My Old Time Religion

This is the church
This is the steeple
Open the doors
And see all the people

One of my childhood homes is about to be torn down – at least partially – and refashioned.

Not my house-house – although that was torn down several years ago and still remains a sore spot with me but that’s a different tale for another day.

My church-house. The building which I called my religious home from the day I was born until my congregation moved to a larger, more centrally located piece of land nearly 20 years ago. And have thrived there ever since.

However, I still have an emotional attachment, for right or wrong, to the stately columned building with the steep stairs and muted stained glass.

It’s home. My spiritual home.

With memories galore attached to it.

And while my faith is so much more than just a building, I’d be lying if I said that the building itself doesn’t have a place in my personal religious experience.

That place is where my parents were married.

Where I was baptized.

Where my great-grandmother worshiped.

Where my nana sang hymns.

Where I first got to know Jesus.

It’s also where I first learned the mechanics of music and music theory, singing in organized and disciplined children’s choirs. Yes, Virginia, I myself was once a Choir Urchin. An exceedingly well-behaved one, but an Urchin nonetheless.

It’s where I participated in my first journalistic reporting endeavor, documenting the details of a worship service for a project designed to get kids to participate in the worship experience. My eight-year-old self undoubtedly didn’t get all the nuances of the pastor’s sermons, but by golly, I sure gave it my best cub reporter effort.

It's where I learned the importance of volunteering first hand, watching (and in many cases, joining in with) my parents serve as teachers and committee chairs and leaders. There was never any question about whether we would be active church volunteers -- we simply just were. This is a lesson that resonates with me still today. Volunteering is simply part of who I am.

It’s where I made lifelong friends. What’s unique about this is that we’re generational pals – our parents are friends, and in some cases, our grandmothers were friends. This means more to me than I could ever imagine. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I’ve been able to reconnect with these amigos, many of who have long since moved away from our hometown but with whom I still share so much.

The first time I was ever grounded was related to my church house. I skipped a youth bible study to go riding in the back of some boy’s new pickup truck and my mother discovered it when she came looking for me because another church member needed me to babysit the next day and wanted an immediate answer to whether I could or not.

The place – it’s part of me. For better or worse. Mostly for the better. For every story shared already, I have five more. Will is the fifth generation of my family to belong to our church. The tales are plentiful and run deep.

And while my church house is now in a different place, literally, figuratively and philosophically, and has been for a long while, I can’t help but feel some bittersweet tugs at the thought of the first physical place I spiritually lived not staying as I remember it.

Still have my memories, though. In heart, mind and soul. Now and forever.

(Special thanks to my great friend Jen for the photos -- she's awesome, btw)

When I walked through the doors I sensed His presence
And I knew this was a place where love abounds
For this is a temple -- the God we love abides here
And we are standing in His presence
On holy ground

1 comment:

BJ Blinston said...

The church I grew up in has been expanded and it's a little sad. Some of the rooms I had Sunday School in do not exist. There were a ton of good times there so I know how you feel. I guess in time all things change, but keeping them alive in memory makes them last forever.