Heathens

A few weeks ago, the church where I spent a good chunk of the early years of my life was destroyed in a fire.  I saw the news on Facebook and was surprised by how affected I was.

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The images are shocking, but more than that, the memories of my childhood there came flooding back.  I was baptized and brought up in that church for the first decade of my life.  I went to Sunday school, sang and performed in Christmas pageants, and attended weddings, including my own sister’s, in which I was a junior bridesmaid.  My first crush was a boy from my Sunday school class.  The church ladies made homemade donuts for the fellowship.  I can almost taste them now as I write this.  My best elementary school friend went to the same church, so I got to see her six days a week.

Though I no longer subscribe to any religion, and my husband is a flat-out atheist, I was raised Christian, and continued to believe, even through college.  This was hugely important to my mom.  I was the last of her children to stop going to church, and when I eventually did, I know she was heartbroken.  She had been involved in every church we attended (and we went nearly every week), usually through one of the music programs.  She was always in charge of the Christmas or Easter cantata; she taught the songs in Vacation Bible School; and when it was time for the “special music” portion of the service, more often than not, it was my mom, my sister, or me up there singing.

Though she was eager for Hubby and I to have kids, I also know she wouldn’t be happy that we won’t be baptizing Thumper.  Our daughter will not attend church, Sunday school, or VBS.  In a way, it makes me a little sad that she won’t have this connection with her grandmother, whom she will never meet.  But that’s not a reason to send her to church.

There are other ways for us to be connected to my mom, like singing, baking, or watching Wheel of Fortune.  And I hope I will see something of my mother in my daughter’s eyes, laugh, or personality.  Because–as comforting as my mom’s faith was to her, especially near the end of her life–I don’t believe I’ll see her on the other side.

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8 thoughts on “Heathens

  1. This post really struck a cord with me Daryl. In fact, I was just about to write a post about Moms and being a Mom and the way we become and connect with them. And also, the whole religion thing has REALLY been on my mind with my Gramps’ passing. I too was raised in a very devote Christian family (Catholic) and as the elders in the family have aged, including Gramps, I’ve seen them deepen that devotion with a fierce determination I believe is fueled by the fear of death. I often wish I could believe as strongly as they do – that there is another side, that there’s life after death etc. I can’t say with certainty that they’re wrong, but it does seem to defy everything we know about existence in a way that makes the afterlife seem like nothing more than a fairy tale. All that aside, I got many of the things you did from your church experience – community, family connection, friendship, and routine. These are things I’d like to provide for my own daughter in some context, but I’m not sure how considering that Merp and I don’t plan to attend “church” either. Maybe the Bahai faith will be for me if I explore it? Or maybe I’ll just have to work a little harder to surround myself with supportive friends and family, creating my own traditions and rituals to celebrate and revere life. Either way, I’m sorry to hear the Church burned down, luckily the memories you have didn’t go with it.

    • I have to believe that my mom was comforted by the idea of an afterlife when she was depressed and in a lot of pain for the last several years of her life. But I don’t share that belief any more, as much as I wish it were that easy sometimes. But I think you’re right about community, too. She definitely had that at her church, and I would want that for our family, but it does seem harder to find outside a religious institution. It doesn’t help that Hubby is almost anti-tradition. I will push for celebrating holidays year round, in our own, secular ways. I don’t know if I ever told you Hubby and I visited the Bahai shrine in Israel. I find the whole thing–and most religions, in general–fascinating. I hope you find what you’re looking for there.

      • Very cool that you visited the shrine. And I’m with you on finding all religions fascinating… I find myself collecting religious art. I’ve got the Muslim prayer framed from my travels in Malaysia and several Buddhas from my Grandparent’s house. Merp is also almost anti-tradition, but definitely anti-religion. I almost feel like that’s the mark of the modern, educated man as so many of our male peers share those views. Regardless, I will keep searching and being open to whatever spiritual life I’m called to lead.

  2. I was raised in a very Catholic way, going to Catholic school, mass every Sunday, the whole nine yards. I was actually super surprised that my mom didn’t freak out when my sister (who has become quite non-religious like me) ended up not having my niece baptized. As for the rest of it, I really would love to think there’s an afterlife as it would quiet all those horrible fears of death we all have, but I just can’t buy into it. Like Steph said, it seems like too convenient a fairy tale. But I envy the peace that people who do believe it seem to have, that they’ll see their loved ones again someday.

    • In a weird way, I too envy that easy faith I used to have. When I didn’t question too much, I just believed. But like so many other things, I can’t go back to ignorance. I can’t un-know what I know now.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear about your childhood church. I think I would feel the same way if that happened to mine. Like you, I was raised Catholic and participated actively in church activities for many of my childhood years. But I never really believed. I have a weird relationship with my old church now. I’m always tempted to visit it, during non-mass hours, but I feel like I don’t belong there any more. And it would be too awkward to run into the priest. I have such good memories, though.

  4. How tragic to hear such news. I wasn’t brought up in a church-going home so never had that kind of community around. More in the neighbourhood, with other families and kids my age. We will probably not have a christening either, maybe a name-giving-ceremony but not religious at all. I believe you can create other ways to celebrate traditions and holidays that feels the most important to you both.

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