(Perhaps I’ve been a litle harsh when I talk about churches, it’s a subject that can get me a little worked up. So I’ve decided to talk about the churches I’ve attended over the years. Maybe you’ll understand where I’m comming from.)
My earliest memories of church begin on Wednesdays. My grandparent’s church offered a program that kept kids occupied from three in the afternoon to five or six in the evening. Since the church was just beside the school, we could walk on over and enjoy a snack or go play on the playground until it was time to be called into class. I remember that there was an arts and crafts class, a bible study class, a music and worship class and after that we’d get together for dinner and a game. Then we’d get to go home. My grandmother insisted that we go to this program so much so that she paid the scolarship for all three of us one year. When I was a little older I enjoyed the elective painting class. My Bob Ross style painting has graced the wall of every house we’ve ever owned.
It wasn’t long before we started attending the Sunday services. Things were quite different. First, two kids would walk up the aisle and light the candles with a weird looking pole. I think I might have had a turn once, but fifteen year-old memories are not to be trusted. I was already too-old for the children’s moment by that time. No toys or chocolate for my sister or me.
As time went on it became clear that this church has pastor issues. If the committee didn’t feel that a pastor was quite right, they didn’t hesitate to dismiss him. Eventually a church member decided that she’d get a seminary degree and she became the pastor. They did, however, purchase a tract of land to build a better church. Sure, they’d be a little further away from the school and on the same corner as two other churches, but they thought it was the best thing to do at the time. My only other memory of a Sunday service is more like an impression that I was too exciable to be still and that the adults were almost as bored as I was.
Once we started to distance ourselves from the church at about the same time we were preparing to move out of state, the members we bumped into would tell us that we were missed and things were getting along well. We had seen it before on Sunday’s we had been taken ill. Like a country club, so long as you continue to attend there aren’t any issues. If you’re not there to quell the rumors, they’ll fly in your absence. Like us, most of our relatives didn’t care to attend the family church anymore.
Five years later, however, we were back in the state. It was a particularly bad year for us. We had car trouble as we went to one of my grandparent’s funerals, the next would happen three months later. We spent a Sunday at that new church. It was a big open sanctuary with three large sections of pews that were mostly empty and a rather green stained glass window way up high. I don’t remember much from the church member’s sermon. I did get a chance to eat in the common room and wondered about the irony of it. In the old church, the building was smaller, but almost every group had a classroom except for three. In the new building the three classes now had their very own rooms, but every other classroom group had to share the common room which could be partitioned into at least six rooms.
Overall, what I learned about Christianity from this church is that it’s something you have to punch on your time card. You don’t have to be happy, you don’t have to be faithful, you just have to be here and to contiribute to the building fund.