So, I “grew up in the church.” Isn’t that a great turn of phrase? “In THE Church.” I use it now and have heard many people from different denominational backgrounds use it as well. Today I mean it in the sense of the the church universal, but I was raised with the meaning being a distinction between our church and all the other false churches. Wow… I managed to go off on a tangent in the first paragraph!
Here’s how stupid or whatever I was… I remember a defining moment in the 5th grade at Sunday School when I entered an argument about whether or not there were animals in heaven, i.e. whether or not animals have souls. By the way, I am not even giving an opinion on the question right now, just recalling a historical event. Basically, I was arguing that animals do have immortal souls and were in heaven… I said it was obvious because of all the animals in the Bible stories. You see, I thought that all those great stories of old had happened in heaven. I had no real connection to this stuff being historical or tangibly connected to life. I like to think in light of my very slow beginnings I might have sped up a bit by now.
I was baptized at the ripe old age of 10 (5th grade year) because my pal Chuckie was baptized. You have already gotten a picture of my wizened understanding of God’s will and works at that age. The thing I remember of that evening, past the act of being immersed, is that my friends all asked if the water was heated. It wasn’t.
I was loved at that church. There were several adults who took interest in me and were very special in my life as mentors and teachers. I hope that my inability to learn and process doesn’t lead you to doubting their ability and sincerity in trying to help me. I will never forget Ms. Willamina, and I am way too young to know how to spell that name correctly! She was one of those great big old Ladies of Color that everyone should know growing up. She hugged me every Sunday and brought me gifts from her trips home to see family in West Virginia. She also knew how to wear those hats, as only such ladies could know. I hope that thirty some-odd years later my memories of her come close to the mark. I do know this… even if the physical image of her in my mind has subtly changed over the years, she left a indelible mark of peace and love upon me that shines crisp and clear through all the years. In that, she was Christ to me, and ever will be.