I have decided to go back to being in a small group. I find I am missing the fellowship, and friendships I had while I was in ministry. Although having said that, it was hard as a minister to open up to anyone at church. I always had to have my ‘I’m a member of staff’ hat on. I had to remember people were looking to me as an example. Being vulnerable in ministry, by being open about some of my spiritual battles did help others. However, there is a limit to it. I couldn’t get up and say from the pulpit, ‘I think I am loosing my faith, I don’t think there is a God anymore.’ There was always the worry that if I did that I would loose my job, and therefore my home too. I was being vulnerable within certain parameters. There was a safety to it in one sense. I knew from experience that it helped people, so it made me popular which is, I guess, what I was craving.
Now I will be just me. I have no role as a lay minister to hide behind. My faith is shaky. I am no longer coming from a place of unshakeable faith in what the Bible says. I have been through a really dark valley of doubt, almost becoming an apostate. It was a scary place and opening up from this position feels very different to opening up as I did before.
I go to my new small group tonight. I am a little nervous. Can I be real? I think I have to if I want to benefit from it. Going to Bible studies as a minister was different. I could hide behind my knowledge. I didn’t have to think about things. I just spoke on auto pilot a lot of the time. Now I want to really grapple and be honest about things.
Nevertheless, I also know I need to develop deeper friendships here. I miss that too. My closest friends are in London and I am now in Sussex. I hope it will be a place where I can get to know people more.