My Christian tag is sprinkled into some of my posts. The reason why I don’t discuss my faith much is because my blog is really to display my creative writing. Yet, I felt the need to write this post to explain myself better as a whole person. My writing is definitely influenced by my childhood and my faith. My faith is important to me. I like to refer to it as “my faith” rather than focus on it being about religion. The word ‘religion’ has such a negative connotation for many people. It is unfortunate. Yet, I understand how some people end up feeling the way they do. I had my own issues with church which is how I came to the views I have today.
My childhood was interesting in that my mother was of the Baptist denomination and my father was Catholic. We didn’t get to go to church as a family. I always wished we did. My mother was asked multiple times to convert and she refused to do it. When my mother married my father she agreed that she would expose their future children to Catholicism.
My brother and I went to Catholic school from 6th-8th grade. In Catholic school we had to go to Mass every Thursday morning. I had no prior experience to Mass before going to Catholic school. I was about 15 the first time I ever went to my dad’s church. Mass was quite different from services at the Baptist church. The Baptist church I attended with my mother was all black. There was a lot of dancing, singing, and shouting. If you have never experienced a Black Southern church – it is very different if you are not used to all the chaos.
Mass was the total opposite. Everyone was so reserved in their worship. My Catholic school was 98% white. Mass consisted of no dancing or shouting and very little singing. Many years later I grew to really appreciate what I learned in the Catholic church. I was proud to experience both sides of the Christian coin. My parents always had two Bibles on the table in the front room: the King James and the Catholic Bible. It was years before I even understood why the content of those Bibles were so vastly different.
Church was fun for me for a long time. I was the kid who participated in every church activity: Sunday school, choir, Christmas and Easter pageants until I was 16. I started working at 16 and most jobs at that age weren’t going to let you off on a Sunday. Therefore, I started to miss Sundays at church for the first time in my life. It was bothersome to me for a long time. I missed my church family, singing in the choir, and the lessons from my pastor. I still went to church, but of course I couldn’t go every Sunday because of work.
The lesson no one told me was that the leaders in the church don’t know everything nor are they without fault. When I was 16, there was a situation that occurred which forever changed my view of church. I was in the children’s choir and we ranged between 8-16. Though most of us were between 12-16. We had choir rehearsal every Thursday night. This one night our piano player was late. It started to happen again a few other Thursday nights. The adults in our church never talked about any “adult-related” themes in front of us. Children were to be seen and not heard.
One Thursday night everything was different. The choir director was very agitated because this night the piano player didn’t show up at all. She had been late numerous times and this time she didn’t come at all. It was too much. The choir director let some information slip. The young ones in the choir weren’t told what was going on. They let us teenagers in on a secret. Our piano player was a drug addict. Well, we told the choir director we wanted another piano player who would be reliable and drug-free. Weeks later more news came to our attention. We weren’t going to get another piano player. Why not? Well, another secret slipped out. The piano player had been having an affair with our pastor. It had been going on for years. He couldn’t fire her because she had too many secrets on him. I wish I could say none of this was true and a storyline from a soap opera.
Those of us that were older (13-16) came together and invited our mothers to have a chat with the leaders of the church. Our pastor was invited but declined to come to the meeting. Our mothers spoke for us and the leaders of the church (all men over 50) listened to what we had to say. It became clear after about 20 minutes they were done hearing whatever our mothers had to say on our behalf. We were all basically told in the nicest of ways to forget everything we knew about the piano player. Nothing was going to change. They really wanted us to all remain in the choir if we just kept quiet. We were told to stay out of “adult business”…back to the children are to be seen and not heard. Stop causing trouble. I was highly disappointed. We did the right thing but were made to feel we were just kids causing trouble.
We all walked away hurt and angry. Some of us did quit the choir not long afterwards. The church leaders would constantly come up to us and ask why we quit. I couldn’t answer for everyone, but my reason was because I was 16 and now working but also because I was upset. I no longer wanted to be apart of a choir in a church that was more about keeping secrets than being honest. I was disappointed that I grew up around so many people who believed and made me believe that church leaders were incapable of doing wrong. I wish someone had stood up and been honest with me.
People make mistakes. I was not upset that the pastor and the church leaders made mistakes. I was more upset by the fact that no one was interested in making things right. Everything was always about covering everything up. Here we were as kids trying to do the right thing – what we had been taught all along in Bible study. Yet, we were being taught the opposite by the church leaders – stay away, keep quiet, and lie.
I learned a lot of secrets as I grew into adulthood. I don’t like secrets anymore. I hate them! I don’t believe in telling everyone my business but I do believe that if you have information that involves another person you have to tell them what is going on. It isn’t OK to keep people in the dark. That is the main lesson I learned from my childhood church experience. I hope others gain something from this: be honest with people. Sometimes the information is hurtful or embarrassing but it is still best to get it out there. Don’t hold onto secrets for years…it hurts. I don’t have children. I have nieces and nephews who I tell all the time to talk to me about anything. I am open to whatever they have to say. Someone has to break the cycle.