateful for their patience with us as we learned how to deal with things like this.

Incidentally we were friends with the local Church of God pastor and asked him if he supported the idea of women screaming like ambulances in the midst of a worship service.  He didn't seem to appreciate the idea either.  I guess the Church of God folks are sitting on God too.


Rhonda said…
wow - that is crazy! All in the name of the Lord!
Anonymous said…
She would have fit in well at a church I once attended - someone would have made up some sort of "theology" about how God is calling us to be "ambulances" for the spiritually sick people of this world, and then everyone would have been making that noise during worship, and those who didn't would have been told they were quenching the spirit.

Hmm...guess I should be glad that woman didn't live anywhere near me ;o).

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