For about the last, oh I don’t know, maybe 5 years, Wonderful Husband and I have been saying we are going to find a church.
While we both had very different experiences growing up in the church, his being loving and stable and picturesque, mine being weird and rocky and ending when I was around 10, we both agreed that we didn’t want to let God disappear from our lives.
He was raised a Lutheran. I was raised a, well, I’m not real sure, we traveled a lot and went to many different churches. Some danced in the aisles and spoke in tongues. Some didn’t even approve of clapping during music. We never really found anywhere that we fit and finally stopped going in the mid 2000’s. So when it came time to pick a church, we could never really decide on what we wanted to be.
I was confused by lutheran-ism (is that a word? I’m not even sure that’s a word), they had their own book they taught from and the pastor wore weird clothes and they didn’t even want to let my dad give me away at my wedding (I won that argument, in case you were wondering). I wanted a fun church where we could be free to express our love of God, but I needed some structure because I had basically forgotten everything except basic bible stories. After a few debates about it, and realizing that in a ghetto crack town there are two options of churches- stuffy white people or crazy black people- we sort of let it slide.
When Little Darling came along I was determined that we would find a church. I called on a few local pastors. I drove past a few churches. I was reminded, again, that if we wanted anything with substance (not substance abuse) we would need to travel a ways. And at that point Wonderful Husband was traveling all the time, and the thought of entering a new place alone with a baby gave me anxiety, let alone keeping said baby quiet for an hour during a sermon. Nope. Couldn’t do it.
So, last year, I came to the decision that as soon as we were set up in West Virginia, we WOULD find a church. And we would attend said church. Regularly. We may even go to bible school. We needed a church family and a support system since we would be so far away from our own families. I didn’t care if we had to become Catholics, my kids would know God and bible stories, and have some friends who knew about such things too.
Then we moved to West Virginia and I got scared all over again and every Sunday would squeak by and I would make excuses. Wonderful Husband is away. Wonderful Husband is home, but has been away and we should enjoy our time. We shouldn’t pick a church until we know where we will be living permanently. We don’t even know the service times. We may not pick a good one. I don’t wanna go.
Last week, in the middle of the day, a little blue car pulled up my driveway and out popped a ridiculously cheerful lady. She introduced herself and explained that she, her mother, and her sister are all our neighbors! They had seen we were new to the area and wanted to introduce themselves, they brought me a little gift of homemade apple butter and a magnet from their church. They attend a Methodist church that is 3 miles down the road. She didn’t make a big fuss about it, just let me know that the service times were on the magnet and they’d love to have us.
Now, there are plenty of things in my life that I can’t take a hint about. When I ask if I should eat that last donut and my love handles jiggle back “for the love of God, please stop eating”, you better believe, I am gonna eat that donut. When I am pleasantly polluted and feeling fine and think- should I have another glass of wine before bed? I am gonna have another glass, even as WH is reminding me what happened last time I had one too many.
However, something about this random stranger dropping in to meet me, say hello, squeeze my babies cheeks, and drop a line about a church, rang with me. As if God was like “hey Bitch, get your ass to church and quit putting it off” (ok, maybe not in those words, but probably close because it has been YEARS of me saying I was going to go and then not doing it). So I stuck the magnet on the fridge, and kept the thought in the back of my head that if Wonderful Husband was home next Sunday, we just may take a trip down the road.
What do ya know. Wonderful Husband got today off. So I woke up early, made pancakes, and declared that we would be attending church this morning.
Service started at 11am, and at 10:42 we were sitting in the parking lot coming up with a game plan on how to escape if it all went to hell. The church looked ok on the outside, a small, old building with stained glass windows and a steeple. There were, however, two old men standing in the parking lot glaring at us.
We tentatively got out and started to walk up to the front door, one of the grumpy old men stopped us and said we could go in the basement, there were cookies and coffee. We politely declined and headed to the steps when an old lady slammed the door open with a boisterous “HELLO! Come on in! We have SNACKS!!” and we found ourselves being herded into a small, stuffy basement with about 15 old women who were about to pee themselves with excitement.
The conversations were hectic and overwhelming. They all pushed in at us clamoring about how great it was to have new comers, could they get us some coffee, can Little Darling have a cookie, how old is Little Littles, Oh They just LOVE Children.
We made our way to the back and collapsed into folding chairs. A lady brought Wonderful Husband a coffee, another lady brought Little Darling a baggie of goldfish, there was a little boy running around and Little Darling ditched the goldfish to make a new friend. They hurriedly explained that it’s not normally so calm and laid back, however, they always give their pastor the 5th Sunday of the month off, so he and his family were away and they were just going to do a short and easy service (in all honesty I do not believe there was going to be any service until we showed up). At 11am, we all herded upstairs to the tiny sanctuary with pews going in every direction to make them all fit in. With a congregation totaling no more than 25 and only 3 of those being men (including WH) We sang hymns, we took prayer requests, a lady from the congregation gave a short sermon, they laid hands on an older lady who was having health issues, we sang a closing song, we were done.
At every break in the service, after a song, after a prayer, at least one person in the congregation would turn around and tell us how happy they were to see us. The neighbors who had stopped down were over joyed, gave me their phone numbers, and told me I could call them if I ever needed anything. They exclaimed that they hoped they hadn’t scared us off being it was so laid back and informal. We were recognized from the pulpit that it was so great to have newcomers and they just loved having children in the congregation. We were invited to VBS in June, and bible school every Sunday at 9:30am, and reminded that on normal Sundays when Pastor is there they do a children’s message.
We got out to the car and breathed a sigh of relief. We did it. We survived. And not only was it not painful, it was enjoyable! The entire time we were there, I felt at home. I didn’t feel like anyone was judging me, I didn’t feel like I was a stranger in someone else’s church. I felt comfortable, like I had just spent an hour with 15 of my closest grandmas.
I have already decided that we will go again. I’d like to see what it’s like when the pastor is there and does a sermon. I may even like to see what bible school is all about. I don’t feel any anxiety about returning if Wonderful Husband is away working.
I feel like we are on to something, even if we go a few times and decide this isn’t the place for us. We have passed that hurtle of making ourselves go and putting ourselves out there. We are on back on the path, and it feels good.