Thursday, August 04, 2005

Faith Story, Part III--rites of passage

Confirmation came and went,with no spiritual lightning bolt. The bishop laid hands on me, slapped me (well, more of a tap), and I ripped the sleeve of my pretty new dress at the party afterwards.

A week or so later, the rector approached me at church. Now that you're an adult (me, at sixth grade?) you can't go to Sunday School anymore. You have to be a grownup in the church. You can sit in church with your dad, sing in your mom's choir, or teach Sunday School.

Option #1 was right out. I was old enough that spending any more time with my parents than absolutely necessary was simply unthinkable.

I explored option #2 for a few weeks. However, to sum up the family relationship in a nutshell, Friedman of systems theory would say we were "fused." Too far away from each other by being too close. I literally had panic attacks while being under my mom's choral direction and almost fainted a couple of times (although at the time I couldn't have told you the reason).

That left option #3, which actually seemed pretty good. I got to hang out with the Sunday School. They gave me two kids who were a few years younger than me and no instructions, and that was that. No one ever supervised me. No one asked me what kind of curriculum I was leading. No one hardly ever checked in on us. Which is why we mostly chatted. But I did find a set of cards that taught how to look up biblical references, and did try to teach some stories. Around Easter we made baskets for the younger kids and the rector. At Christmas we were the mainstays of the pageant (I am proud to say I have played almost every role possible in a Christmas pageant, with the exception of the angel Gabriel. Yes, this means I have played Joseph. Don't ask.) I took the girls on a tour of the nave and chancel one day (hmm, maybe I did try harder than I remember) and the rector told us not to laugh in church. (Well, I hope that's not really a sin because I'm in real big trouble if it is).

As Joe noted in an earlier comment, there are a number of themes of ambivalence turning up here, which he shares. I suspect many Gen Xrs share ambivalence as a major life theme, perhaps that's another post. I find it again, reflecting on this time. The church was becoming more and more about its opposition to change in the wider church. I wasn't feeling much of anything spiritual, which no one seemed to notice or care about. I was completely left on my own to wrestle with my growing up and my sudden change in role. Exorbitant displays of feeling were squashed. Preaching was erudite, Anglo-Catholic, employing the 3 point method, and completely incomprehensible to me. Summers without Sunday School, when I was stuck in the pew, seemed endless. And can you imagine anyone letting a sixth grader alone with children unsupervised for such a long time in the church today?

And yet credit must be given that this rector acknowledged that a rite of passage had taken place, that in the eyes of the church I was an adult and needed to take on that role. And at least he directed me towards some ministries (notice, of course, what was strikingly absent).


At 4:45 AM, Blogger Jen Goodnow said...

wow! i've heard that confirmation is the exit strategy for the church but i had no idea it could be that bad. how good that you've recalled that experience and how it felt so you can insure that nothing like that happens to the children in your church. makes me realize how lucky i was. i got to acolyte and had a kick-a*$ youth group run by broadway singers and dancers (the benefit of growing up in nyc) so we did godspell and joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat, etc. that kept me in the church during my teens and when i finished college i came right back.
i've only read a few of your entries but i'm looking forward to learning more about your ministry and church.

At 7:47 AM, Blogger Emily said...

Hi Jen,

Don't worry, there is youth group in the next part of the story--it's not so grim!

Anyway, having a minsitry of teaching (or whatever it was) certainly kept me in.


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