First, some history:
- I was raised in a Baptist home. We went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and once midweek for as long as I can remember. Sick, well, rain, shine, blizzard — the Collinses were in that sanctuary. At a young age, I could recite the books of the Bible in order, and I loved it when we had Bible drills at Sunday School. I won those bad boys on a regular basis.
- That said, our upbringing wasn’t the strictest of the Baptist flavor — not by a long shot. We were allowed to play cards and buy rock and roll records. We got Easter baskets and were permitted to go trick-or-treating. Later, we were allowed to attend school dances (just shortly after being allowed to wear pants to school — that was a big, big deal for me as a 7th grader). We were encouraged to read our Bibles at home, but not forced. Yet, we weren’t allowed to say the phrase darn it because it sounded too much like, well, that other word. We weren’t allowed to say Oh, my gosh because “gosh,” you know, could be misheard as “God.” And that would get you slapped right across the chops. Our parents were a little on the quirky side, but whose weren’t? Heck, my sons would probably say that about me today.
So, what’s this got to do with my nostalgia today? Well, in 1996, I forswore organized church, and I haven’t been back. It’s a decision that 99% of the time, I am glad I made. I won’t use this forum to go into the reasons why, but suffice it to say that removing the Sunday morning routine from my life has not distanced me from God, but rather just from the politics, drama, rules and prejudices surrounding the operation of the business called church. I believe that if I died tonight, I would go to heaven, even though I haven’t set foot in a church service more than 3-4 times in the last 19 years. Nothing anyone says will sway me from that conviction (so please don’t try), and I rejoice in it. I love God the same — even more completely and personally — now as I did in all the years I went to church. And before some well-meaning-but-kinda-passive-aggressive know-it-all comments “That’s between you and God,” I’ll say it’s between me and God, and it’s all good.
Still, sometimes, like this morning, I miss parts of the church experience. Specifically, it’s the music, which should come as no surprise. Of all the hymns I’ve sung in my life (and there have been many), Easter hymns are my absolute favorite, with this one at the top of the list. I miss congregational singing. Mind you, not the pop-ish kind, with the ubiquitous “praise band” and worship leader up front, and lyrics on the screen and no music to follow, so if you don’t know the tune you’re basically standing there just listening and not participating, and by the time you actually get the melody by the 15th time through the chorus, the song’s over, but real hymns in the traditional style, with a powerful pipe organ accompaniment; a huge sound, filling the space, sung SATB.
Sounds kind of funny, coming from someone who was there at the very beginning of the praise band movement back in the 80s, pushing for its inclusion into modern worship. Heh. That’s the way of it, I guess. Time can change folks.
Yet I won’t return to the church building, because of the stigma attached to “Easter and Christmas Christians.” I shouldn’t care, but I do, and there you go. Some old habits die hard.
So that is what I miss.
Happy Easter and Blessed Passover to all — enjoy this beautiful day!