Memories of My Childhood Church

Lately I’ve thought quite a bit about the church I was at as a child.  I remember the first day we attended there, back when I was four, and how panicked I felt at going into a strange Sunday School classroom full of strange people.  I can’t recall how fast that feeling wore off, but I know that the teacher for that class, a college student at the time, quickly became a favorite with me and with my younger siblings.  I have fond memories of the times she babysat us.

I remember that I thought the coat racks were weird.  They were built into one wall of the entryway, and there was a second tier which seemed too high for anyone to reach.  Now, I was pretty small then myself, so I’m not sure just how much of that was perspective, but I don’t recall seeing coats on that bar very often.

Directly opposite as you walked in the front door was the pastor’s office.  I went in there sometimes when my mother used to be in charge of doing the church directory.  Otherwise it wasn’t a place I was encouraged to play.  I remember when they build the sound booth off one corner of the office, with a window cut into the back wall of the sanctuary so that the sound guy could see the worship leader.  I always thought that was so cool.

I remember helping Mom do some of the gardening work out front.  She wasn’t the only one at church with a green thumb, and someone else eventually took over, but for a year or two my mother was the one who had the time.  Being a homeschooling mom, she had a flexible schedule!  I learned quite a bit about how to plan out a flower bed to the best advantage, something I’ve turned to good advantage in other arenas as well.

I went back to that church a couple of years ago for a wedding.  They’ve added a new wing onto the building, creating a new sanctuary and fellowship hall.  The old sanctuary has mostly been broken up into smaller rooms for offices and things, but I took a peek inside what was left.  The baptismal was still there, right where it was in ‘96 when I got baptized.

Two years ago I wrote a piece about the memory I have of that day.  It doesn’t include anything about the nerve wracking experience of telling the pastor that I wanted to be baptized, or the Sunday when I, shy seven-year-old that I was, stood up front with the pastor at the end of the service while he announced the baptismal to our large congregation, but it does give a pretty good account of the day itself.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost

The month was in November,
just before I was eight.
I remember the baptismal,
I was dressed in white.

It felt surreal to slip out of service,
before the closing prayer.
I didn’t do it often,
but my mother was along.

I changed out of Sunday best,
so I wouldn’t get it soaked,
but I forgot to take off my necklace,
so I wore it through the wet.

We actually used the back stair
of rough planks, lined with storage.
I’d always stood in awe of it,
because Mom didn’t want us there.

The waiting seems quite short to me,
in retrospect at least,
but I think it took much longer
when I stood upon the stairs.

Finally Pastor W.,
with fishing waders on,
finished talking to the watching eyes,
and called me to come down.

Scared of water I was still,
but gently on I came.
Wet was okay on my feet,
my stomach, then my hands.

He helped me stand upon the box
before he spoke the words
I closed my eyes and grabbed my nose –
and came up spluttering.

My feet hadn’t found the box again,
but they somehow found the stair.
Pastor W. smoothed it over;
I was like my father, he said.

Dad, it seems, had done the same,
only a few years before,
and when I think that he was grown,
I smile a little now.

Dad had been a Christian
since he was in his teens
but he didn’t travel through the wet
till I was small but ‘ware.

I have a vague remembrance
of watching Daddy slip.
I like to think that Dad and I
share a baptismal tale.

A dripping girl, but smiling,
I went with Mom to change.
‘Twas then I found my necklace
had gotten baptized too.

A card, I think, and gift I got
from a friend so dear to me.
I don’t remember more because
I was smiling in a dream.

And ever after, that simple chain,
with cross and flower upon it,
has special been, and special is,
and special always will be.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Growing Up, My Family, Parents, Poetry/Writings, Writing

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