Monday, January 16, 2012

My ups and downs with organized religion

I have never been a devoutly religious person. It may have been due to some bad experiences with several churches over the course of my childhood.

Experience Number One:  As a child, maybe 6 or 7, these people in a school bus stopped on our street and showed us kids some magic tricks. They then told us that we could come to their church for Sunday school on their bus. My parents agreed to let me go to church on the bus each Sunday. I went for awhile and during Sunday school they used to do a prayer session where we could have a group prayer for whatever anyone wanted to pray about. I was a child, and did not know what depression looked like, so I thought my mom was always sick. So each week, my prayer request was for my mom to get better. One week during prayer session, I requested my usual prayer and the Sunday school teacher told me, "You always want to pray for your mom, how about you pray for something else?" That was the last Sunday I got on that bus.

Experience Number Two: At 9 years old, we moved to Florida. My grandma knew some people who were sending their kids to a church summer camp. Seeing as how we had just moved and weren't really settled, my parents decided it would be a good idea to send me to camp. COMPLETELY UNPREPARED. We packed my clothes, and my grandma got me a new blue jean purse and a cute leather change purse, with some money for the snack area and that was it. I get there and there are bunk beds, I was thinking, "Cool! I've never been on a bunk bed." We drop our stuff off at our bunks and dive into camp activities. Coming back to the bunks, I find out that people have their own sheets, pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, etc. I of course have none of these, and of course neither do the bunk beds. So there I am, in a strange place, with strange people, and I'm the only one with no bedding. A couple of nice girls at camp let me use a sheet and a sleeping bag. A few days into camp and I am approached by staff at my bunk. They ask me about my coin purse and how I have the money folded and how much I have. Apparently, one of those "nice" girls who I thought was my friend, claimed I took her money and it was in my coin purse. They call my parents and keep all my money. I spend the rest of camp with no funds and being treated like a thief. I have never been to camp again.

Experience Number Three: Now I am about 15 this time. I like this boy and as it turns out, he lives next door to a church. Me and my friend start hanging out at the church and eventually are invited to join the church's youth group. We go to meetings and events with the church's youth group and everything is all fun and games. I guess it turned out to be less about the boy (who did not attend that church, just lived next door to it) and more about an escape from my home life (That is for another post, another time.) One evening at the youth group meeting, we were watching a movie and having snacks. My friend and I were sitting in the back and being goofy, and maybe a little rambunctious, but hey were were teenage girls. We were actually asked to leave and not return because we were, "not taking this seriously." So, I didn't come back.

Okay, so experience number three was mostly my own doing, I was there for the wrong reasons and not behaving properly. But I was under the impression that church was the place to go when you were a troubled youth, and that I was.

At 15, I also went to a Catholic service in Spanish, so I had no idea what was going on, which oddly enough, I saw that boy from experience number three there as well.

At about 23 years old, I discovered the internet. This is where I started doing some hardcore reading on Witchcraft. I played with that a bit, took some online e-mail "witch" classes. Once I realized that witchcraft was not what you read about or see on TV, I moved on to Paganism. I have played around with the Pagan ideas for many years, but never got extremely serious, or devoutly, involved in it.

I also attended a LDS service about 2 years ago with my next door neighbors because my daughter went to church with them and wanted me to go too.

Jumping into present age me, I am 35 and now my daughter wants to go to the church that her Girl Scout troop meets at. So the first Sunday in November 2011, we go to church. Everyone is friendly, there is a coffee hour, Sunday school, Traditional and Contemporary services. We have gone almost every week since. In fact, we only missed the one service on new years because it was a combined service, so everyone from three different services were going to the one service together, my social anxiety would have killed me. My daughter signed up for the Christmas Pageant and got to be an angel. Some of the families from Girl Scouts and the church pitched in when they heard we were not going to have anything for Christmas. All together, they raised over $300 for my family in less than a week. We had the best Christmas ever, and had some money leftover for gas and groceries. It has been wonderful.

Now, I am not saying that I believe in "one true God" or that there is even a God at all. My mom says this experience is proof that there is a God, but I say it is only proof that there are still good people in this world. So I will continue to go to this church as long as they will have me. I will keep an open mind even though every time they talk about angels descending from heaven, I picture aliens descending from space ships. I will help my fellow man, just as they have helped us. "Do unto others," right? 

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