November 15, 2013: Update… seems there has been a change at East Hamilton Spiritual Church…. a new web site…. I guess the old web designer and his mother are likely out of the church but I am sure all the other issues mentioned below are sadly alive and well… Change is a slow process it seems.
It has come to my attention that over a year after leaving East Hamilton Spiritual Church that I am being bad mouthed by some executive members on the church board. Up until now I have basically said nothing unless it came to my attention through others that I was still being talked about. Since some people cannot seem to tell the truth or not say anything at all I feel I must post the following letters so that people can know what I went through in the two months I was involved with East Hamilton Spiritual Church from March to May 2012 when I first moved to Hamilton.
It is also important to note that before that move in 2012 I was living and working in Toronto and moved to Hamilton with the intention of making the East Hamilton Spiritual Church my home church. In September 2011 I was added to a Facebook group East Hamilton Spiritual Church What’s Going On? and defended the church because I was dragged into drama where 19 people were banned form East Hamilton Spiritual Church for reasons I never did quite understand. What I saw was people making accusations but I did not see actual concrete proof for. Most of what I saw was ex members accusing the board of fraud and to me without proof that is a very serious accusation.
That said, when I came to the church I discovered that the Vice President of the board (Kathleen (Kathy) Barnard) was the worst gossip monger and took delight in targeting people whom she did not like or who challenged her authority and security in some way. Making fun of how people dressed on Sundays for church or spreading rumours about some people’s sexual orientations and living arrangements are just two examples of the regular goings on at East Hamilton Spiritual Church that I personally witnessed. I also experienced subtle racism from the same woman who made a disparaging comment about one of the students who came to a mediumship class I was teaching one Thursday night. He happened to be a young black guy in his early 30s who is into the rap scene as he is a DJ. She assumed “he is going to cause trouble” but I explained to the Vice President he was client and a student of mine for several years. So when she said to me “Oh no he is going to cause trouble” I was shocked and offend. I made it clear to her that I knew this man personally and that he was one of the nicest people I have ever met. She was (from what I can tell) embarrassed and uncomfortable having been caught making such an assumption about someone.
The tipping point though for me through, was when I found out, through Facebook that the web designer for the church website who was a healer in the church was posting Nazi slogans on his personal webpage extolling the virtues of “exterminating the ‘lesser desireables’ in society who were fit to survive the struggle of society”. And his target seemed to be people with Downs Syndrome. I saw posts making fun of these people’s intellectual impairment. As recall, the photo had the picture of a pre-teen girl with Downs Syndrome and the caption was “I can count to potato”. The most disgusting thing of all this is that his mother (also a member of the board at East Hamilton Spiritual Church) was liking these prejudicial abusive posts. After trying to talk to the young man about this behaviour and being told to “fuck off”, I brought it to the attention of Vice President of the board at East Hamilton Spiritual Church as was advised that “he is just a 19 year old fuck up who is trying to find himself”.
This is when I knew that East Hamilton Spiritual Church was not “a safe haven for all who enter” especially not those with intellectual, or physical disabilities or who are not white. As a woman with Cerebral Palsy, who has over come such prejudice, I did try to have the web designer and his mother removed from their positions at the church and instead it was me that was banned for voicing my improperly addressed concerns on Facebook when I realize the church board was not going to do anything about it. I feel most sorry for the general congregation and the newly appointed board members who had nothing to do with this nonsense but are in the middle of it nonetheless.
The following letters represent the full exchange that Reverend Leonard (Len) Spicer and I had about the situation. It seems if you are good friends of the Reverend (as the web designer, his mother, and Kathleen (Kathy) Barnard are) than any behaviour is acceptable. It is also interesting to note that the web designer, his mother and the Reverend are not even residents of Hamilton. How is it they got so involved in controlling a Hamilton based church in the first place? That may never be clear but the letters are very clear for sure.
From the Desk of Rev. L.P. Spicer
President of East Hamilton Spiritual Church
May 25, 2012
Dear Catherine MacDonald,
On behalf of the officers and congregation, I wish to thank you for your service, which included emergency requests.
However, I have noticed some very distasteful acts of your conduct, which I find unacceptable. As a servant of this Church when you serve, you become a leader and your demeanour at all times must demonstrate social qualities, that encourages all who attend the Church to feel at east and at peace.
Your conduct over the pages of Facebook on the net is degrading from a worker who serves the congregation of East Hamilton Spiritual Church. Your actions and opinions have been humiliating, embarrassing, and offensive, especially in area’s that do not concern you.
Your treatment of the teenager Thomas Needle requires your apology. You accepted an invitation to join a private page on Facebook and in your gauche manner you turn this private page into a public gossip column (I printed the subject matter off) to maintain the Churches image, I have punished Thomas. You also have sent slanderous comments to Thomas’s mother.
For this reason you will no longer be considered to server in any capacity this Church. Your membership of this Church as of this date is withdrawn also your requirements to serve on June 9th 2012 as a reader are no longer needed.
