I grew up in a fairly conservative home, but it wasn’t the most conservative I knew. For instance, we attended a very small private school to which my sister and I wore skirts. At home, we were allowed to wear pants and shorts, but when I went to play at my best friends house, I had to wear culottes, because that was all they were allowed to wear. At least, this is how I remember it. (We moved when I was seven, more on that later.)
One of my earliest memories of church is of a split. I had no idea what was happening at the time, but the pastor of our denominational church wanted to take it nondenominational and was doing his best to stack the vote. I remember going to church with parents who were more serious than they usually were. I remember kids playing in classrooms without teachers, and all the adults in a meeting in the sanctuary. People would stand up and speak who weren’t the pastor and weren’t on stage. It wasn’t a happy meeting. Again, this is how I remember it. I was very young, so the facts may be distorted.
I also remember, from this period of my life, a family friend who lived next to the school and promised to teach me art when I got older (I still feel like I missed out because we moved away, but I have a painting of hers on my wall.) She was…interesting, and I loved her. I remember a piano teacher with an awesome backyard garden who did her own canning. She had raspberries that no other raspberries have ever lived up to, and I’m still not sure whether that’s a pitfall of memory or whether they really were that good. And I remember finding my lost favorite doll, which I do not remember losing. It’s odd that the first memory of the thing I have is that of finding it. I remember our dog, that I was terrified of. I remember the taste of the green beans our day care gave us for snack (disgusting, btw), and I remember the smell of the pig trucks going through town and the paper plant exhaust when the wind shifted (truly gag inducing).
My early memories feel like a quilt with blocks cut and rearranged out of order, some of them patched with the stories my family has told for years. I like this quilt. It’s as comfortable as the actual purple quilt my mom let me use for naps which is now folded lovingly in my cedar chest. Sometimes I remember this period of my life as the warmest and brightest, but it wasn’t perfect. It was the start of a thread that is more my sister’s story to tell than my own, and it included that church split.
I’m sure some of my church memories are older than that, but I’m not sure the jingly apple in the nursery or random Patch the Pirate lessons really count. I was baptized before the split, which I can tell you because the pastor in question is the one who wrote the lovely note in my baptismal Bible, but I don’t actually remember that. I did remember my Sunday School teacher for years, but, does it make sense to anyone else to say that I remember remembering her, but I don’t actually remember her anymore?
My point is, I don’t know exactly how this split affected me, but I know that it did. I know that my entire life, whenever anyone has brought up a church split, I’ve remembered that meeting. I know that I knew that something was wrong. I suppose that’s when I learned that church wasn’t perfect, that the pastor could be wrong about the church, even if I didn’t understand that lesson for many years.
Is that why I never felt guilty about questioning church leadership? You know, I’ve never actually asked that question until just now, but I think it might be. I don’t believe it gave me anxiety about church the way divorce can about relationships, but I do think I never took leadership for granted as a result, at least partially.
And that’s the beginning of my mosaic, the first breaking that was taken into my design.
A much larger breaking was in process, but I didn’t know it yet.