Intra-Building Conflict: A Plea for Peace

First, watch this video: (Prose version here.)

I assume that we are in total agreement that this is outrageously inappropriate behavior between brothers in Christ, and in a church. Good. Now watch this video:

Ok, it’s not a video, I’m just going to tell you a story. About two years ago, I was in a ward that I loved and loved me back. We had knit our lives together over several years–sacrificed, worshiped, cleaned, cried and celebrated together. Like a good marriage, we had our ups and downs but we were one in a beautiful way.

We were also united against a common foe: the other ward in our building. Those stuck-up jerks thought that just because they were richer than us, they could just do whatever they wanted–park the aisles of the parking lot, leave their programs and snacks all over our pews, talk loudly in the foyer during our Sacrament Meetings. They let their Nursery kids play with play dough every week, and every week we found bits of it ground into the Nursery room carpet. Don’t they know you can’t do that! There’s like a rule, I’m sure, look it up. And if there isn’t, well, there ought to be. They took too long to vacate rooms, rudely chattering away. In sum, they acted like they owned the place–everything was always about them, and they were too self-centered to think about how this all was affecting us. We even put little memos on the windshields of offending aisle-parked cars. They still parked there. So intolerable, so unchristian, that other ward.

About two years ago, a tiny bit of our ward including our family was carved out and added to that other ward, proving that God is a fan of The Twilight Zone. I was shocked. Of course we’d heard the rumors about upcoming boundary changes, but I just couldn’t believe it. That other ward?

That they quickly won me over despite my horror at being moved is a testament to their unmatched charm and Christian spirits. I am now convinced that that other ward–my ward–is as close to Zion as any in all of the stakes of Zion. (Just ask my fellow BCCers, who must tire of the frequent emails I send gushing about how much I love this ward.) My kids who loathed Nursery, and never wanted to go? Well, with that play dough to greet them they couldn’t run there fast enough. The endless chattering after Relief Society hour was over and then some? It was now this circle of sisters showing welcome and warmth to me. Oh dear, so this is what it feels like to be in a Twilight Zone episode.

Though their hearts are huge and true, I do occasionally hear little curses against that other ward, my previous ward. Sometimes they’ll realize that it was my ward and catch themselves, or give a disclaimer. “I know that used to be your ward, and you know them, but…do they really need to take up so much more than their share of wall space in the Primary room? Ugh!” It breaks my heart.

This past week another round of boundary changes added a new ward to our building and we’ll be three wards instead of two. I assume this just means more little conflicts, and in fact I’ve already seen it. I assume many of your wards have seen a spike in that-other-ward grumbling this month as time slot swaps expose a host of new issues.

There’s a lot of baggage underlying some of these conflicts that we could unpack. Benson unpacked a good deal of it in his speech on Pride, and that talk is a huge first step in thinking about solutions to what I have observed.

What can each of us do in our own little lives to create change in how we think about and talk about the other wards in our buildings? Of course the first step is to censor our own tongues, then our own minds. Next, we can resolve (it’s still January!) to speak up when we hear others speaking unkindly about the other ward. If we know individuals involved, we can offer positive details about them and their families to give others a more complete view and encourage thinking about them as real people. When we bend down to clean up their messes, we can imagine worthy, or at least sympathetic, reasons why these messes may have come about instead of assuming the worst. Most of all, we can stop taking everything so personally. People in that other ward are not doing these things out of spite, really they aren’t.

I just want to close with a plea, from someone traveling through a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind, that we treat our building-mates with the same love, empathy, long-suffering and tenderness with which we treat our own ward members. If for no other reason than because someday, they might be. And then, like me, you’ll have a lot of repenting to do.

Comments

  1. By the way, my favorite part of that video is the sucker punch at 0:12.

    Seriously though, people. If ever you feel the temptation to gripe about a member of that other ward, either sing a hymn in your mind, or think of that video and how you really shouldn’t be that guy.

  2. Wow! That sucker punch was brutal!

  3. Latter-day Guy says:

    I will always remember a line from a sacrament meeting talk I heard years and years ago. The speaker worked as an air traffic controller. (I assume that it’s a fairly high-stress job, what with having thousands of lives in your hands every day.) In any case, each employee where he worked had their own little system for keeping track of what was going on at any given moment on the tarmac. So if someone moved something on your desk (a slip of paper, say), it could be a big deal––but over the years, occurrences like that were pretty much a guarantee. So this brother used something of a mantra: “Assume good intent.”

    It certainly isn’t something I do perfectly yet, but keeping it in mind has been helpful and instructive––particularly when experience has shown that after looking into an unpleasant situation, “good intent” was most often the motivating factor.

