Attending Church

by Kim on October 16, 2009

I grew up in a Brethren church or rather my parents dropped us off at a nearby Brethren church every Sunday morning. The Church of the Brethren is rather like a Mennonite church. Their “Thou Shalt Nots” number far more than the Ten Commandments. Most specifically, our church didn’t believe in war. There was a volunteer service available to any young men who would be drafted, as they could easily get a 4F status for being a conscientious objector.

Picture This Austin EasterWe felt very welcome there, even without our parents attending with us.  I was sure if I ever heard God talk, He would sound just like Pastor Fells sounded. He had a big booming voice that was clear and kind, deep and warm. His words made sense to me and I felt the community and God’s love that existed there.

It was a bit strange for us to be orphans in our church, orphans in the sense that our parents didn’t attend with us.  We attended Sunday school and then went directly into the church service. I was the oldest girl in our family, so I would round up my three younger sisters and find a place for us to sit together. Our aunt and uncle would include us in their pew, but sometimes we would get moved from one pew to another so that entire families could sit together. I don’t remember getting in trouble for talking or anything, but I’m sure our behavior wasn’t perfect for four young girls under the age of 11. My older brother attended with us sometimes, but he was five years older and probably sat with his teenage friends.

I remember one sermon when I was a teenager that stressed the importance of Baptism and being saved. I was ready to go to the altar to ask to be saved, baptized and then become a member of the church. But before I got the courage to do it, I wanted to ask my parents why they didn’t go to church. Because if they didn’t go to church, would they go to heaven? It concerned me greatly that if we went to church without them, we could also end up in heaven without them.

Campbell0011 - Version 2I asked my Mom  about it first. She had alluded to an incident that happened to her when she was young. She didn’t grow up with her mother as I have explained previously in the post Archive the Photo AND Tell the Story: Ruby. After her mother left their household, my mother attended a church and was surrounded by the women of her church who prayed for my mother. My mother was sensitive and ashamed that her mother was in prison and felt that she was being condemned by these women. She thought they expected her to also end up as her mother had. My mother avoided church all of her adult life because of this incident. She assured me that she didn’t think it was necessary to attend church. She didn’t like being “religious”, instead explained that she was spiritual and believed in Jesus.

It was harder to talk to my dad about it. He joked about everything, and this seemed a serious subject, one that we tended to avoid in our family. I approached him and simply asked him to go to church with us next Sunday, that I was going to be saved and I wanted him to be there. And I asked him if thought about getting into heaven. I will never forget his words and his tone. He was deeply serious and his voice trembled – I couldn’t tell if from anger  or conviction. He told me that it was impossible to dig  a foxhole one morning during WWII and know that while you were digging it that you would be wounded by enemy fire that day. And he was hit by enemy fire that day and hospitalized for 10 months for injuries sustained during that attack. (See The Front Line) He said he knew his relationship with God was solid and that he made his peace with God during that time. I replied “Yes Sir” and didn’t push the matter of him attending my baptism.

I knew that our family was not the usual church family. My parents didn’t feel the need for church. But for some reason, they dropped off us off every Sunday. They gave us the gift of deciding for ourselves. And I do think that it was part of God’s plan.


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