Todd here. I know Dee said there will not be a post tonight because she’s preoccupied with the minor matter of her daughter’s wedding, but I received a story a few days ago written by a former employee of The Chapel Church in Akron, OH. and figured this would be a good time to post it.
The story below is reproduced precisely as I received it with the one exception that I deleted the individuals name from the end of the story. This person was happy to have her name published, but I thought I would let her share it with you all in the comment section if she so chooses.
What follows is her story.
In 1997, I wrestled with God over His purposes/path for me. My husband and I were in the midst of our infertility journey. I felt led to put my application in at the church I had loved and attended since 1986.
I clearly remember a prayer that escaped my lips as I stood in my backyard. “Lord, please let me get pregnant or let me get a job at The Chapel.”
He answered, and I started my position as the receptionist at The Chapel on January 3, 1998. And so began my life as a part of church staff. [we never were blessed with children, but that’s another story…]
Fast forward to August 2014. By this time, after a number of other roles, I had been working in the Communications department for 8 or 9 years. I was confident in my position as the editor/proofreader of communications. I handled the Facebook page and maintained website copy, as well as the bulletins, brochures, booklets, etc. that the church produced.
When Armstrong (I will call him TA for the remainder, and will never, ever honor him with the title “pastor”) began, as the new senior pastor, it wasn’t clear what he was like. He did not mingle among staff during the day-to-day hours. He was scheduling departmental meetings with each team separately, as a “get-to know-you” type thing.
In early September of 2014, Communications dept. meeting was scheduled. We were so excited in anticipation of our time with him. At this time, the Communications dept. was made up of five staff members. The previous director had retired some months before that, so we were basically “leaderless” for quite a while. But we were a tight-knit group that worked exceedingly well together and had kept up the communications needs quite well.
At least, that was our perception. Not so, per TA. At our highly anticipated meeting, right out of the gate, he came down on us hard. Citing all the things we were doing “wrong.” He delivered this in a stern, cold manner. At first, we were all stunned into silence.
But then, I spoke up. I was respectful, and I simply tried to point out some positive things I thought we had accomplished, especially in doing it without a direct supervisor. The few things I said, he immediately shot down. And there was a moment when he glared at me. And I uncomfortably maintained eye contact and stared back.
I was the only one to speak up at that meeting. I don’t blame my fellow coworkers at the time. It was a shocking thing. I only spoke up briefly, and then shut down.
At the end of the meeting, he gave a semi-positive type of statement “I have faith that you will do better at this.” However, the damage was done.
We went back our office, and there was overall confusion, some anger, a few tears, and basically a feeling of dread.
And little did I know, I more than likely had a target on my back from then on.
Shortly after that disheartening meeting, a young guy, Josh, was hired as our communications director. I got along with him and was really trying to figure out how to navigate these new waters and keep my job. I have a friendly personality and am a very hard worker. I cared deeply about The Chapel’s ministry and wanted to continue serving at the church I loved. I thought that would be enough, and that soon TA and Josh would recognize my hard work.
I can’t possibly relate every detail in those months. There were ups and downs, I never quite felt totally secure in my job. However, I was adjusting, and felt that I was doing well.
Then came another strange experience in early December. Because The Chapel had a break from Christmas through New Year’s every year, communications would work ahead to have three bulletins done to ensure they could be created and printed in time.
I was in my office and the thought occurred to me that I had not remembered to give a schedule ahead for upcoming Pastor’s Notes. I quickly fired off a text to TA’s assistant saying something to the effect that we would need TA’s note earlier than usual. I don’t recall exactly how I phrased it. More than likely, it was concise and to the point, with my intention to simply get that off as a reminder, to give enough time before we needed it. His assistant answered OK.
That night, around 9 or 10 pm, I got a text from his assistant saying that TA would like to see me in his office first thing the next day.
A sickening feeling swept over me but thought maybe it was nothing.
