One of the most unlikely phrases to come out of my mouth lately has been, "I'm getting up early on Sunday to make the first service at church." Even stranger, "I'm going to church for this thing this coming Saturday night." Yes, come again the words CHURCH and SATURDAY night in the same sentence.
Back last fall I put on my Mondo list that finding a church was important. As much as I would like to find somewhere that Bill is also comfortable, I know that if I feel at home the boys and Bill (maybe) will follow. In the past couple of months I've been regularly attending a church near our new home.
A super short history of my feelings about religion:
Raised in a fairly strict Southern Baptist home. Went to church on Sunday morning for Sunday school and again in the afternoon for choir followed by Sunday night services. I went on Wednesdays for handbells and Bible Drill (in elementary school), and later youth group on Wednesday nights. I also was involved in a bible study in friends' homes on Tuesday night. Needless to say I spend a lot of time at church.
While I wouldn't say that I lived in a Footloose-esque, "dancing will get you into Hell" household, my parents (mom especially) expected that I conform to what they felt was living a moral life influence by church attendance and also participation. My mom at one point even paid me to go to week long church camp.
I'll be honest, being involved with a church anchored me, my friends were also members, at times it was something I fell back on as a safety net. I don't regret that it was as big as part of my life as it was at the time. But, I also had a growing mistrust and openly disagreed with some of what I saw then and also now as hypocrisy of what I was being taught and my life outside the church.
My parents wanted me to go to a southern Baptist college and insisted that if they were helping pay any portion, that I would "consider" at least a handful of schools affiliated with the church. My mom, grandmother, and aunts had all attended Furman University in Greenville, SC.
At the time around Sophomore year I was looking at pre-med programs and began to look at what med schools were even the slightest bit attainable. Big ol' pipe dream in hindsight. I looked at the University of Texas with Baylor University as undergrad and also Samford University with University of Alabama as a possibility. I got into both undergrad schools and in the end not only got out of premed when I couldn't pass organic chemistry after 3 times and had also met my now husband. The crazy thing is Bill and never really fit at Samford. I often say that within 12 months I managed to find the biggest sinner (or fellow sinner) on campus and then moved in with him (a serious values violation at a school with closed dorms).
You have to understand that the campus was completely dry, you could be issued values violations, had to attend convocation weekly, and did I mention that many people dated by attending the area mega Churches (aka...Six Flags over Jesus) on a Friday night. I met some wonderful, very spiritual people who I know that the school was a perfect fit, but I also know that it wasn't for either of us. Only after going to UNC-Chapel Hill for grade school did I feel like I got an authentic college experience, not a sanitized, artificial college experience.
We attended churches as a married couple and have in the 10 years that we have lived here. We even joined a church and Ben was baptized at a church that we frequently attended Sunday services. But it always felt as an adult that I am doing this because I think I am suppose to. I'm not really getting anything out of it, in fact it's been a really long time since I felt like faith and spiritually really ment anything to me.
With the move I made it a priority to start church shopping and have found a church that I actually want to go to, make it on my weekend to-do, like the format of the service, like the fact that every week I have gone I find myself thinking about something in the message long after it's over.
I like the informality, the kids like the childcare, I like that they have a strong teenage program. I like that there are no hymns or ceremony to the service. I like that these are some of the friendliest people I have ever met without feeling like they are one step away from drinking some Jonestown Kool-aid. I like that there is no pressure to participate.
I like that one of the co-ministers look like he might moonlight as tattoo artist. It's been a really long time since I felt like I was being invited to be a part of something bigger than myself instead of being preached at by a punitive parental figure.
Maybe it's because in the weeks after my mom's death I'm looking for a still, quiet place to be alone with the ick is still very much just under the surface.
It's really ironic that the first time I visited here was the day before she died. In my final phone conversation, I almost mentioned to her that I was had been visiting churches but then didn't. My going to church as well as why the boys didn't go regularly was a continual source of contention. It was just easier not to say anything, so I stayed mum.
Regardless, it's something that I'm making time for right now. It's something that I'm making a priority. It's something that helps center and start the week in a positive place.
ps... traveling to SC this weekend for a meeting with the estate probate attorney and to start on the house clean out. I could use some good thoughts, support, whatever you want to throw my way. While I haven't been super public in the weeks after either publically or in writing, I'm still very much working through some really hard stuff gradually.