Faith Tabernacle is holding an open house on September 29 from 2-4. How open? I’m not sure yet. Would I be welcome? Even if I would be welcome by some, I’m certain I would not be welcome by all. I didn’t leave Faith Tabernacle simply because of Edwin Young. There were some who I came to believe wanted me to leave. I don’t think they’d be happy to see me back there, even for a visit.
I try to imagine an open house at that place… would the “saints” crowd the new pastor and play the day care mentality, vying for his attention while shoving others away? Would they be fawning over him and his wife, repeatedly offering them food and drink and trying to chat while they sat at a table being waited on hand and foot? Or would they be up, mingling, friendly, chatting with all? After all my years there, I can’t imagine that last scenario happening. And if it did, I’d probably think they were simply posturing for public approval. “Shaking hands and kissing babies.”
I used to have nightmares about going back. I’d dream that I went and saw my friends, but tried to sneak out before Edwin saw me. In my dreams I’d remember their faces and imagine their responses. Thankfully, I didn’t have those dreams often, but the dreams disturbed me. I’d remind myself that I was no longer there and that I didn’t have to go back, but they’d leave me feeling oddly, simply because they seemed so real but were so far from reality.
Walking into that building would bring back horrible memories for me. But I have considered going, if for no other reason so that I can finally say goodbye. When I left, I did so without telling anyone I was going. Not for my sake, but for theirs. If Edwin had realized any of them knew I was leaving and hadn’t told him, they might have faced severe discipline. I didn’t want that. So I simply left.
I don’t want to see everyone. I’m not sure I want to see any of them. Part of me hopes that everyone I would like to see has left. Part of me hopes… but these hopes are no more real than those dreams.
I remember sitting on the pews those last few services, knowing I was leaving. I remember realizing that I didn’t believe any of it anymore–not the fear preaching or the highly emotional outbursts. It was all scripted, and I knew it. I remember deciding that God wouldn’t promise us heaven while making us go through hell on earth. Hesitantly, hopefully deciding God might have something better in store, not just after we die, but right here on earth.
I remember fulfilling my final promise. I remember choosing the last outfit I would wear, of the special care with dressing that day for my final, silent goodbye to people I’d worked, worshiped and prayed alongside for many years but had never really known and who never really knew me. I remember talking to people, knowing it would be our last discussion, playing it off, acting my part in a role I knew well. I remember walking out of the building for the last time, knowing I would never, ever go back. Not because I didn’t believe what they considered “the doctrine” or “the Truth”, but because I would have to beg Edwin to go back if I ever did want to. He would have it no other way. He controlled who came back, and when. And I wouldn’t grovel. I wouldn’t beg that man to let me go to church. If he really believed what he taught, then he believed that if we left, we were hell-bound. If he really believed it, then he believed if we didn’t go back, we would die lost. If he really believed it, then when he told someone not to come back, he was really saying, “Go to hell.”
And so I’ve wondered about the open house. Not because I would ever go back. No… in reality, probably more because I wouldn’t.
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