    At the same time, I wonder if having an enemy, some group or person we can label as “other,” is an important (necessary?) aspect of group identity. Any time we “draw a circle” to keep someone out, we are simultaneously defining some group as in the circle. I don’t know the first thing about sociology/group-dynamics, but I wonder if there is any research on this…

  4. I’ve been on both sides of that fence too, CL, and I know of what you speak. Good reminders.

    That video… oh my. Oh MY.

  5. Alex T. Valencic says:

    I haven’t really noticed any conflict within my building (we have three wards that share the Stake Center). My wife has just informed me that there are “irksome faces” when scheduling conflicts occur, but I would blame the building scheduler for that. I imagine there are problems on Wednesday evening when the youth of many wards are fighting over space.

    No sucker punches after Sacrament meetings, though. Thanks goodness!

  6. That video was AWESOME! So funny…why did I find that funny? Violence=not funny. Violence while dressed in church robes-possibilities…violence while dressed in robes with british commentary=funny.

    humor’s a weird thing.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    When we first moved into our building, three wards met there, but I don’t recall any conflict (except for the fact that I hated afternoon church). Now we’re down to one ward and a singles branch (with fewer than 30 people attending it), so life is good. (We moved our start time from 10 a.m. to 9 to accomodate the singles, but I personally prefer the earlier time anyway.)

    Just one of the advantages of living in an area where church growth is stagnant.

  8. don’t we already have satan to be against? we could unite against that?

  9. I do want to know where those priests learned to fight like that. Do they cover that in Divinity school? Those were some real punches.

  10. I always hated the line….oh…. you didn’t know them, they were in the other ward.

  11. I agree, the British newscaster’s ironically dignified narration only adds to the sense of overall silliness.

    Funny to read Cynthia’s account of her ward’s superiority over the other ward. Growing up, although we never said so in so many terms, I sensed a strong feeling of superiority over the sister ward in our building. Truth be told, my home ward *was* superior in things like economic status, church sports teams, music programs, number of youth, etc. You know, superior in all the ways that, well, don’t really matter in the long run.

    In our current ward, I don’t hear of or sense any of that kind of feeling about any of the others wards in our building or stake. (Maybe that’s because our ward is the one all the other wards look down on?) I hope it’s something that we’ve gotten past.

  12. I’ve been on both sides of this as well. When living in a high-growth area of Davis County, Utah, many years ago, our ward was split I think 6 times in 14 years. Twice we ended up in sharing the same building with the “original” ward in that community, and every time, we had to take the late schedule as it was “their” building, the proud descendants of the original pioneer settlers.

    Now, in Washington State, we share our building with a ward that it appears has always resented us as the “rich” ward, which I wonder about. Several families in our ward had lived in the other ward, then bought bigger homes in our ward, leaving their ward chronically smaller and challenged for leadership. Yet many families from our ward move up and over to the “plateau”, as we call it, which was ranked in Money Magazine as one of the top ten most affluent communities in the US. One of our ward members was concerned about her teenage son having to wait for 20 minutes after a party out there. I told her the biggest danger was from roving gangs of orthodontist’s children.

    I’ve never understood either side of this, but I know it is real. As a church, we are not yet “one”. But the only time I’ve seen it turn to sucker punches is during church basketball games.

  13. Mommie Dearest says:

    Watching the greek fellow talk about the “Fist” of the Holy Cross made me do a double take. For a minute there I thought they had actually organized some kind of institutional observance of violence.
    Yipes.

    Being a member of the One True Ward is great, but we get along fine with the other two wards in our building, because we all belong to the One True Stake.

  14. “But the only time I’ve seen it turn to sucker punches is during church basketball games.”

    The only time I’ve ever heard a church member use the N-word was during a church basketball game.

  15. “Oh dear, so this is what it feels like to be in a Twilight Zone episode.”

    I beg to differ. If you were truly caught in the “Twilight Zone,” you would actually learn that you and your fellow ward members are caught in a time warp.

    To your horror, you would realize that the “other” problem-causing ward before you is, in fact, your ward exactly one year prior, before shifting to a new time slot. All of your travails have, sadly, been inflicted upon you by your prior selves but there is no way to send a message backward in time to warn your nursery leaders not to break out the Play-Doh.

    That, Cynthia, is what it would feel like to cross over into THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

  16. All the wards in our building are better than the other wards in the other buildings.

  17. If you think that confrontation was violent, just send a bunch of Orthodox Jews into the Dome of the Rock and see how the Muslims respond.

    I think this post argues for more activities at the stake level where people from different wards can intermingle.

  18. “I think this post argues for more activities at the stake level where people from different wards can intermingle.”

