Hi all, I've recently been diagnosed with autism, which has helped make sense of much of my life.
However, the rector of my C of E parish church of 2 years, St George the Martyr Southwark, has recently conveyed at the start of March through the Diocese Safeguarding that he is no longer willing to support me in any way, in conversation, in prayer, in blessing (this was about 2 weeks before Covid measures here and has nothing to do with Covid). This led me to attempt to kill myself because I just couldn't cope.
This came as a complete shock to me as immediately up to that point of complete withdrawal, he'd consistently supported me for two years in weekly pastoral meetings, in being available for conversation, prayer and blessing after services and even phone-calls when I'm overwhelmed (as he still does for others). I've since learnt from a meeting with the Diocese that he'd been in constant 'confidential' meetings with the Diocese about being no longer 'able' to support me, despite my needs being non-confrontational and non-violent, even as he reassured me of his commitment to "walk with you always" and "I just wanted to repeat my willingness to support you", in speech and in writing as recently as late February. Now that I'm not allowed to contact him in any form, I'm not just unable to learn why he's done this to me but have been utterly depressed about being excluded from the same level of pastoral and spiritual care he still gives others, not just those with physical health needs but even ordinary people. The worst part is that because of Covid, he is now offering church members remote pastoral support by phone. Because I'm still on their mailing list (because by church law I'm still on their electoral roll), I got the email detailing this new measure of support by phone. However, when I tried to clarify this, I got an email from the Diocese expressly stating that this measure still excludes me, and that this offer of pastoral support is given freely to everyone else who have been worshipping at St George's with the specific exception of me. (Anyway, I later found out through someone who took me out for lunch after this happened and helped me process things a bit that this priest is just someone that I should never have trusted. I didn't know this because I never got involved with church management but apparently he's known to those involved in the church's management for constantly changing his ideas and behaviour, breaking promises and saying different things to different people, someone I should never have called a priest. But what's done is done.)
After learning about my autism diagnosis while in hospital from my suicide attempt, I've since tried to look up how to cope with a change as sudden and devastating as this (sudden, complete and inexplicable withdrawal of two years of consistent, reliable trust and support!). I read that I should find a 'new normal' as soon as possible but with Covid this is impossible as I can't get to know a new church and clergy because churches are closed.
Can anyone help me? It's so painful being surrounded by memorabilia (photos, confirmation cards, books) of my time at St George's, particularly that priest's support, knowing all that's come to an abrupt and inexplicable end but at the same time removing them would only make it worse by their noticeable absence. I'd appreciate any tips you can give. Every day I'm just fighting for the will to live. I really can't deal with something so abrupt and inexplicable as this. If it helps with your advice and tips, I have a further, older diagnosis of EUPD (the new term for BPD).
I'm so sorry to hear you're struggling and that this support's been withdrawn. If you're ever feeling suicidal again, please call someone (e.g. The Samaritans, or 999 if you're in immediate danger) to talk about how you're feeling.
If you're finding it hard being unable to attend church services at the moment, I believe that the BBC are going to be live streaming some church services while people are unable to go in person. There are also radio stations, such as UCB, that provide constant coverage.
In terms of the situation with your current church, perhaps you could do some background research on other churches in your area? You could perhaps contact them and express your wish to join the congregation once the bans on mass gatherings are lifted, and it might mean you can access some of the support they're currently providing (e.g. if they're also calling people to provide support).
I hope you feel better soon and find a way to move forward.
Just to update you that I've taken your advice and called up St Luke's/CC who gave me the email of the priest there that I already know. I tried to text him days ago but got no reply. So now I've sent him an email asking for ways to get involved / join the church remotely. Fingers crossed that he replies soon! Thanks again
Glad you managed to get some contact details. Hope you hear from him soon. In the meantime, feel free to contact us here if you ever want to chat.
Thanks so much. I haven't heard back from St Luke's but I now know for sure there's been some kind of directive against me in my current Diocese, as I tried to join the Whatsapp group of the church nearest to me (through an invite link through the parish e-newsletter extended to all who live/work in the area) and the next day was removed by the priest. When I messaged him privately to ask why, he blocked me (profile picture no longer visible). Hope to hear back from St Luke's soon.
That's so frustrating. Hopefully St Luke's will be more supportive.
If you like church, also take a look at bell ringing or the choir. You get to spend time with a small group of people who can become a nice group of people that look put for you. Good luck
Just an update that they've - or rather the particular priest to whom I wrote - replied. He gave me a very thoughtful response but the important bit is basically that there's not much I can do to join his parish now since buildings are closed and they aren't live-streaming. He didn't say anything about the mailing list but wrote that he felt it wouldn't be a good parish for me and it's best that I attend a service once Covid measures are lifted to see for myself, so I assume that's a polite 'no' to joining the mailing list. He encouraged me to remain at St George's or try other churches in Southwark so I had no choice but outline to him the entire situation above (which I hadn't completely, because I was tired of repeating myself and looking like a gossip) including the problems I'd run into trying to join the neighbouring church. I'm not sure if he'll reply but if he does I doubt it'll be permitting entry into the mailing list or online discussion groups. It looks like I have no choice but to let this vacuum eat me inside out until Covid measures are lifted. Hopefully by then I'll still be alive.
That's really strange - I'm not sure why he'd suggest it isn't a good Parish for you without even knowing you. I wonder if it's worth looking outside of the Catholic church (e.g. Methodist or Church of England)? It depends what your preferences are and how important the Catholic element is to you.
I hope he replies and offers some more support. Feel free to keep talking to us in the meantime. This is a really strange time for everyone, but we can get through it.
I agree with duck bread. On the other side over met a reverend just once for about 5 minutes and she made it clear i wasent welcome! She grilled me as to why I want to go to that church and I guess my answers werent correct lol. Thankfully she has left
Yet church is supposed to be a welcoming place! Sorry to hear you've experienced this too.
I just think their people too. People say their inclusive but rarely are lol
Sad but true!