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Dear Dr. Robert,

I have a complicated situation - or maybe I am making it complicated. I am a member and have been attending a local church for about 4 years now. It is a very old church (about 146 years) and most of the congregation are quite elderly and not able to do much anymore.

I don't like gossip or back-biting etc. I will not discuss this with other church members. I feel like I have no one to talk to about it. There are a lot of people talking and spreading rumors etc. - I walk away and avoid discussions about the problems.

The church is in great disrepair, and the trustees are letting a lot of things go that should be fixed because, with our small attendance we do not seem to have enough money. We are lucky now if 30 people attend the service.

In a way, even if we did have the money, it probably would not be so wise to keep repairing such an old building.

We got a new pastor a little over a year ago. She is in her late 50's and I am 62.

There seems to be fewer and fewer people coming to the church now. The pastor is trying to keep the church going, but some of the members are feeling we should just let it close.

She says things like "Satan is trying to close this church down" etc. I find it very negative. Last Sunday she threw the collection plate on the floor and said the people who are against the church should take their things and get out. (she used the story of Jesus casting money changers out of the temple). We lost a few more people that week!

She wanted those who wanted to keep the church going to come up front and show their support. (about 20 people came up) and a few left the building.

There are many other churches in our area, newer, with more people, same denomination etc. They are doing many interesting and exciting things at their churches. I am feeling like leaving, but I don't know how to tell her.

I contribute a lot at the church, because I am, at the moment the only one who can play the piano. I also sing and play the violin. I go to choir practice each week and although our choir is small (about 10 people) they are at loyal to come to practice each week and try hard.

I find myself doing more and more - I am doing the bulletins now and have been for over a year. Our administrator quit and so did the treasurer. We have at least 7 vacant positions now in our church.

Our new minister said a couple weeks ago that she hated doing the choir, and they are looking for a director. She comes each week and spends at least 30 to 40 minutes talking and praying about all the problems in the church.

I enjoy choir and I enjoy singing, I even enjoyed choir practice, but now I spend more time listening to people griping and I feel we don't practice enough - the minister is turning our choir practice into a talking and praying session.

She doesn't want me to be choir director because she says she wants my voice in the choir.

I find it difficult to sing and play at the same time but I have been memorizing hymns etc. so I can sing with the choir. Don't get me wrong, I think prayer is wonderful - but if she wants to have a prayer group, she should have a prayer group!

We need to have a short prayer for our work as a choir and then PRACTICE. Choir practice is choir practice, not a prayer meeting.

What can I do. I am very discouraged. I think it is time to leave this situation.

I think that she should be praying to accept the will of God in this matter and not trying to tell God what she wants.

Am I wrong to feel this way?


ask dr-robert ask psychologist todos santos ask psychologist dr robert saltzman


Since I believe neither in Satan (except as an archetype representing what humans, from their limited, selfish, anthropocentric point of view imagine is "evil," but certainly not as an actual being who can do anything) nor the "will of God," (except as a poetic way of saying that we humans lack the power to control our own lives), you may be asking the wrong person about this church problem.

What I understood from your letter, however, is that you love music, and group singing, and that you now feel thwarted because your new pastor is spoiling that love for you with her bitterness and resentment. Apparently this misguided woman not only believes in a "will of God" (whatever that is), but imagines also that she knows what God's supposed will is, what it is not, what it should be, and what it should not be. To me, this smacks of narcissistic delusions of grandeur. In other words, (based on your description of course) from my vantage as a psychologist, your pastor appears to be a troubled, confused person who should not be telling anyone else what to do about anything. In my opinion, spiritual counseling, or any other kind of counseling for that matter, should be taken into account only if it comes from someone who seems calm, joyful, compassionate, patient, and fulfilled--certainly not from an angry, vinegary, obviously unfulfilled, bitter old woman.

Since you asked my advice, here it is: Take your musical talent somewhere else where it will be appreciated for what it is, and let this rancorous, dissatisfied person howl her fanatical fairy tales without your voice backing her up.

Be well.

ask dr-robert ask psychologist todos santos ask psychologist dr robert saltzman

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page last modified February 18, 2008

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