DEAR AMY: My dad has been a preacher for 48 years, and he's been at his current assignment for more than 20 years. My family and I attend the church that he leads, but I no longer want to because of the disrespectful way in which the members treat my parents and my own family. My dad and I have spoken about the issues within the congregation and I've mentioned retirement several times, but he sees me as his child who should always support him by attending his church. I dread services because it's pretty much guaranteed that someone will make a hateful comment to me. Now they've added my young child to be on the receiving end of their wounding words, so I have been standing up for my child by letting people know that they are mean and are not being good Christians. I informed my mom that I could not attend there anymore. She completely understands, but I'm not sure that my dad will be as accepting. My mom, my siblings and I are fed up and want our elderly dad to retire. How can I leave the church and find a new one without hurting my dad's feelings? After 48 years in the ministry, how can I talk my aging father into retiring from the pulpit?

Concerned Daughter

DEAR CONCERNED: Without question, some congregations do seem to be toxic, but this treatment — certainly toward clergy and family — seems extreme.

You grew up as part of your father's flock. Naturally, he would miss you on Sundays.

It is unrealistic for you to imagine that you could exit without hurting his feelings. You should handle this by being patient, understanding, stalwart, and compassionate toward him.

You might soften this by reassuring him that you and your family will attend his church on holidays and feast days. Tell him, "I wish the congregation were nicer to you, Dad. It hurts me to see anyone being unkind toward you."

Your exit might hasten his retirement. I don't think you should pressure him.

DEAR AMY: I've worked part-time as a retiree at a wonderful nonprofit for about four years. I love coming to work. One of my co-workers recently became my manager. He has been my mentor at this organization and is also a friend outside of work to some extent. We've gone from being separated by a cubicle wall, to sitting face-to-face in clear sight of each other. That's fine, as we have frequent dialogue throughout the day. The bad news is, he frequently eats soup for lunch, and always at his desk. Amy, the sounds he makes, the slurping of every spoonful and then the scraping of spoon against bowl as he gets near the bottom, is really disgusting, at least to me. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I really can't take it anymore. I don't have the option of going somewhere else to work while he eats, nor do I take lunch because I'm part time, so I am stuck at my desk during this aural onslaught. How can I address this? Honestly, I wish I could get over it, it's just too revolting to me. I've considered earplugs, which he would probably notice, or making light fun of him in a tangential way. He's a great and pretty easy-going guy but, he can get his hackles up, too.

No Soup for You

DEAR NO SOUP: Well, you've hit upon my own personal bugaboo.

Naturally, I consider myself to be an exceptionally tolerant person (!), and yet I would rather draw my own fingernails down a chalkboard than hear most of the sounds associated with eating. I well understand the revulsion you feel.

You should say to him, "I have a confession to make. I can't stand the sound of people eating. For me, it's like someone is sawing a trombone in half. Please, don't take offense because I'm just going to slip these earbuds into my ears and listen to some music while you eat. Just wave at me if you need me, OK?"

DEAR AMY: I often think that you are basically sexist, in that you always side with women who write to you. But even I had to agree with your answer to "Worn Out," a new mom whose husband wasn't being a good partner. That guy sounded like a total jerk.


DEAR SEMI: Even a sexist would be right at least some of the time. Thank you.

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