My original blog was findingellen.  I began writing it because I love to write and I often process what I am experiencing, learning, and seeing by writing.  findingellen was the blog that turned into a medium for telling my story.  Which turned into the reason we were tossed out of the church.  I deleted that blog as part of an attempt to rectify the situation.  Maybe if I just got rid of the blog, they would take me back. And at the time I desperately wanted to be taken back.  But over time, I have realized that while we were told by one of the pastors to not return, we had already made the decision to leave if there was not an attempt by the church leadership to apologize for their abusive treatment of me over more than a decade.  

Once my husband and I were out of the church, we were immediately invited to the churches of other friends and many people asked us – and still ask us – if or when we were going to find a new church.  We have been very honest in responding that we have no intention of looking for a new church to attend.  In fact, I have told some of the people whom I think can handle understand it, that we are certain that if we were to attend another church, we would simply find ourselves in a similarly abusive situation over time.  Of course, no one wants to be told that their church would be abusive to anyone, but that’s what makes the information in this post so important.
Recently, I listened to a webcast in which a sociologist presented research information about “Dones.”  The sociologist is Josh Packard and his new book, Church Refugees, will be released in May.  Although I consider myself quite healed from the spiritual abuse that I endured, I am always surprised and delighted when I “find” myself in the writings and research of reputable authorities.  As I listened to the webcast, and read a sample chapter from the book, I found myself frantically taking notes.  Once again, I discovered that I am not alone in my experience, and I am in the company of good and faithful “refugees” – Dones, as we are now called.

I often have people ask, “Why didn’t you leave the church years ago?”  Well, as Packard points out, we Dones are some of the churches “most committed, devoted, and energetic”.  Although the crux of my spirtual abuse was in being told that I could not serve or do anything at all in the church except attend worship, my husband and I had always been very involved and I was at times employed by churches or religious organizations.  After the ostracism of not being allowed to do anything was lifted, I once again became very involved in the church – spending hours on landscaping, taking classes, teaching classes, assisting with conferences, etc.  Very few non-staff people logged as many hours as my husband and I during those final years.

Packard’s research also indicates that we Dones are willing to go through extreme levels of spiritual persecution, always “holding out hope that peace will return.”  This certainly proved true in my situation.  The abuse I suffered lasted for more than a decade and certainly was extreme.  But as Packard points out,  we Dones usually won’t leave until we are forced to do so.  

Some of Packard’s other descriptors of Dones with which I strongly identified were:

  • Being “deeply involved and devoted”
  • “often organizing daily life around the church”
  • Not leaving after “just one bad experience.”
  • Having an “extreme level of dedication and devotion to God and religion”
  • Tenacious
  • Resourceful
  • Stayed “long past the point of danger”
  • “Financially stable”
  • “Married”
  • “Higher levels of education”
  • Spent “years in church and ministry positions”

Packard notes that we Dones are truly the kind of Christians that the church needs in order to reach people because of our “active and engaged faith.”  And we don’t abandon our faith when we decide we are Done with church.  Rather , we finally realize that our spiritual life is being threatened and we must remove ourselves in order to further our spiritual growth and maintain our spirtual health.

Perhaps the most gratifying paragraph in the chapter that I read is at the end:

“As sociologists, this indicates to us pretty strongly that this phenomenon is not due to a few misfit personalities or bad church experiences.  Rather . . . [it] is directly attributable to a pattern that exists in the organizational and leadership structure of many, if not all, congregations in the United States.” (pg. 20)

And that, my friends, is another confirmation that my journey to findingellen has been fruitful.

  1. Quixie says:

    That’s too bad you erased your blog. I would have loved to read it. I am also a “Done” it seems. We are a very misunderstood bunch. Can’t WAIT to read that book!

    • Ellen says:

      Most of what was there is now on this blog – some rewritten to be more honest. What I was writing then was often framed to prove to the senior pastor that I was a good person. Interestingly, I shared that blog with him regularly – but it wasn’t until someone else complained that I got tossed. I think he didn’t want to be the one to address it so he waited for someone else so they would take the heat for further abusing us. He was a master at using proxies to do his dirty work.

      • Quixie says:

        Ah, so maybe it’s a good thing the other blog is gone. As you know trying to prove to an abusive person that you are good is fruitless. I am so sorry for your experience but your sharing your story gives validity for mine and helps me have hope that I am not alone. Thank you for that.😊

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