Sunday, November 28, 2010

Operation: Churchifying the Kid

I did it. I took my son to church today. I haven't been to church in I-don't-know-how-long, but this is the same church I went to as a teen that made my life tolerable. I am hoping that it will do something similar for my son, who is having some of the same issues now that I had then.

We arrived at 9:15 for the breakfast that the men of the church put on every Sunday. The parking lot was empty. So was the parrish hall. We saw one man and asked him if he knew what was going on, but he didn't. It was one of those strange there-ought-to-be-people-but- there-aren't, end-of-the-world-but-I-didn't-know-it feelings that I get sometimes.

My already less-than-enthusiasic child thought we should give up and go home. No dice, baby! We went to Bagel-Bagel and had breakfast, then went back. There still were far fewer cars than I thought there would be, and plenty of space in the pews. The last five or six pews were roped off - probably to make people sit a little closer to the front.

Sullen child sat in the corner of the pew and read his library book "Diary of Anne Frank" for most of the service. I stood and sang the impossible Episcopalian hymns that make my voice change key several times per verse, recited the prayers from memory and began to feel strangely at home.

The rector is a tall, somewhat Italian-looking man with a Southern accent. I liked him - his approach to his congregation was very accessible. Today there was to be a baptism as part of the service - a 2 year old girl who was very excited to be there and all dressed up. So excited that she was jumping up and down in the pew and fell off. Great wails of anguish erupted and her mother tried to shush her to no avail. Fr. S came down from the altar and told her it was okay to cry if she needed to - that sometimes, crying can make us feel better faster.

She stopped crying quickly and the service continued. Fr. S gathered the kids (except my stubborn one) at the front of the church and talked about baptism and what it means. He baptised a couple of the kids up there and they talked about their own baptisms. I suspect the rector was baptised as a Baptist from his description of his own baptism! Once we moved on to the actual baptism, ZBoy put his book down and watched. And when it was over, he picked it back up.

I pondered how to address his behavior. Had it been me, I'd have been pinched or poked into sitting up straight and paying attention. But I wanted him to feel... if not enthusiastic about coming, perhaps at least amenable. So I did nothing except tell him to look people in the eye and answer when he was spoken to and asked him if he wanted to participate in communion (no). And I let it go at that. Perhaps over time he'll feel more at home and more willing to pay attention or maybe even participate. I won't push him, but I will take him!

I didn't see many kids his age. There were a couple up front doing acolyte duty. From what I gather, there is a youth group here, but I don't know how active or how many kids. I may have to go to St. John's to find youth group stuff for him. I think I might make an appointment with the rector and ask him some questions about how the church works these days. What activities are available and when.

The congregation seems small and older to me. I actually like that, but I may need to find a younger congregation for my son to see what going to church could be.

10 comments:

Chris Sexton said...

Sarah, I give you thumbs up for trying to get ZBoy into church. I rarely go to church anymore because, quite frankly, I haven't found any Catholic churches down here that I like. The congregations are about 99.9% Spanish - thus the priests are mostly Spanish and some with accents so thick you can barely understand them. I made my oldest go to CCD and he put up with it, but when he no longer "had" to go, he didn't. My boyfriend is Methodist and whenever I go up to see him, we always go to church. It is SO different! The people are friendly, the pastor outgoing, and kids everywhere! I call myself a Cathodist these days...as far as my little one goes, I have been homeschooling him to get ready for his First Holy Communion. Oh, I could go on, but I'll stop now. Anyway, good luck finding a church that has a good youth group for the "Sullen" one!

karisma said...

I left the church behind many years ago. My children have been twice and did not like it at all. The Father was not as nice as your one seems to be though, in fact he was a bit creepy. I am glad that you did not force Z to join in. :-)

Anonymous said...

Step 1--Anne Frank stays in the car, if you must read, make it the Book of Common Prayer.
Step 2--It's like marinating chicken. You dump the kid in Anglicanism and eventually it seeps in.
Step 3--At 16 or 17 the kid bolts and when life has kicked him about sufficiently, he may rediscover faith--or not.
Been there--done that.

Mom said...

No, your way is best. For what it is worth, I disagree with the above. I don't think Zach will respond to the authoritarian mode any better that you did. And, you know your own kid best. Follow your instincts.

Sayre said...

Z is little tricky, given what's been going on in his life lately. I don't want him to feel coerced and I think that once the habit of going is established, and the words and music start sinking in he'll raise his head a little more, listen a little more, participate a little more. That's how it works for him. And if he knows it makes me happy to have him come with me, the transition from sullen, stubborn child to happy-to-be-there child will be much easier on me, him, all of us.

pja said...

you may want to try St. John's . . . It feels so good there right now. But the chat with Father S. would be good as well! He's a really great guy.

Molly said...

I read this with interest. I hope that you find a place that works for you and your child. Although a life-long every Sunday church-goer,I had trials with my religion/faith as did our oldest son.

Pamela said...

I think you're doing the right thing.
You may have to search for a church with a more active youth group, though.

I remember going to the drive in theater as a kid - and a commercial between the movies would sing "Don't forget to go to church this Sunday.... ♪♫♪"

Things sure have changed.

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Jill said...

Having a church 'family' and youth group (and having a dog) are probably the only reasons I lived past adolescence. They were there for me when it seemed the most bleak. I could count on them. If it does your OWN heart good, go back. Definitely get him involved, though.