going to church

June 1, 2014

spiritual practice

A week ago I decided to go to church.

Our tiny community has two churches. One is what we call in Australia “happy clappers”, a charismatic church, and the other is Anglican. There is a Catholic church about 15 minutes drive away. I chose the Anglicans.

My husband, a Catholic through and through, was incredulous. He offered to take me to the Catholic church. I declined his offer. “They’re too superior” I said half jokingly, “and the initiation process is too lengthy”.

Him: We were first. Those Anglicans were created because Henry the VIIIth wanted to chop off his wife’s head.

Me: Well I’ll be in good company then, I’ll fit in well with the misfits and ratbags.

Him: They’ll make you do some kind of initiation.

Me: I won’t have to get wet will I?

Him: No, that’s the Baptists. St Mary [MacKillop] won’t like you.

Me: She already likes me, and I’m a heathen. She won’t mind me visiting the Anglicans.

Me: There are too many people in the Catholic service. And they won’t accept me because I haven’t done their studies and been blessed five million ways. I will forever be tainted with ‘original sin’ in their eyes .

Me: Do I have to get dressed up or take a packet of biscuits?

He looked at me like I was asking the most ridiculous question ever.

Him: “Don’t worry, the cross at the front will be the first to get hit by the lightning”.

Going to church is such a foreign concept to me. My family of origin was anti-religion. I have never really been to church.

I went to a Greek wedding once, That was in a Greek Orthodox church and the ceremony went for so long it had to make up for never going to church. Right? Greek people know how to put on a great wedding.

I have also been to precisely two Catholic christenings. One of them was brilliant, the priest had cerebral palsy and he delivered a beautiful service about caring for the little ones. I cried.

I had worked for a Christian organisation for 8 years, and participated in their devotional services. I even ran one once, bringing something from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh to discuss.

Going to church couldn’t be too bad, could it? What’s wrong with hearing about Jesus? Jesus was cool.

I didn’t want to go somewhere where I knew too many people. I have the type of face, that within a minute of someone meeting me, they feel the need to tell me their life story and what they are struggling with. That’s great for my work but the boundaries are a bit weird with people I’m familiar with, parents of my children’s peers.

When my youngest went to school I signed up to help with the reading programme. The first child sat down, and promptly told me “My daddy hurts my mummy, he is mean to her”. And the next one, told me something equally traumatic. I stopped helping with the reading programme. I needed to separate my personal life from my work life, and I really don’t associate with many parents from the school.

As he left this morning to take the youngest to swimming, my husband’s final piece of advice was “don’t deceive those Christians and let them think that you have been saved and are there for eternal redemption”.  I assured him that I was going to tell the truth.

And I did.

They were warm and welcoming and a pleasant mob really. I told them that I needed to go to church so I could keep my job. I told them that I am Aboriginal and I have my own spirituality.

The service was pleasant too. The minister described the historical context of what he was talking about and it all made sense. He said that secular people use the passages to criticise Christianity. Did he know I was coming?

Not that I’ve ever criticised Christanity. I mostly haven’t understood it, because the Bible was mostly impenetrable to me. I’d start at page 1 and by the time I got through the list of names at the start I had fallen asleep. A cure for insomnia.

My radar was alert to any kind of bashing. You know, other faiths, gay people, women, etc. The minister mentioned the Quoran but it didn’t sound disparaging to me. He talked about the stonings of women in Pakistan as being wrong but didn’t criticise any group or faith. I was mildly impressed.

The catch phrase for the day “look up and forward rather than down and behind”. That was positive and something that I encourage in the people I work with.

And the best bit, the minister played his trumpet for the songs. I love trumpet. And I thought that was a mighty effort, organising and conducting the service and playing the music.

Oh, and there weren’t any elaborate rituals that made me feel like I was in the wrong club because I didn’t know them.

At the end of the service, the minister made time to welcome me and have a chat. His wife too. At no stage did I feel awkward or that I shouldn’t be there.

My youngest son does scripture class at school, and his scripture teacher was there. She was most pleased to see me. She said that my boy is so very good at scripture. My boy absorbs stories, in Aboriginal culture he would be the storyteller. I have had conversations with her before. She has told me her life story and what she is struggling with. Her husband had a massive operation a few months ago that could have killed him, and I prayed the Novena to St Mary MacKillop for him. He came out of the operation not only alive but better than anyone expected. Tomorrow he starts 6 weeks of radiotherapy and I will pray the novena again for him.

Various church members asked me about my family, and then where my children were. I was honest. Two were still in bed and one was at swimming. I didn’t mention that my husband is a Catholic disgruntled that I chose to spend time with the Anglicans.

They wanted to know if I’d recently moved to the area. Nope, been here for 25 years.

They invited me to all sorts of groups, and bible readings, and helping days, and stuff, but in a pleasant letting-me-know-what-they-do way rather than in a pushy way.

When I got home, my husband looked at me. He said “that’s good, you don’t have a glowing light around your head”.

So, there you go, my first outing to church.





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11 Comments on “going to church”

  1. phrogmom Says:

    I really enjoyed reading this!


    • tree girl Says:

      Thanks phroggie

      Are you still going to the Unitarian church? The nearest one to us is 80 kms away.


      • phrogmom Says:

        The nearest one for us is 50 miles. Bit if we end up moving we will be much closer. Surprisingly, mr p is more excited about getting to go than I am 🙂

      • tree girl Says:

        Are you thinking about moving because it will be closer to the children’s school? That will make things easier for you?

        The school job I am fighting to save, is the one where I work with the children with autism (mainstreamed).

      • phrogmom Says:

        i so wish you were here to work with my kids!

        yes, we would move to be closer to the kids’ schools (there are two different schools, 30 min apart). we are hoping to find some place halfway, so that while my drive is shorter, mike can still get to his job in about 30 min.

      • tree girl Says:

        That sounds good.

        But how do you feel about moving? Wll you be closer to your Mum and/or Dad?

      • phrogmom Says:

        no, we will actually be further from my parents. it is one of the things i am worried about. i fear that they won’t want to drive 45 minutes to come see the boys, knowing they might have to drive back in the dark.

      • tree girl Says:

        That’s a bummer for sure.

  2. michaelwatsonvt Says:

    I’m glad it went well. I often go to our local synagogue as my wife is Jewish and the Rabbi is a dear friend. Indeed, we have many friends there. I imagine he would like me to convert and I have my Native spirituality that I wish to hold dear. I am grieved to hear the government does not recognize Aboriginal spirituality for it’s chaplaincy program. How very sad, not to recognize the spirituality of a country’s First People. Not unusual, but heartbreaking. Good luck going forward. I look forward to hearing more as you make the journey.


    • tree girl Says:

      Ah, I told you that our Prime Minister is the personification of white, male, and Christian.

      But it does raise an interesting point in the wider context, doesn’t it? Something I will have to raise within the community – legitimacy of our spirituality.

      I have seen and heard on the TV some of the singing that Rabbi’s do. It sounds very nice.

      I will be on this journey for the next year!

      Thanks for following.


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