    But NO angry Muslims.

  19. Mark Brown says:

    No angry muslims playing church ball.

  20. “I think this post argues for more activities at the stake level where people from different wards can intermingle.”

    Yes I thought of church basketball league too, Mark. Perhaps something else. :-)

  21. It only gets better when one ward is northern European dull and the other is Latin excitement, when one has three activities (if something that somnolent can be call active) a year and the other has three activities a month, complete with food for hundreds, dancing into the wee hours, and a whole dumpster full of trash which perhaps explains the copious amounts left inside the building.

    I think the video should be shown at all stake conferences in the church this year! Make that Saturday evening adults only session the high point of the weekend.

  22. Raymond, # 17, I do believe that is the shortest comment ever from you. I smell a Niblet!

  23. Peter LLC says:

    In the city I attend church, every ward has its own building, except ours. We are the new kids on the block, having only existed as a unit for about 20 years, and get to share. Two decades later the ward that built the building in the 1950s still regards us as interlopers. But most of us don’t speak the language and are too transient to care, so I guess ignorance is bliss.

  24. Mark Brown says:

    kevinf, # 22:

    LOLOLOLOL

  25. When I was a priest my ward’s YM’s basketball team was know for getting in fights with other wards. The nadir, however, occurred when one member of our team started calling another member of our team “Jesus” because he thought he was the Chosen One as indicated by the number of shots he would take. After hearing “Give Jesus the ball” one too many times, a fist fight broke out between them–members of the same team–on the court. Looking back on it now, I realize that I shouldn’t have blasphemed but believe it was proper to fight back.

  26. We have seen a slug fest in Sacrament meeting. Years ago when my hubby was in the bishopric, during the sacrament no less, a guy turned to the guy next to him and slammed him one in the eye. My hubby was racing off the stand against the other family members that were running to jump in. They broke it up and got them out of the chapel. The funny thing was no one who was not paying attention even noticed. Weirdest thing we have ever seen at church for sure. Needless to say basketball was off limits in this particular ward!

  27. I’m going to have to watch thE video again.

    With the narrator’s accent, that HAS to be John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman et al in those robes. Too bad the cut to Terry Gilliam’s animation was omitted. :)

  28. We only have our Branch in our building. We are sooo spoiled I can’t imagine what it would be like if we had to share.

  29. Aaron Brown says:

    My ward doesn’t share its building with any other wards. Thus, there’s no one to look down upon, or gripe about. So we’re always guaranteed the coveted 10-1 timeslot. Woo-hoo! I know you’re all jealous.

    When I lived in L.A. we did share with one other ward. We loved to complain about how that ward had no leadership, so we were always having to ship MP holders into their meetings, just to keep things going. We thought we were better than them, and we were.

  30. I have nothing to say except awesome post. Thank you.

    (And I will say that I love hearing when other people love their wards, because I love mine (and have through three boundary changes in the past decade) and it feels like a little bit of heaven.)

  31. Cynthia L. says:

    Thank you m&m.

    And thank you Sheldon! Well-played, well-played.

  32. The video looks like a typical day in the South Korean parliament.

  33. Aaron Brown, we are the only ward in our building but due to the inspiration of our stake president, we have to meet at 9:00 anyways. I think I’ve been to church less than a dozen times since the switch.

    When I was in a smallish ward in west Texas, we shared the building (stake center) with a much bigger ward that included the whiter, more suburban school district. I got to know the primary president when I was primary president and we worked together on a couple of projects. We did a joint Halloween party that we really contributed to, and everybody got to know each other better. We also had a really tight schedule, so we took to setting up each other’s primary rooms when we were on the morning shift, so there was less confusion during the very brief transition period.

    The church will never be a Zion people if they can’t even share a building.

  34. Ah, yes. I remember.

    Those stuck-up jerks thought that just because they were cooler than us, they could just do whatever they wanted–park in the aisles of the MA, litter their stupid in-jokes all over the ‘nacle, talk loudly in the foyer during our abortion posts. They let Steve play with trolls every week, and every week we found bits of them ground into the Nursery room carpet. They took too long to vacate threads, rudely chattering away. In sum, they acted like they owned the place–everything was always about them, and they were too self-centered to think about how this all was affecting us.

    So intolerable, so unchristian, that Other Blog.

    That they quickly won me over is a testament to their unmatched charm and Christian spirits.

  35. StillConfused says:

    Are women not allowed to worship there?

  36. SC, as far as I know women are allowed to worship at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Certainly, tourists of all kinds are welcomed. But the clergy, it seems, are all male.