From: Catherine MacDonald [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: May-28-12 4:50 AM
Subject: RE: Letter
Hello Reverend Spicer:
I have received your letter and can say that we are in agreement on only two matters and I am quite relieved that I am no longer a member of East Hamilton Spiritual Church and will no longer be required to serve.
As to the other parts of the letter I will simply say that I asked spirit to show me what I needed to see as I had requested them to and I am grateful for that.
Now let’s get the facts straight.
1. Thomas Needle is not a teenager by law he is considered an adult as it is my understanding that he is 19 years of age. He posted disparaging hate speech about people with down syndrome and had Hitler quotes on his page also that encouraged the extermination of undesirables who were not fit to survive the struggle in society. I did try to talk to him about the negativity of this kind of thing and was rudely rebuffed. I brought the situation to the Vice President of the board’s attention and it was blown off as “he’s just a 19 year old fuck up trying to find himself”. Is the an example of not being gauche? I just want to be clear on where you draw the line on what is gauche and what is not.
2. Thomas’ mother is a member of the board and she was the one who came after me threatening me that I needed “to watch what I said about Thomas as I had no idea what his intention was by sharing the posts he did on Facebook”. Was that a threat? I do not have to figure out his intentions and the fact that his mother also liked the posts he shared also puts in question her judgement. If I embarrassed and humiliated her then perhaps public shaming was necessary given the circumstances. I did not slander her. I challenged her distorted logic in her feeble attempts to defend and justify and defend her son’s behaviour and asked her directly if she shared her son’s views. I did not accuse her I simply pointed out how twisted her line of thought was and perhaps that is a good thing in the long run as it is Thomas who embarrassed and humiliated his mother by showing the lack of parental guidance that is obviously going on. She added me as a friend and comes after me on my wall and if it is bad conduct for me to embarrass her then I should think she would also be dealt with in the same manner as Thomas and myself for bad Facebook behaviour. Yet I am more than willing to bet that she is still a member of the board and that her membership in the church and her son’s membership were never actually in question because they are personal friends of yours. It is so nice to see that the rules are so evenly and ethically applied in all situations.
3. I have personally heard the Vice President of the same board gossip to me about people in the church that she does not like and systematically target them so they stop attending. I guess making fun of how someone dresses on Sunday or sings hymns and making fun of people you do not like by making up nasty nicknames for them is an example of acceptable leadership behaviour at East Hamilton Spiritual Church? Just want to be crystal clear what the expectations are here.
4. I heard this same member of the board tell me things that were “board business” when other board members would have been admonished for doing so. It seems she does this if it suits her purpose of belittling others and causing drama in the church to get her own way. Again we can see the value of applying the rules in a fair and balanced manner.
5. The vice president of the board was also so rude to me on the last occasion I was there because I was questioning things that are going on in the church and yes did so publicly as this nonsense was brought to my attention on Facebook and I refused just to let it be shoved under the rug. Is that becoming behaviour for a person in her position? If so I am in the wrong church.
Are these the examples of “a leader and [with a] demeanour at all times must demonstrate social qualities, that encourages all who attend the Church to feel at [ease] and at peace”? Is this what makes East Hamilton a “safe haven for all that enter”? I can say I think not.
You say I should apologize to Thomas and that these issues do not concern me but that Reverend Spicer is where you are absolutely wrong. Thomas is an adult and should know better and his mother should have parented him better no doubt. What is happening in the church is wrong. While there is not much I can do about it in real terms, I do have the right to ask the tough questions and make a decision if this organization is the right one for me to attach my name to. I think we all know the conclusion I came to. To that end revoking my membership and not asking me to serve will have little impact on my life except to reduce the huge amount of stress I had been dealing with since I got involved with the church last September due to the other Facebook group where I defended the church and its board. I do wonder if I defended the wrong people but no matter what that group was doing to the board by libeling the members on Facebook with no proof was wrong and so I spoke up. I am not sorry to do that then and now as it was the ethically right thing to do then and I would do it again if the situation arose. Now I see things that are wrong here within the church and I am calling them out. You and the board can ignore them and sweep them under the rug but that does not change the distorted culture that has taken hold in East Hamilton Spiritual Church. Spirit knows what is true and right and what is not and each of us has to live with our own consciences. I am not sorry for what has happened here as I now have a clear understanding of East Hamilton Spiritual Church specifically and Spiritualism in general and I can tell you that I do not like what I see. I am thankful not to have my name mixed up with the church any longer.
On a personal note, moving to Hamilton was for me about recovering my health and I thought the church was part of that but now I can see I am better off without it. It is obvious to me that the energy of this church and your involvement in Spiritualism has cost you our health and I do have to wonder if any church or Spiritualism itself is worth that kind of stress. If this kind of negativity is what is created in Spiritualism and the churches and this what it does to good mediums and ministers who are respected people in the community then I can say I am glad to be as far out of it as possible. I do know as a younger medium that I will take this as a profound lesson of where I do not want my future to be and I sincerely thank you for that lesson as it surely will prolong my life and allow it to be much more peaceful.
It is sad to see what happens when a few people have too much control of the decision making power and the outcomes that will undoubtedly have an impact on East Hamilton Spiritual Church for a long time into the future.