So it was quite a surprise to find all four of us, scrubbed, shining, and stuffed in a pew on Advent Sunday. It was completely accidental that it was Advent Sunday, S having apparently repressed all memory of the religious calendar and me being entirely ignorant of it. So why were we there to begin with? Well, Panda wanted to go. She has a lot of questions. A lot of her school-friends attend on the regular, and they tell her aaaaaaaall about God and Jesus. (The nice parts. They totally gloss over all the plagues and floods and firstborn sons. But I don't know, maybe that stuff isn't approved for Sunday school, or it could be a recruitment plot. In any case, she believes God is all rainbows, unicorns, and sweet little babies in mangers.)
You know those promises you make to yourself as a new parent, the ones about how you will offer your precious squalling bundle every possible advantage, allow every reasonable risk, and support every initiative to learn? Those kind of promises are a lot easier to get excited about when lil' Boo wants to, say, join soccer, or sing in choir, or take up gardening. It's a bit harder to get behind when she decides she can't live another minute without skydiving lessons, or motocross. And it really takes a lot of parental
nagging convincing when it involves giving up an hour and half of Sunday morning snuggles. But after a thousand questions and much hinting and sighing, we offered to take her to church. We explained at length that they mustn't talk, stand or play during church. We waxed poetic on the rules about sitting quietly for a really, really long time, but no dice - she still wanted to go.
I didn't want to be stuck driving across the city for a three-hour mass somewhere - although I do confess that a large part of me whispered "make it as boring and weird as possible, then she won't want to go back." But I muzzled that voice and chose a United Church near our house, reasoning that if Panda became enamoured with it and insisted on going every week, at least it was close and had a message I could live with.
We should have been warned by how enthusiastically we were received. The greeter hugged me. The lady sitting in front us welcomed us warmly. The minister announced our presence and complimented the children's choice of shirts...from the pulpit. It was an introverts worst nightmare- not only was I new, but they noticed. Of course, there were only about twenty-five people there, and it's hard to overlook a bi-racial family with two vocal children. I settled in as the service progressed, but then they came and took my children away. To Sunday school. For an entire hour of fun, games, colouring, and presumably all the talking and playing that couldn't do in actual church, but I can't say for sure because we weren't allowed to go with them. Instead, S and I had to sit quietly for a really, really long time and weren't allowed to talk, stand or play, except those times that we popped up and down like mad whack-a-moles singing hymns we didn't know. Church has a lot more stand up-sit down-lather-rinse-repeat than I expected.
It's also really, really social. Afterwards, everyone wanted to meet us and make certain that we were coming back again. I get that they are trying to keep their church from fading to nothing, but it felt like a lot of expectation and pressure. Like the guy you just met yesterday, who already wants you to meet his mom. And I felt like I was lying to them by even being there,even though I was up front about why we had come. But i also feel like we all took something from the experience. I think it was good for S to see that religion isn't always used to condemn, and that there exists a wide range of interpretations of what it means to Christian. I learned some things about the church, and Panda got answers (or at least the beginnings of them) to some of her questions. Pickle got cookies and juice. Overall, it was surprisingly...okay. Fruitful, even.
Now, I'm not saying we will go every week (last week, Sunday snuggles won out) but we might go every so often. But next time I am sneaking into Sunday school for the cookies and colouring.