March 31

9:05 a.m.

“There’s no communication in this church!” Right! That’s the first thing I want to hear this morning.

Another complaint, same person. “You let Pastor Mark know.”

This is so not true, because Pastor Mark is always communicating. I’m the secretary, I know.

In addition to the Sunday bulletin and announcements during worship, there’s the monthly newsletter, the weekly newsletter, church website, telephone calls, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and every other social media avenue available to all age groups. He’s all over the map.

Over-communication, that’s my problem…and wasted hours of work.

9:30 a.m.

Kate dragged herself into the office with a groan and a big stack of books in her arms. I heard them slam like a hammer had landed on her desk and knew we were in for a challenging day.

“I’m going to grab myself a cup of coffee and will be right back.”

“Everything okay?”

“There’s no communication in this church.”

“I know. I’ve already heard.”

“Did I tell you we have a special two-hour training session this afternoon?”

“No. Maybe I’m not expected to be there?” I hoped.

“Ha ha.” Kate sometimes has this sadistic laugh. “No such luck. I’m sorry I forgot to tell you about it. I probably buried it in my subconscious. The entire staff has to be there. Mark has hired a church communications consultant who’s going to upgrade our communication skills.”

“Noooo! I don’t have time for that today. It will put me way behind. I’ll probably have to stay after hours, or come in on Saturday to finish.”

“I’m sorry, chickadee.” At least Kate seemed truly remorseful. “But Mark loves stuff like this.”

“Well, maybe it will help us,” I said but in real life I know I’m going to hate it.

Maybe I should quit right now???

2:30 p.m.

Most of the staff straggled into the Conference Room, and by 2:15, everyone who is supposed to be there is there. The only two people in the room who look enthused are the consultant and Mark. The consultant is talking in exclamation points.

“Hello, everybody! Isn’t this a greeeeat day that the Lord has made?! We’re going to run a tight ship and have you all out in two hours! I realize you all have a very busy schedule and today, together, we’re going to learn how to be effective communicators!”

I was going to laugh, I knew I would, and I couldn’t suppress it so had to choke and ended up leaving the room altogether. I was in the staff kitchen trying to sip water and catch my breath when Kate showed up and asked if I’m alright and I told her of course I was and apologized when she goes—

“I’m so glad you choked.”

Because at least she could leave to “check on me” which made me feel better.

Everyone stared at us when we came back in. The consultant was a bit put out that two key players of the Communications Team (when did Kate and I become “key players”? and what’s the “Communications Team”??) had missed a “vital part of the preeeeesentation!” So back to the PowerPoint and all the fancy diagrams. I did notice that in one of the slides the word “God” seemed a little to the right and not dead center. This was a little distracting and I found reworking the slide in my brain. Editing life, like I always do. All the bubbles and arrows around God were askew. Soooo annoying.

“What do you think, Natalie?!” Big fake smile still plastered to his face. I had been so focused on the messed up diagram, I hadn’t paid any attention to what he was saying.

“Well…I could say…some things…that I’ll say…well…” I was praying for some act of God to save me and stalling for time.

“Well…” he’s trying to encourage me to complete my sentence. “Remember there are no wrong answers here! We’re here to listen to each other! L-I-S-T-E-N! That’s how we communicate—”

“Well, God should be centered or it throws everything off.” I had nothing else to offer so I shared my pet peeve of the moment.

“Absolutely. That is correct,” he responded with big weird eyes. Enthusiastically. He has this annoying habit of making dramatic pauses in between any sentence at all. So it goes like, “Natalie hit the nail…on the head! We have to keep our eyes focused…on God! He’s the center point…of our communication! We are called to tell everyone…the Good News! This makes communication…even…more…vital! Thank you…Natalie!”

I became the hated teacher’s pet and have inherited the hated teacher’s hatred from everyone in the room, except Mark and Kate and the tension was overwhelming me until the guy said, “Let’s take a break!”

