Afternoon with the Church Ladies
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," resolutely flippant since 2005!
Don't get us wrong here at "The Gods Are Bored." We care passionately about everything that's wrong with the world, global warming topping the list. But we've read so much history that we realize it's the human species that's the problem, the species is going to be a problem until it evolves or disappears, and that ain't gonna happen in our lifetime.
So, let's laugh.
It might surprise you to know, kind reader, that you're a better friend to me than anyone living in my Zip code. Except for one person, and I'll call her Betty (as in Crocker, she majored in home economics in college and her cooking shows it).
Betty and I met years ago when we were both church ladies, good ol' Methodists. We aren't a thing alike. (Witness above parenthesis.) But somehow we click.
Betty's dad died last week at the tender young age of 95. Instead of having a funeral for him, Betty and her siblings hosted a garden party to celebrate his life. And it was an interesting life. He designed diving equipment and even worked with Jacques Cousteau.
As these parties are wont to do, however, Betty was surrounded by folks, and so was her brother who I also know. I paid my respects and wandered into her garden.
(An aside: Betty is divorced, her kids are grown, and she lives alone. I had to water her flowers for her while she was away this summer, and it was like misting the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Swear to the bored gods, that woman has more flowers in her back yard than some nurseries stock.)
So I stroll into the garden, and what to my wandering eyes do appear but all the Methodist church ladies I used to know back in the day! Just as back in the day, they were all sitting around eating cake.
And the first thing one says to me, all obnoxious, is, "Oh, Anne! Is The Spare going to make her Confirmation this year?"
Mind you, I haven't set foot in that church since Christmas 2004.
So I replied: "Gosh, I'll have to ask her. She seemed to like the Druid weekend in the Pine Barrens that we went to last month. In fact, she goes with me to all my Pagan rituals." And this is true.
Five church ladies trying not to look shocked? Priceless.
Actually I was keen to catch up with them, to hear about their kids, since I knew all the kids. One of these precious youngsters is planning to be a minister in Kentucky.
Pity poor doggone Kentucky. It must be crawling with young ministers, just as if no one who lives there is a Christian.
Then, of course, they wanted to catch up with me. I surprised even myself. I told them point blank why I'd left the church, how my daughter The Heir felt like youth group was trying to brainwash her, how disgusted I was that the Methodists defrocked a lesbian pastor despite her congregation's pleas to keep her. I even talked about OakWyse, how he got fired for putting Druid liturgy on an Episcopal site.
I didn't go into the details of my new multi-deity faith except to say that I worship outdoors in a park. Then I asked them how the expansion of the Methodist church building was going -- the one that's costing upwards of $12 million and is running two years behind schedule.
For so many people, going to church is less about religion than about getting together socially with people who think like you do. This is certainly the case with the group of Methodist church ladies I saw yesterday. But somehow, sitting there, I remembered that I had never enjoyed their company, had never fit in with them, and had never gotten any sincere thanks or support for my years of helping with each and every thing at that stupid church, from unloading pumpkins from a truck to -- you guessed it -- baking casseroles for church suppers and diapering babies in the nursery during Sunday School. One of the last times I attended the doggone church, one of these same ladies scolded The Spare in front of my face for talking while serving as an acolyte.
I promised my Roman Catholic grandfather-in-law that I would raise my children in a religion. He said he didn't care which denomination, just please raise them in a church. My 18-year-old got to 8th grade as a Methodist and is now an atheist, suspicious of all religions. My 13-year-old, yanked sooner from the Methodist fold, describes herself as curious about all religions, but partial to none. However, she never has to be dragged to Druid rituals.
Pop Pop, if you think I failed in your wishes, I'm sorry. It's too soon to know whether my kids will believe in higher powers, but not too soon to think they'll know right from wrong, good from bad, what to do in touchy situations, how not to hurt people. For the love of fruit flies, they both hate Dubya. That's a start.
Moral of this sermon: If you have to burn bridges, be sure the one you burn has Methodist church ladies on the far side of the stream.