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There’s something about Sunday night
that really makes you want to kill yourself
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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Church

At the conference last week, one of the breakfast keynote speakers was a Chicago police officer, ordained minister, and survivor. She was a very powerful speaker. The topic was Faith and Domestic Violence, I think. She opened with prayer, and said stuff like, "We as Christians need to . . ." and I closed her out. I thought, "How dare you assume we're all Christians?" I knew at least one woman besides myself in the room was definitely not one: the Indian woman who was yesterday's keynote speaker.* Her comments were punctuated with murmured "amens" through out the room; I was so uncomfortable. Then she recited a bible verse (maybe? I don't know. Maybe a poem.) and I realized I was singing it in my head. It was a song that I remembered from church camp.

* (I don't think I'm Christian anymore. And yet, somehow it feels blasphemous to say that outloud.)

And then I wondered: why am I struggling so hard against this? When I looked past my initial reactions of indignation and uncomfortableness, I remembered the comfort of religion. I remembered how church camp changed my life.

So we went to church on Sunday. It was one Tim had been to once or twice with a classmate. It was relatively new, held in the movie theatre. There was a worship band (usually made up of a drummer, bassist, guitarist, and a few singers), and the minister had a cordless mic so he could roam the floor. It opened with the band leading some songs. The music was typical electrified acoustic contemporary Christian, but no songs I knew in the past. But there was something to it.

My throat closed up, and I couldn't sing. I wanted to run, to leave the theatre and wait for Tim in the car. I thought I was having a panic attack. A few tears leaked out.

And I still don't know exactly why I was so scared. I think it relates to camp, and my memories. If you opened me up, I'd have a big frozen spot inside that holds together everything about camp.

* * *

It was the place where, in high school, I spent three summers talking about God and faith, and making amazing friends. Then in college, three summers counseling. I loved counseling even more. I got to spend six weeks there, instead of just one; and it was a magical place. When I left, and went back to my regular life, it was hard to see God everywhere, and live a spiritual life. There, it was just the way of life, and we all existed in a perfect bubble of nature, lazy days, friends, and the constant presence of God.

The first year, I counseled for myself. Since I loved being a camper, being a counselor was the logical next step. I made incredible bonds with my co-counselors. I thought these were friends I'd have for the rest of my life. The next two years, I did it for the kids. I remembered what an affect my own counselors had on me, and I couldn't believe kids came back the next year looking for me, excited to have me as their counselor because they loved me the year before.

The last year I was there, it was all about the kids. My coworkers were all assholes. (Strange, that would happen at a Christian camp.) Senior high week, my co-counselor slept outside on our porch with whichever campers wanted to. One night, I awoke to hearing them all whispering. My co-counselor took the lead in telling sexist and rascist jokes. I couldn't believe it. I should have gotten up, asked him to take a walk with me, and said, "look, this is incredibly inappropriate, and it makes me sad and uncomfortable." But I was shy, and just laid there crying all night. In the morning, I went to the director and begged her to let me quit and told her why. She didn't, or rather, she asked me to stick it out for another week (I was leaving early anyway--this was the summer I studied in Ireland). Because she was a good friend and a good boss, I did. It was hellish.

Because of that summer (and there's more; I'm not telling the whole story), whenever I'd think back on camp, it was with a bad taste in my mouth. All my dreams about it ended up as nightmares. (That is not a metaphor. I'd jerk away in the middle of the night, my heart pounding, or tears bathing my face.) It seemed like my entire six-year experience there was ruined because of that last summer. My feelings run deep, and are incredibly conflicted.

So that's probably why I wanted to run away and cry on Sunday.

We decided this movie theatre congregation wasn't the church for us, when we got home and Tim wanted to talk about it, and all I wanted to do was run the vacuum as loud as it could go, and not think. I couldn't even tell him what my feelings were because I couldn't articulate them. I just had this huge weight on my chest. But as we got to cleaning (the only way I was able to carry on a conversation), we realized that more than anything, we wanted to set Sunday aside as a special day. I felt happier cleaning and talking with him than I did listening to the minister talk about women's special blessings (in honor of Mom's Day).

So this is going to be our Sunday: awaken and have a good breakfast. Once a month, go to church. The next Sunday, conduct our own "church." The following, house cleaning. The next, our own church, and so on. I'm pleased with it.

3 Comments:

Blogger Leanne said...

I loved this post, LE. Your plan sounds lovely.

3:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charity says:
I get that throat closing feeling sometimes in church. We attend regularly but i still feel somewhat of a hypocrite since I'm mainly going as support for hubby. He grew up with no church and wants it to be apart of our lives and I do to, but I just don't FEEL it alot of the time. I think I too, am just pushing it away.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Sunday rituals are so comforting. I find once a month at "real" church is just the right amount for me, too.

8:51 PM  

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