Thank God. I rushed back here to my office. And now Kate is coming over…maybe she’s onto me…

3:10 p.m.

Kate wasn’t on to me, she took me seriously. “That was great! I was very impressed by your insights,” she tells me.

So I had to tell her the truth. I’m just sort of switching my weight between right and left feet and wondering how to say it so just casually let it sort of drift into the conversation…

“I was referring to the diagram.”

Poor Kate. Confused Kate. “Yes?”

“Kate, the diagram was bugging me. You know how OCD I can get about straight lines. The word ‘God’ was off-center and it threw the other lines and arrows off.”

Kate was laughing and Tavish came over and wanted to know what was so funny, and Kate kept laughing and I wouldn’t tell him. Why should I tell him? And then Kate asks him why he’s not at the meeting and he goes—

“Because you can’t improve on perfection.”

And walks off.

So. Annoying.

“I hate him,” I tell Kate.

“Be nice.”

But that was me being nice.

3:15 pm.

The second part of the presentation—yes the second part, there were two parts, absolutely no reason for it—was in the sanctuary. The leader stopped speaking in exclamations and started speaking in annoyingly hushed, reverent tones.

“Now, you’re going to find your quiet spot in the Sanctuary. Make sure you have enough distance…from each other. Ideally, I prefer a retreat center. There you have…more choices. But we’ll do what we can do. Mark…could you please pass these on?”

“Now, when you find your quiet spot…start writing down your thoughts on the piece of paper that I’ve prepared especially for you. I’ll give you half an hour. After that…we’ll gather into small groups and share our…ideas.”

Small groups! There is nothing in the world I like less. I would rather be dead.

So we all get into our quiet spots and that’s where I am now. In the back of the church, writing the events of this day, which is communication in any case, or whatever we’re supposed to be doing right now. I can hear Smiley calling out now that it’s time for the small groups. Ugh. Maybe I can just wait here and they won’t notice I’ve gone?

Oh no, oh no, I really am going to faint! Smiley has just asked everyone for their papers—we are supposed to exchange with each other. I have to escape. I’ll have to…well, I am sitting right next to an exit…

Phone has just started buzzing. Doesn’t matter who it is, it’s important, and I have to leave urgently, that’s what I’ll tell everyone. Sorry I can’t stay, thanks for the talk, it’s been a riveting afternoon.


7:45 p.m.

The church has become my life. It’s pathetic and sad. I wake up early to be on time for work. I spend all the best daylight hours in a square room under some florescent lights which I’m sure cause cancer. I get home in time for dinner. Bless Mitch and Gwen who won’t let me cook.

Now I have to wash my hair and that’s going to be another two-hour ordeal. I could get my hair cut, but I’d probably end up with some identity crisis and now is definitely not the time to add that to my life. I’m already doing quite well with all the neuroses I’m picking up just from working at the church. And then I have to get to bed early so I can wake up early to start this whole routine again. And again.

I have no life. Is this how the rest of the world lives? So monotonous.

Yes, I would rather be dead. Definitely.

“Why do you look like the Grim Reaper is knocking at your door?” Gwen asked when I got home.

“Because I would rather be dead.”

“You? You’re the last person in the world I would expect to say that!”

“The church is killing me. It’s the same routine every day. Every. Single. Day.”

“It’s only for a short while. God has a plan for you and you just have to be patient.”

“Yes. His plan is for me to be the walking dead.” Drama and I have become BFFs.

“Nat, you wait and see. God’s going to do something amazing.”

I know that truth in theory, and I’m sure God does have a great plan for me, but right now, I can’t see anything but a flat-lining existence.

I have to change my attitude. I will make myself a promise.

As God is my witness, as God is my witness the church is not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this hell and when it’s all over, I’ll never be bored again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to weep, work, worry, or weep some more. As God is my witness, I’ll never be bored again.

Or something like that. Now cheered up and I’m ready to fight for my right to party.

And hopefully, to find Rhett.

But I think I prefer Rick Blaine.

I’m so confused.