In 2010 a chapter of my life came to an end, I had been volunteering as a Pastoral assistant at our church for about eight (ish) years and then quite abruptly it was over. For many years, it destroyed my faith and my relationship with God, it was a time of suffering.
I’ve had knee problems since I was 25 and I have had many surgical procedures to try to help, whilst serving as pastoral assistant I had a procedure called an osteochondral graft and it was the hardest surgery I had up to then. I remember being on crutches and leading a service of stations of the cross, I was stood at the lectern and my knee was throbbing, the pain was so intense but I refused to stop because I felt that giving in to pain whilst leading this service wasn’t the thing to do and so I decided to use my pain to somehow share in that suffering of the cross. It seemed to go on forever but I refused to rush the service just because I was in pain and I didn’t let on to anyone that I was in pain.
So it came as a shock when during one meeting with the priest, he asked what was going on with my knee?
I told him and he frowned “people are laughing at you” he said, “you want to make up your mind if you are on crutches or not”! It hit me hard, I had tried my best to continue with my ministry even though I was having so many knee problems. I asked who was laughing but he refused to explain any further, I left because I was upset and fairly pissed off at this!
Why was I being looked upon like this?
When my ministry did end, me and my wife met with the parish priest and discussed some matters and he then pulled out a photo of a knee all stapled up after surgery, “what’s this?”
“I put it on Facebook to show my cousin who lives abroad!” I told him.
“Are you saying it’s yours?”
“Yes it’s mine, do I have to drop my trousers to prove it?”
At this point I was now using a wheelchair as my knee was so bad and my wrists and shoulders were painful from using crutches on and off for so long.
“Yes please” he said and so just to prove how ableist he was being, my wife helped me up and I dropped my trousers, I showed him the scar and explained about the surgery. “Is that why you didn’t call or visit me when I was recovering, you didn’t believe me?”, there was no reply and at that point I decided the meeting was over!
I was a member of that parish for over 12 years, for 8 (ish) years I served as pastoral assistant and led many services when the priest was absent and I covered for him many times and had to do things I shouldn’t like baptise children because he was unwell and used the alcohol to cope.
We had some close friends and would attend dinner parties and bar-b-q’s but now only one person visits, they no longer live on mainland UK but visit whenever they return.
Today my pain levels are very high as they have been for quite a while, for some reason I seem to be having flare up after flare up and today I can’t help but wonder if the countless amount of people who mourn the death of their “messiah”, people who call themselves a Christian, if they actually take anything from that.
I wonder if they stop and think about the people who are suffering today, right now?
I wonder if they realise that even though the physical suffering can’t be stopped, that things can be helped by a smile, a visit, a show of concern and understanding?
It doesn’t take their “Messiah” to end suffering, they can!