There is no honour among thieves.

“Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed”

~J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

church kindergartedA widespread criticism at the self-absorbed, cainistic church I attended was the lack of closeness among members due to its large size. One day a layperson developed a small group program to juxtapose attendees. Administration recognized the value in this idea, expanded and rewrote the program to fit the needs of the church and launched it as a new, fresh church initiative. Now attendees could connect with others in over thirty small groups of varied interests. It was exactly what the congregation needed.

The church involved the creator of the idea just enough to give him credit for his proposal and to make him think he was part of the chosen few, but from the outside it looked like he was utilized for all the obligatory record keeping and paperwork and not much more. He never achieved status equal to the powers to be, nor could he claim the small group idea as his own because it had been redrafted to further Cain’s career and notoriety. Like Abel’s blood, Cain’s cryptic needs cried out from the ground.

I started a small outreach group because the church had  only two community missions: (1) A large Christmas project with an adjacent school; and (2) a “Souper Bowl” Sunday when churchgoers donated a can of soup or $1 to give to the needy on Super Bowl weekend. The latter had continued at the church only because it was the passion of a former employee, and although she no longer attended services there, she maintained the project by showing up each year with a truck to transport the canned goods to a local food bank.

One of the first activities launched by my outreach group was to spend an afternoon at a poverty-stricken school just before Thanksgiving, helping young kids decorate sugar cookies to resemble turkeys. Not only did the kids have a great time, but also the teachers appreciated us as they had no time for specialized crafts. It was a win-win for all.

However, our group’s greatest achievements was when we filled forty-two gift boxes to send to U.S. soldiers, fighting in Iraq, loading them with everything from long distance telephone cards to per-packaged beef jerky, from writing paper and stamps to crossword puzzle books, from beauty products to candy and nuts, from tooth brushes and tooth paste to razors and so much more. As word traveled throughout the congregation about our project, attendees swamped us with items for the boxes. We were thrilled even as the church administration pretended to ignore the event.

Can you imagine doing something that important at your church and having the entire church administration ignore it? Cainists do that, along with their followers who are blinded by their desperate need to be part of the elite group. Just follow his lead, they think. Otherwise, they might be ostracized from sitting at his right hand.

It was unforgivable what happened next. Giving to those in need should never be an uphill battle in a church, yet, from start to finish, the cainistic minister and his chosen followers created roadblocks. In the Biblical story God looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but Cain was upset when his brother did well. The cainistic minister was always upset if others skated into the limelight and stole his glory. He would not help our group succeed because he was not center stage. Small groups that received acknowledgement took place in outside agencies and institutions not at his church. Instead of working with us, he tried to discourage us by making everything doubly hard.

First, I sent him an email, asking permission to use an available room at the church to fill the gift boxes. He ignored the email. I waited several weeks and asked again. Finally, he answered by redirecting me to the operations manager, who was a staunch disciple, a puppet who did everything Cain told him to do. Like Cain he dragged his feet for weeks but finally told me to complete a requisition form to request the room, implying that use of the room was “iffy” based on whether there would be space available on that particular Saturday afternoon. It seemed bizarre that he would not know the availability of a room on a specific date. In truth, nothing moved forward without the approval of Cain. The operation manager was a lame duck until Cain decided what would happen.

I waited more and heard nothing. This kind of treatment was familiar due to a subversive attitude that the minister and the elite chosen were the church. Whenever I had an idea, those in authority would wait me out, hoping I would forget the request and move on. If the idea didn’t advance Cain directly, it was devalued or ignored. This time I was persistent and followed-up a third time.

Finally, the operations manager said we could use a large room that was divided by an accordion-like door, but there were strict instructions that we were to stay on one side of the room only and not open the divider. There was no explanation about why this was the case, which was mysterious because no one was using the other half of the room. It was just more of Cain’s control issues, always micromanaging, particularly when he was not the focal point or in charge. We could use the room only if we did exactly as he ordered.

I notified all thirty-three small group leaders, asking if their group would like to take part in the activity and/or make donations for the gift boxes. Many expressed how much they had always wanted this kind of activity at the church. Many asked if we could do more of it. I found out later that more would be done, but not with the credit, recognition or help of our group.

We were cramped for space as the congregation dropped off items and goods all afternoon. When one group member heard that the cainistic minister had ordered us to use only part of the area for our undertaking, she marched to the middle of the room and without a word, slid open the divider, giving us twice the space. We spread out and went to work. Cain’s arbitrary, ludicrous dictate that we use only half the room for no other reason than he dictated it was a clear-cut example of the destructive, power-hungry antics of a Cain.

We packaged the boxes as instructed for mail delivery to Iraq. Each mailer required  triplicate forms attached to the boxes, addressed in a strict, correct style defined by the United States Postal Service. At the end of the day, we were exhausted but had forty-two gift boxes signed, sealed and ready for delivery to Iraq.

My co-leader, who was not privy to the self-absorbed underpinnings of this cainistic church, called me at home that evening, praising my management skills, stating that he was certain that when the church learned of our successful project, they would want to air it on the local news. I knew that would not happen. Every month one specific  group leader was recognized at our monthly celebration meetings for their ingenuity in developing their particular small group. The church videotaped the group in action, then showed the video at the monthly meetings. Almost every group was acknowledged except ours before the cainistic minister was pressured out and the groups dissolved. No one showed up to videotape our activity that day. We were invisible. We didn’t exist.

Although the effort was a huge success, we ran into a big snag: We needed postage to mail all those gift boxes to the U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq. We spread the word, asking for donations. Predictably, the church administration was non-responsive. We received some money from small group leaders but fell short by two-hundred dollars. Incredibly, my co-leader’s boss, who attended a different church of a different religion, heard about our circumstances and paid the necessary postage. Someone outside the church had a heart and contributed the needed funds to mail the boxes to the soldiers.

The story does not end there. Our gift boxes were not only ignored but the idea of performing community outreach was pirated and kicked off as an ongoing church event. Cainists are thieves, lifting any idea that will make them stand out. First Cain stole the idea to create small groups, and then he stole the idea of church outreach when he caught on that the congregation liked the idea.

However, Cain solicited a different small group leader–one with whom he had trekked to Europe on an organized church trip–to execute the new outreach programs at the church. I overheard her praise him and his wife and knew instantly that she was his latest source of cainistic supply–feeding his insatiable need for praise and attention.

This other group leader worked with various community agencies to develop and supervise monthly volunteer activities through the church, such as, filling emergency food boxes (sounds familiar), serving food at shelters, and sorting and organizing clothing for homeless people. Our group idea was good enough to steal but not good enough to acknowledge or give us credit. When it comes to cainism, there truly is no honor among thieves.They will take from anyone at any time if it benefits and glorifies them.

I am glad those outreach volunteer activities continue at that church today but under the direction of a different lead minister.