Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Just call me the Church Lady

After accompanying me to church for a few years, Cliff informed me going to church wasn't his thing.  He'd gone with me after he retired, simply because I asked him  to, now that he had plenty of time and leisure.  Over the years, I had always what I call a "church widow"; every church has some, and often they make up half the congregation: they are the women who who have a husband at home, but go to church alone.  Women, I guess, feel the need for God and Jesus more than men.   

When Cliff announced his intentions to stay home on Sundays, he told me he would gladly take me to church and pick me up afterward; after staying home for a Sunday or two, I made a decision:  While I had no problem with the church we'd been attending, I wanted to see what the Methodist Church was like.  It's the only one of the five churches in Wellington I've never attended on a Sunday; there is one small store-front church I only attended with my daughter once, when she was a teenager; I doubt she remembers:  But that one wasn't my cup of tea.  I also wanted to visit the Baptist church in town:  I had attended that one for several years, even sang some of my home-made songs there; and both my kids were baptized in their baptistry.  I have good memories of those days.  How could I possibly decide?

To help me with my decision, I decided to switch between the Baptist and Methodist Churches on alternate Sundays.  The Methodist Church is sharing a pastor with the Odessa UMC church, so the remnant of folks left in the Wellington congregation gets him at 9 AM:  He leads the service, then he and his wife drive the ten miles or so to Odessa to do his duty there; the Wellington group have their Sunday School after the pastor leaves for Odessa.

What I found out is that both these congregations are struggling for members.  If either of them have twenty people in attendance, it's a good day.  In the Methodist Church, 90% of the people in attendance are senior citizens, so you wonder just how much longer the church can go on.  I will hand it to the new pastor:  He is doing his best not to make the small group feel "left out" of things; he's going the extra mile to make sure people don't just feel like they are playing second fiddle.  

I like the people I meet at the Baptist Church, and since the pastor still has some grown kids at home, there are younger faces in attendance there.  I was shocked the first Sunday when I went in and saw not a single face I recognized from the 70's, although after attending a few times, I found out one of the men... a bearded guy... was someone I had known well in the old days; he just didn't look like he used to, what with the beard and 40 years of aging.  Oh, and he has a different wife... I would definitely have recognized him, had his first wife been beside him; she passed away some time ago.  

I gazed around at the handful of people, and I must have looked confused:  the preacher's wife introduced herself, surveyed the few folks in the pews with me, and said, "Well, this is about it."

Someone told me there had been a split in the congregation due to some disagreement, which sort of explained the small crowd.    

Most people these days aren't church attenders.  Many of them, like Cliff, say church bores them.  I know there are also a lot of folks who just don't accept the concept of God, or Jesus.  They prefer science.  That's their belief, and you may as well accept the fact they aren't going to change in that opinion.   (I don't feel science and Christianity are that far apart, but I digress).  Everyone who isn't retired works Monday through Friday and have only the weekend to get things done.  Somewhere in the last few years, after sporadic church attendance on my part throughout much of my life, I felt the need to go to church.  I missed the hymns I grew up with, and I needed the feeling that Sunday was a "special" day with a purpose.  I guess this goes to prove the fact that if you "train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)  Yes, something about growing older made me want to be in church, and it wasn't because I was scared of dying.  Cliff has always said the reason I like to go to church is that I was raised that way... and he wasn't.  

After going to different churches on alternating weeks for a month, it occurred to me that there was no reason I couldn't go to both, every Sunday.  I liked each one, and it's only five blocks from one to the other.  I leave the Methodist Church at 10, walk to the Baptist Church, sit for a few minutes in a back pew till they get done with Sunday School, and there I am at another church service.  Here's a surprising fact:  I've found out I enjoy going to church more without Cliff beside me!  (Does that surprise you, Cliff?)  I don't even know why, and I sort of feel guilty about it, but I'm more "myself" without him along.  I visit with people freely, and actually feel more comfortable in my skin.  Maybe it's good for me to talk to people on my own, once a week.  

I'm only one person, but I'm one more person sitting in the empty pew, making the group one person bigger.  

Change is hard, and it hurts me to see the traditions of the past fading:  I hate seeing the empty pews, and the churches that have closed down in other small towns.  As for me, I feel comforted that there is still a place or two in this country where I can walk in as a stranger, alone, and have people who are happy to see me and greet me warmly.  That fact alone makes me want to make use of such freedom!  Oh, and now I get to sing twice as many of the hymns I love each Sunday.  Besides, I feel downright ecumenical.  That's a long shot from how my religious training started out, where "the only folks going to heaven are me and thee, and I'm not too sure abut thee."  

Don't think I'm bad-mouthing the religious training of my childhood, though.  I wouldn't trade the things I learned with anybody.  I still remember many of my memory verses from that time.

So there you have it.  Just another surprise for me in my golden years, another chapter in a wonderful life that I would not trade with anybody.  



I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

I used to go to different churches before deciding on the one the fit me.to a tee. Now I've been going to the same one over 50 years and I call it home. Going to church is a habit for me. It doens't fee right if I miss a Sunday, my whole week seems off kilter. We will only hope tht Cliff sees the light.

Sister--Three said...

How wonderful to support two of our Lord’s houses. No better thing to do with your time.

Margie's Musings said...

I too go to church every Sunday. I go to Community of Christ. We too are a small congregation of about twenty.I too find that younger people don't seem to have a need for church. My stepdad always said "You don't find any atheists in foxholes" I don't worry about the afterlife..of any kind. Jesus spent his ministry talking about "this life" and how we should treat one another and about the kingdom of God...which he said was already to be found on earth. I know a lot of wonderful people who I believe are a part of God's Kingdom. I believe we are the hands of God and God expects us to make his kingdom fully a reality. We are mission oriented.

Our church elects our pastors from the elders of our congregations. I was pastor for ten years myself. I nominated three others when I turned 80 four years ago. We do not expect to be paid with money for doing the work of God. We are all self sustaining. We have five who rotate preaching and presiding on Sundays. And I always tell everyone if you don't like the sermon this Sunday, come back next Sunday and there will be another speaker. I am the fourth generation that belongs to this particular church.

Gabrielle Howard Gengler said...

Donna, I have been going to my church for over 35 years off and on. Church of Christ it is. I identify with the older members. I’m so shy , sometimes I feel like a fish out of water. I tell myself I’m there to worship God and Jesus not man. I have to admit couples stick together and leave us out of the loop. I hope Cliff is doing better.

Marlene said...

Hmmmmm, interesting. And the comments also. I am Catholic. Hubby and I both born and raised in the Catholic Church, so we go together
Always. And I thank God for that. Donna, you wouldn’t include the Catholic Church? When you say there are 20 People, I find that amazing.
Where is everyone? Our priest has said we have 1800 families......... it only about 300 attend Mass. now that bothers me, because we are the ones carry the load (financially). But yet when they want a wedding or a funeral, they are banging on the door. I guess I am rambling.
Just stop me anywhere along here. Marlene

Margaret said...

I was reared going to church, but fell away from it as an adult. My dad still goes, but my mom doesn't which makes him a "church widower." I live in one of the most unchurched states in the U.S. so many people I know don't attend. I don't know why I stopped going except that I was working full-time and very busy with a house and kids. I agree with you that science and religion aren't mutually exclusive. I would probably like a church that supported that belief, and that did a lot of outreach and helping in the community versus accumulating a bunch of huge buildings, helicopters and fancy houses for the ministry like the mega churches, at least in this area.

WoodMotorsports said...

I wonder if it was Calvinism that split the Baptist church. That happened here and not only messed up the church but also a church ran school.