Now there's a forbidden topic...but this is a blog that has to be.
When I was a little girl, we lived (still do) just down the road from Shiloh church. My cousin was the organist there, and on Saturdays, I would go with her to practice for the Sunday worship service. We had a good time in the empty church - I loved music, and we would giggle while she told me all about the choir member she had such a crush on. And then, I would attend church on Sundays, and eventually, I became a member there.
I remember reciting the Apostles Creed, taking communion. It was all very reverent,very quiet. You could have heard a gum wrapper drop, so the giggles my cousin and I shared during practice were a huge no-no. It was a perfect set-up for the culture shock that would follow when I attended a Baptist revival a few years later. The Amens! flowed, the preacher was animated and had color in his face as he invited the congregation to give their souls and hearts over to Jesus. I liked it there - and so I stayed, but didn't give myself over to Jesus until I was 15 and at yet another revival, they showed the film Scared Straight. I was traumatized by the film's graphic nature. I marched myself up to the pulpit, lest MY head should be separated from the rest of my body like the motorcyclist in the movie and gave myself over to the service of the Lord that very night. For days, I carried a Bible around with me and read it during breaks at school, my personal amulet against satan.
Meanwhile, the rest of my family remained at the old church. My mother was very upset with me for not attending there, and I stopped going anywhere for services. Yet...without the fellowship, without the support that is so important, I still remain a spiritual woman who does have a relationship with God. He has picked me up by the seat of my pants and deposited me where He wanted me to be too many times for there to be room for agnostic doubts. I believe He is the still voice that comes to me in times of trouble and lends me comfort. He is the presence in my green cathedral.
I've given a great deal of thought to Christianity and what it means over the years, what it means to serve God and do his work on this earth. I haven't always followed through, but I give when I can - not to the church, but by way of donations to community, including the animals. Lending an ear or shoulder to someone when they need it. And I'm the first to admit, I don't do this often enough. And I have often thought I would like to attend church again, but have had a difficult time deciding where to go. Not back to the Baptist church where I was a member. It has grown large and political, and they have one of those signs out front that tells you the temperature and when services will be held (a great big orange arrow pointing towards the building). My choices boiled down to the little Methodist church that hasn't changed much in thirty years and the church where my cousin was organist - UNTIL
Easter Sunday. My sister came home for the Easter celebration dinner. My son picked her up at the nursing home where she is a resident, and has been for the past fifteen years. She brought with her a letter from the new pastor at Shiloh, informing her that her membership there had been terminated for non-attendance.
My sister is in a wheelchair. She can feed herself, but there are times when she is so drunk from the medications that her eyes swim in her head. You can see it. Her feet swell so that, often, she can't get her shoes on her feet. If she has to go to the bathroom, it takes someone with a strong back to lift her from her chair and sit her on the toilet - in short, Carol doesn't get out much. The church knows this...
When I read that letter, I was burned with a flame a mile high. YES, I understand that members need to attend. But I understand something the new pastor doesn't seem to get - she can't sit there long enough for him to preach his Christian ways.
I saved the envelope for the return address, fully intending to write and first ask him if he realizes her condition, and if the answer is yes (which it should be), I planned to thank him for not visiting her at the nursing home and to congratulate him on having such a large following that he could cut loose one of his congregation without a second thought. That brand of christian love is enough to turn a person against organized religion for life. I know that after seeing the hurt in my sister's eyes, it has left a taste in my mouth more acrid than sulfur.
Perhaps I'll just stick to my green cathedral, after all.