Thursday, August 9, 2007

In the Beginning

My sense of call is something that has developed over time. I was raised in the Presbyterian church. Born in 1960's, my early childhood years were spent in a small town in the Midwest. We belonged to a new Presbyterian church that was so new, the building had not been built yet. I was baptized in the school gymnasium where the congregation met at the time. I have fond memories of Sunday school, pancake suppers and singing in the cherub choir with the white robes with the full sleeves that look like wings if you raise your arms. My parents were both involved in the lay leadership of the church, and my mother was an early female ruling elder in the state of Indiana.

This was such an idyllic time for me. Playing in our newly developing neighborhood. Leave in the morning with friends and just be home for lunch and supper. We had the world by the tail, or so it seemed.

And in my church, it seemed that every grownup cared about the teeming mass of baby boomer kids running around. Lots of church basement meals and classes in the big room with the expandable dividers.

I remember the Bread for the World banks that looked like a loaf of bread where we saved money for the poor starving children around the world. Flannelgram Sunday school stories and trying to get my fingers to do "Here is the Church, here is the steeple, open the doors and here's all the people."

Little did I know that elsewhere the adults argued about the budget, the mission and who was and was not pulling their fair share of the weight on committees. Little did I know that when my Father changed companies and we moved, my parents were burned out with the "stuff" of church work.

Before I was nine, we moved to Tennessee when my father transferred to another company. We lived in Appalachia in a rented house across from a farm on a rural road. Our next door neighbors had some kind of interesting expanded family going on. There was a couch on the front porch, a couple cars on cinderblocks in the yard, the Dad "drove truck" and there was never enough money but always plenty of beercans. The kids were friendly but sad. Even I could see their life was going nowhere fast. I wished there was something I could do about it.

With another promotion, my family moved down the road to a better town and home. During the couple of years I lived there, we did not have a church home. I learned alot about the social stratification in the South of its day. I had to walk through a "poor white" neighborhood to get to school, and I discovered that by befriending these kids the "good kids" looked down upon me. It was very confusing and it made me angry but it seemed to be the way of life. Or as George Orwell said in Animal Farm, " All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others." I missed my old church with nothing to replace it.

Just prior to starting 5th grade, we moved to Pittsburgh because my father was given a substantial promotion. I made friends in the neighborhood and began attending the Wednesday night program at the Presbyterian church with them. I became actively involved in the youth group, choir and bellchoir. My parents attended, but had not joined the church. They came to see my choir sing, my bell choir ring and to help with youth group meals, but the emotional commitment beyond obligation was elusive. I learned that my parents had become disillusioned. While attending confirmation classes, I challenged my parents to re-join the church before I was confirmed. If it was good for me, how could it be not good for them? Couldn't it be possible that whatever bothered you in another church and time might not be the case here? In the end, they did join and have remained faithful and active members in their faith ever since. I look back now and wonder what my parents must have thought about my being so brazen as to question their faith decisions.

As a youth in Pittsburgh, I was impressed by the commitment of the pastors and lay people dedicated to nurturing youth, in a year-round program, including summer interns. My confirmation sponsor, with whom I met regularly my final year of confirmation was also a role model. I still have the Halley’s Bible Handbook she gave to me after passing my written exam and interview by the session prior to confirmation. In high school, I attended an annual summer Missionary Conference highlighting our presbytery’s connection to mission work around the world, and went to church camp. The summer after my junior year, our youth group traveled to Tennessee to clear brush and perform masonry work for low income housing in Appalachia for two weeks. We participated in Sunday worship in a little white clapboard church on a dirt road, and at a new contemporary Christian worship center that was vastly different from the structured Scots-Irish large suburban "Church of the Really Big Deal" we normally attended.

My servant experiences have stayed with me, and are my inspiration to remain involved in other service projects such as Thrivent Builds with Habitat. I was thrilled when I was asked to preach at the Easter Sunrise Service which was a youth led service. I doubt anyone remembered what I had to say because Easter in Southwestern PA is often ( and was that year) a frosty experience and the service was an outdoor one. I went to youth conferences, bought Christian music, saw Tony Campolo speak when he still had hair. I was energized!

In high school, I felt drawn to a vocation in the church, however, my presbytery and home church were adamantly opposed to ordination of women, which closed that door for me at that time. A very tense conversation about God only speaking to men did not go well. I was confused, but did not leave my church. I went off to college instead but the bloom was off the rose for me and my home church.


Diane said...

good start! can't wait to read more!

LawAndGospel said...

Thanks! Sometimes you throw stuff out into the great beyond and say," Is there anyone out there?" I have enjoyed sharing feedback on our respective sites.

DogBlogger said...

Wow. I also look forward to reading more.

Gannet Girl said...

I am enjoying the unfolding of your story.

Leah Sophia said...

This is wonderful--I'm looking forward to reading more, more, more!