The Curse

I wrote this back in 2020, Hallowe'en/Samhain. Every bit true, save for some details of plot for dramatic effect.

Back in the mid-oughts of this century, I was freshly quit of the ministry, marriage, and faith. Nevertheless, I remained in a more or less formal affiliation with a local congregation as what was then known as a Voluntary Associate Minister.. My role was to act as a supply clergy for weddings, funerals, and the occasional Sunday Service. After prior interviews regarding my suitability the congregation welcomed me in an official recognition ceremony.

In my various sermons/talks/homilies I made no secret of my journey away from the household of faith. It was more like a wander out the backyard, through the gate, and down the road to the left side of the mountain range.

Goodbye, Christ. See ya later Jesus. I discovered that a lot of the good folks in that congregation felt the same way. Some, of course, didn’t, and being good Canadian United Church folk, they said nothing, but looked at me strangely and shook my hand afterward with noticeably less enthusiasm.

In the meantime, for two years I heard nothing, good or bad from the governing board regarding my position, performance, or expectations. It was a tidy arrangement: because of this affiliation, I was able to keep my license to officiate weddings in the province of Ontario. It provided a significant summer supplement to my income during the summer when music lessons decreased.

So imagine my surprise when I received a call one evening from a representative of the board informing me they had decided to terminate my position. Reason? Disappointment in my lack of congregational involvement.

The poor bastard who called me was obviously an uncomfortable bearer of bad tidings.

I was dumbfounded, speechless. I sputtered out some indignant phrases, but apparently, the board’s decision was final, pending ratification from the next level of the judicatory, the Presbytery. After a few minutes, we rang off.

I was angry. Furious at this display of arbitrary injustice. Not even the three strikes you’re out recommended by no less an authority than the writer of Matthew’s Gospel. The board had indicated nothing in those two years of any kind of dissatisfaction with what I was or was not doing.

So I wrote the first letter. I described what happened, how I felt about it, and why. I requested a reply and a reconsideration of their decision. Kept a copy, and hand-delivered the original to the church office. I would have described my tone as reasonable, and polite, with a hint of sarcasm.

I waited for the reply.

One week. Two. Three.

Three months passed. Five.


News from the Presbytery filtered down. They did not contact me directly – I heard from a friend in ministry. They had ratified the congregational board’s decision.

Time for letter number two.

I was less polite this time. I used words like ignorant, incompetent, and unjustifiable. And chickenshit. Especially chickenshit.

I was not in any way hindered by Christian concepts of forgiveness and understanding or any desire whatsoever for reconciliation. So, half in jest, the other half in irony, I pronounced a curse on that church.

“May whatever God you believe in lay a stinking, steaming three-coiler in the middle of one of your worship services.”

Now personally I don’t believe in any kind of that juju, but it felt good to express it.

This was a letter that required several overnights, like a good stew, to let its flavours mellow, mature, ferment, brew, whatever. I sent copies of it to friends of mine for review and editing. None was needed.

I wound up not sending it. I suppose better judgment prevailed. Unfortunately, I lost the only copy.

Now, if this was a case of yet another story of the triumph of wisdom over folly, the story would end here. Friends would pat me on the back congratulating me on the good choice I made.

The story, however, does not end there. Oh, no, dear reader. It continued out of my hands.

A few months later, the sweet scent of karma arrived over that part of the city block in the form of the sewers backing up. A bit of municipal geology is helpful here. The church property was located at the bottom of a fairly steep hill populated with mostly older residential properties supplied with mostly older supply, waste, and drain infrastructure. A sewage break in the line farther up the hill would not have affected the church. The effluent would have stopped at the unfortunate’s house in the middle of the hill. As it turned out the break occurred at the bottom of the hill, thereby directing the downhill course of the entire street’s poojuice into the church. Hilarity did not ensue.

In addition to that area of the street being rendered inaccessible, the church grounds and building needed immediate and thorough assessment, evacuation, decontamination, repair, and restoration. The excremental by-product not only hit the fan, but O.M.G., it destroyed the kiddies' Sunday School macaroni art.

Shit like that costs money. And I don’t have to tell you the financial status of these kinds of religious institutions is fragile at the best of times.

They did not survive. A few painful years later, the same ratifying judicatories that deemed me no longer viable, declared the same for the congregation and closed it. The building was decommissioned, abandoned, and demolished.

All that remains is a weedy parking lot.

Apparently, the deity’s version of the steaming three-coiler did its work.

Now I am fully aware of the dictum that correlation does not equal causation.

Nevertheless, I am quite satisfied the correlation occurred.

I did not have to send the second letter after all.

My curse worked.

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