The next morning, I mentioned to Josh that TA wanted to see me and that I hoped I wasn’t “in trouble.” He looked at me quizzically and said he would go down and see TA instead. I kind of didn’t want that but thought maybe it would be best if he did.
When Josh came back, he came in my office, shut the door, sat down, and said, “We must always show the utmost respect to Pastor Tim.” I was baffled, “What?” And he repeated himself.
I responded that if this was about the text asking for the Pastor’s Note, I truly meant no disrespect whatsoever, and simply was trying to make sure I notified them in time for what we needed for the schedule. And furthermore, I didn’t send TA that message, it was to his assistant. Josh just looked at me and repeated the whole “respect” statement again.
Hence, I believe this was the final nail in my coffin.
We returned after our Christmas break. On Friday, January 9, 2015, Josh asked me to walk with him, and we went to an office, where the HR director was waiting. Now, here’s how unaware I was. As we walked in, my first thought was that they wanted to discuss a raise with me.
Instead, Josh stunned me with these words: “I’ll cut to the chase, we’re letting you go.”
Truly, I could not have been more shocked. I protested. I cried. I was angry. And neither of them could give me any definitive answer as to why.
· I was told I was on a probationary period for my new role. No one had told me that prior.
· “You’re just not a right fit for that position.”
· “We’re sorry. You just don’t have a seat on the bus.” (a concept that apparently TA was following from Jim Collins, Good to Great book.)
I was thunderstruck. I walked back to the communications office, tearful and embarrassed in front of my coworkers, grabbed my purse, and left. I called my husband from the parking lot, crying. I drove home in a mental fog.
My husband and I made an appointment to talk with Josh. He could give no clear answers as to why I was being let go. And stumbled and stuttered his way through.
I talked with Jim Mitchell, who came off caring and supportive. However, he basically dismissed the emotion of it and said, “It’s just a job.”
My husband and I even met with TA. At that meeting, we were met with mostly stony silence and cold reactions, and again given no clear understanding of why this was happening. But even then, I hugged TA as we left.
I was given three months’ severance pay. At first, I was terribly depressed and couldn’t sleep. I wrestled with what I should’ve done differently. I wrestled with the unfairness of it all. I was heartbroken to be “cast out” from a job I had loved for 17 years. A church I had been a part of since I was fresh out of college. So many milestones and memories. I struggled and prayed.
On the day my severance pay would end, April 1, 2015, I was offered a position at a new job that I have thrived in to this day. God blessed us abundantly.
TA continued to fire a number of people after me. Through the years, I often wondered why TA was still at The Chapel. Through the years, if I would see someone on staff, they would usually say something like: “you should be glad you are not there anymore.”
May 20, 2021 was a moment of mixed emotions. As the news filtered out that TA had fired Pastor Mike Castelli, my husband and I were confident that Mike would retain his job and this would be the beginning of the end of TA’s reign of terror.
I have known Mike for many years, I can say, fully, and without hesitation, he is a humble, loving, strong leader of his staff and church. He is a loving husband and father. That he is being subject to an investigation is a travesty as his only “crime” was standing up to TA, and is suffering out of retaliation.
TA deserved to be fired (not given the choice to resign) and should be subject to public reprimand. It seems the committee and/or trustees are coddling him. Why are the protecting him now? I wonder what type of “golden parachute” package he was given?
For the many broken lives he slashed and burned throughout these 7 years…. For the past and present members of staff he psychologically abused … oh, and also in his first year, he axed around 50 missionaries from the church’s budget. [and that’s yet another story…]
If TA had been an honorable and decent man, to stand up and repent of what he has done, I would be glad. Let’s shower grace on those who repent.
But, he has not. He continues in his arrogance.
Every congregant should be asking why this was allowed to go on for 7 years … and they should be asking for an investigation of how the budget was handled for the last 7 years. Every dollar they put in the offering plate… where did it all go, and how was it all used? How many finance directors did The Chapel go through in those 7 years? Quite a few… why did they not stay?
The Chapel must be fully transparent and release details as to the kind of man he is, also for the sake of any church he may seek employment at.