I’ve always been a tad jealous of people who can consistently go to the same church, every Sunday (or Saturday!) year in and year out. I go through phases when I wish I could be one of those people. Perhaps I could blame my mom’s nomadic tendencies, which really were nomadic. Each new boyfriend meant there was a new church to try out– and since I was little, I don’t know which wore out its welcome first– the church or the boyfriend.
Because I was always new to a church, I began to dread that inevitable moment when someone would announce it was time for the children to go to Sunday school. It meant I’d be separated from the only person I knew and be stuck with strangers! Not only that, but these strangers would expect me to know Bible stories which never stuck in my head from the previous church. These well meaning people would expect me to know things! It was like going to take a test you knew you hadn’t studied for.
The only Bible stories that stuck in my head were the ones I read at the doctor’s office, because at least I went there on a fairly regular basis. I was sick a lot and made it through a thick Bible storybook in consecutive visits. There was one story– not straight from the Bible, but more of a parable, I suppose– about a greedy boy who had his choice of pastries on a plate. He was quite rude to his little sister who also wanted one of the pastries, and pushed her aside so he could have the biggest, fluffiest pastry. Then it turned out that his pastry was big and fluffy because it as full of air and had dried out and gone bad inside, and so the lesson was that you should not be greedy. Of course, as an adult, now that I’m thinking about it, if he hadn’t been greedy, then his poor sister might have taken the bubble-pastry so maybe the most Christian thing to do would be to take the bigger defective one so that the other people could have the tasty ones. Hm. Well, anyway.
My favorite church to attend was actually Seventh Day Adventist. Once I cleared up that yes, I could watch cartoons on Saturday, despite what my soon to be stepsister said, I warmed quickly to those people. They didn’t quiz me on the Bible– just handed me a pamphlet to read. I could do that! Then they sat us all down and talked to us. I could listen to a mini-sermon! And then afterwards I could go back to my mom (oh happy day!). The best thing, though? There was a potluck after church. My early days were filled with Greek food, large pots of things and tons of leftovers that were frozen and reheated– so a potluck full of white people food was like Christmas. Jello salads, macaroni and cheese, all kinds of casserole dishes and salads that I would no doubt find absolutely disgusting now were all laid out on long tables and you could go up as many times as you liked! My soon-to-be stepfather gave me sage advice I still follow at buffets: take a little bit of everything, and then load up on what you liked the second time around.
But that marriage didn’t last, and our time at that church was even shorter than the marriage, and my mom and I continued our nomadic journey. I always liked the Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches the best– but even so, because of my beliefs about gays and marriage and abortion, I’d feel like a hypocrite if I just sat there and swallowed up everything that was fed to me. It’s hard enough to be honest– I don’t want to sit and feel lonely in a house of God.
One good thing I learned from church-hopping is that there are good people in all churches. There really are. The squeaky wheels always get the media oil– but the quiet worshippers, the ones who really do try to do God’s work, and who are kind and generous– you don’t really hear about them as much, and they are in all those different churches, whether they agree with one another or not.
And I have finally made peace with the fact that I am not a churchgoer, and that’s okay. I can find joy and God and peace in my surroundings and be physically alone perhaps, but not truly alone. It is like the Emily Dickinson poem:
Some keep the Sabbath going to the Church —
I keep it, staying at Home —
With a Bobolink for a Chorister —
And an Orchard, for a Dome —
Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice —
I just wear my Wings —
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton — sings.
God preaches, a noted Clergyman —
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last —
I’m going, all along.
Today I made the kiddo some buckwheat pancakes, and I was so happy to be in the moment. It felt so good on this warm morning to have my bare feet on the cool kitchen tiles, the smell of butter browning in the pan, my kid making a book at the kitchen table– The Kitten of the Yard— and so for me this is church. A hyperawareness of being in the moment, and of being happy in that moment with God and the world.
1 cup milk
1 T sugar
1 capful vanilla
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
more milk, until the batter’s consistency is that of very heavy cream
A few bumps are okay, but mixmixmix
Fry in a medium pan with lots of butter. My theory is that if you cook them in enough butter, you don’t actually have to spread more on the pancake later. Also, the edges get a really good browned butter taste. Who wouldn’t like that?
This only makes 4 large pancakes. Pour maple syrup on them, and they’ll be gone like, well, hotcakes.