Sacrificial “whine”

So, today, during work, I went to church.

I haven’t been to church in a very long time. Other than certain years of my childhood, my church-going times have consisted of the occasional wedding or funeral. In fact, churches will always remind me of funerals.

There are some interesting facts I learned today, that have nothing to do with the bible that was quoted by the too-quiet but very nice lady pastor, or the hymns I was made to sing only to be glad that the person beside me sang worse than I do (you know, the whole “trying to sing just enough so I can be seen singing but not actually heard” thing.)

Now first I must say, I am spiritual but I am not religious. I won’t elaborate because this post isn’t about religion or my opinion of it, I will just say I obviously don’t frequent churches.

So this was a new and somewhat exhilarating experience for me. I love new and exciting experiences where I can see others and how they interact in this atmosphere of which is anything but new to them, but I haven’t seen before (never been to that church or that particular denomination of church) so all the new senses- sights, sounds, smells, etc. Were quite interesting to me.

The number one thing I noticed: Most of the crowd were elderly.

It made me analyze the history of religion, something I’ve always been interested in, in a historical sense. And realize that today’s churches lack in youthful participation. I have yet to figure why that is. This pastor made a point to bring some children forward to chat with her and “spread the message” to the little ones, making us all go “awww” as their cute little toddler responses resonated the atmosphere with innocent glory, but I somehow don’t think it really stuck, whatever the message was intended.

The second thing I noticed was how very few people were actually there. Now, Saturday evening masses don’t tend to draw great crowds from what I know of most churches, but it does make me wonder if religion is somehow dwindling from our society, if people are too busy for church anymore, or what the purpose is for this lack of activity. I know churches all over are aching for larger congregations.

The third thing- just how very few people actually paid attention.

The fourth- the complaining afterwards by various church-goers. Now… first I must say, the service was actually well written from what I could determine, not one for such things as religion, but as a writer, I know. The lady pastor was nice, a little soft-spoken but nice. She truly believed in what she was doing, and I admire that in anyone who chooses to commit their life to something in such a way. I didn’t have any complaints (except that the “sacrificial wine” was actually some off-brand of concord grape juice. I suppose, little ones…) but apparently others did.

I’ll give them three things: The service was small, a little hard to hear, and apparently the church has been going through pastors and this one is a temp. From what I understand, a congregation gets used to their pastor and develops a close bond with them, in some way or another, the sound of their voice and the way they carry themselves and the words they chose to share. It unnerves, especially the elderly, when their pastors don’t stick around.

Other than that- why all the whining? Why the fake smiles and joyful cheering and moments of quiet introspection and prayer and praising the lord…. and then all the complaining afterwards? “That was too long” (it wasn’t, even for me) “That was boring” (I found her words pretty interesting) “I could hardly sit still” (Really? I mean… really?) “I hate singing” (You’re not the only one- you don’t hear me bitching) “The bread was stale” (I bet Christ’s wasn’t fresh from the oven, either. Honestly, do you expect the church to serve fresh bits of bread? They aren’t there to feed you) “It just wasn’t the same as it used to be” (Now that, I concur, especially for the elderly who are probably used to more interactive and/or sincere sermons in their generation) So on, so forth.

It makes me wonder, are these people coming together to celebrate and worship and practice their faith, or are they going simply just to have something to complain about afterwards?

It came as a shock that out of everyone I spoke to, me of all people, had more good things to say about it than most. And I despise churches and organized religion and services. I just do.

So I honestly don’t know what to feel about that. I think if you’re going to celebrate your religion and faith by going to church, you should enjoy it. Not force yourself to go week after week, perfect your fake smiles and cheer, sing and pray- spend the next week complaining about last week’s sermon. Honestly, people. If you’re unhappy with your church, find another one or just don’t go. It’s not as if any city in this nation of ours is lacking any.

And here’s an example on my “top ten” list of reasons I don’t and will not attend church unless I have to. The rudeness of the congregation. 99% of anyone belonging to a church congregation that I’ve ever met treat me and others as outsiders. I volunteered/was volunteered by my client to help by greeting people, cleaning up the pews afterwards and organizing the sign-in list thing and such. Ok, I can do that, I like helping, and as I said, I love doing new things. So, as I stand there as a greeter, in my obligatory healthcare uniform (remember, this was during work so I couldn’t exactly get all dressed up) only 1/4 of the population of church-comers shook my hand compared to the other greeters and most acted like they were forced to, the ones who wouldn’t touch me would either not look at me, or look me up and down in scrutiny. Some even scoffed. What the hell? I was in a tidy uniform, not scrubs, to elaborate, so it wasn’t some subliminal fear of people in scrubs, as some people have. Sometimes others will turn away from me when I’m in scrubs. Never this uniform. People are always curious about it. This was intense, the amount of “polite” dissing I received because I was young, not dressed in fancy attire and wasn’t recognized as a member of their congregation or religion.

I realize not all churches are like this, but from my experience: quite a few are.

The pastor thanked me personally later on for helping, not just for her and the church’s behalf, but for my help as a healthcare person taking care of someone else. That was wonderful. Like I said, nice lady.

But apparently I was an “outsider” and how dare I step foot into their church? In the eyes of the unhappy congregation. And one of the reasons I was a helper and not just a goer as the others were- nobody else was willing to help, except a couple of elderly ladies who had problems doing so. An entire congregation unwilling to help their new pastor, leaving all the duties up to her? No usher, no one to hand out the pamplets, no one to set up or clean up, no one to greet, no one to put all the little pew things (bibles, hymnals, and such) back together and clean up the trash that inconsiderate fools left behind. It made me sad for this pastor, who very obviously puts her heart into her work and her words. I may not be one for religion but I am certainly one for respect, and this congregation just… didn’t respect any of it. The effort. The purpose. The people around them. It just wasn’t there.

It was quite an experience, and my only two leftover thoughts are these: Somebody needs to slap some sense into most of that congregation.

And…

I don’t remember giant LED flat screens being part of a church service, when did that happen? Oh, sometime between 1990 and 2012, I guess. Oh well, I still enjoyed the new experience that I don’t really wish to repeat.

Stay happy and solid to your faith, whatever it may be!

Stacey

P.S. Ok, since I wrote a whole thing about religion without any off-handed comments about it, and since I make off-handed comments about most everything, I just HAVE to get this out. Since when did Christ bleed grape juice??

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