    The sometimes violent conflict over the site has been ongoing since at least the 1500s, as different Christian sects vied for control of a site of such significance (some believe the church is built on the site of both Golgotha and Jesus’ tomb). Per the BBC news article linked to in the post:

    Rivalry between the six different churches which grudgingly share the Holy Sepulchre dates back to the aftermath of the crusades, and to the great schism between Eastern and Western Christianity in the 11th Century.

    Each denomination controls, and jealously guards, its own section of the labyrinthine site.

    Wikipedia lists the parties who share the building as:

    The primary custodians are the Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Roman Catholic Churches, with the Greek Orthodox Church having the lion’s share. In the 19th century, the Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox acquired lesser responsibilities, which include shrines and other structures within and around the building.

    Wiki also chronicles some of the other violent confrontations of recent past:

    On a hot summer day in 2002, the Coptic monk who is stationed on the roof to express Coptic claims to the Ethiopian territory there moved his chair from its agreed spot into the shade. This was interpreted as a hostile move by the Ethiopians, and eleven were hospitalized after the resulting fracas.

    In another incident in 2004 during Orthodox celebrations of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a door to the Franciscan chapel was left open. This was taken as a sign of disrespect by the Orthodox and a fistfight broke out. Some people were arrested, but no one was seriously injured.

    On Palm Sunday, in April 2008 [this is the incident in the video], a brawl broke out when a Greek monk was ejected from the building by a rival faction. Police were called to the scene but were also attacked by the enraged brawlers. A clash erupted between Armenian and Greek monks on Sunday 9 November 2008, during celebrations for the Feast of the Holy Cross.

  37. Kathy, nice. I like how Evans is in the nursery.

  38. Hm, re: last paragraph of my comment #36, the video seems more likely to be of the Nov 08 incident, not the Apr 08 one (video uploaded to youtube in Nov 08, and interviewed witness references the Feast). The linked prose (BBC article) is about Apr 08.

  39. Thanks Cynthia. I have actually moved into a ward where the people automatically had a dislike for me because of the ward I was previously in (and my obnoxious personality). It is hard to make changes in how we think about people and it took me a long time to be accepted by some of the members. I’m working on the rest.

  40. Tensions are so prone to erupt at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, that two Palestinian families have held the keys to the church since 1187…just so one Christian sect can’t try to lock the others out. There’s only one entrance in and out of the church, and especially on Sundays and other holy days, many of the sects are holding services at the same time, so they have to compete with each other for space as well as noise; which only adds to the tension and frustration. The Israeli government has been trying to get them to build fire escapes or a secondary entrance, but the sects can’t agree on where they will go and who’s space should be affected, so they’ve been debating for a few decades on the location(s). Four of the sects at least have prime real estate inside. The Ethiopian and Coptic sects have to make do with shrines on the roof (which are not enclosed and open to the elements).

  41. I have served in the calling where I was responsible for coordinating use of a building by three wards. When I accepted the calling I was provided a “master schedule” which the bishops for the three wards had worked out. I still recall to this day when one ward’s auxilliary wanted to use the building on a certain day every month and another Bishop “reminded” the first bishop about the schedule. In response, the second Bishop went on a rant about how he was tired of them coming into the Chapel and finding programs, cereal and other odds and ends left by the prior ward, let alone men playing basketball on Thursday nights when its not scheduled.
    My eyes were further “opened” to the realities of having three wards in one building when the stake also has a claim one of the week days for the building and how trying to juggle everyone’s use (including other wards who found their own building already calendared for use and wanting to use our building) and how at times I just wanted to say…Are we really REALLY Christians? Seemingly not when it comes to scheduling building use.

  42. Our two wards are each superior to the other, so things cancel out. Scheduling works OK, but is complicated by letting the Scout District use the building for (thankfully, scheduled) meetings. Our wild card is that we’re the ward closest to the Mission office, and the Mission is superior to all of us put together (including the stake). No scheduling the building for them; they just do as they please. If someone else has scheduled the building for that time, tough luck. Ah, the joys of having some know-it-all from SLC on a 3-year assignment to show the benighted masses how the Church is supposed to work.

  43. Wow. This post is amazing to me.

    We’ve got three wards and a branch in our building, and in twelve years I’ve never heard anything approaching “us and them”. Our wards actually really like each other. Or at least, we seem to like them!

    ‘Course, I have heard an occasional comment about the wards on the other side of the stake, what with their BMWs and boob jobs and all, but there’s no real venom. After all, the amazing stake youth activities and Christmas programs all seem to originate out there. And, funding never seems to be a problem…

  44. Thanks for brightening my day, for some odd reason I laughed hysterically thru this. It is like when my sister and I were in Sacrament mtg as a kids and we would begin a giggle session.

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