I attended a Methodist church in my childhood and participated in all the opportunities one would expect: Sunday school, vacation bible school, children's choir. The church and its youth program became central to my teenage years. One of the ministers and his wife were musicians and they spent all their free time leading us in musical endeavors. On weekends we traveled to evangelize other youth. Then, to include the adults, they wrote an entire musical and whole families traveled and performed together. My mom, brother, sister and I all sang and danced and my dad was the business manager. They were glorious years that none of us will ever forget.
Each experience grew my faith and love for God. Music was a way to share that and my church was home in every sense of the word. I married and had two children and my greatest hope was for them to have the same meaningful experiences in the same church. As children they learned about God in the same classrooms and sanctuary where their parents were married and they were baptised. At home we read Bible stories, had birthday parties for Jesus and discussed the true meaning of Christian holidays. They had fun at the same Methodist summer camp that I had loved so well. They sang in some musical events and participated in the weekly youth group meetings. My dream had come true - three generations of my family in the same church every Sunday morning. A beautiful and rare thing. Both of my children were on their way to a life of faith just as I had hoped and prayed. You can give your children many things in this life, but I always believed that a grounded faith was the most precious gift you could give them. Something that will last into eternity. As a Christian parent I took that role very seriously.
Then the teenage years happened. I was, and still am, proud of the unique and uncompromising individuals my children are, but as you might expect, they rebelled when their father and I divorced. My daughter clung tightly to her church friends. My son - not so much. As they expressed their individuality they sensed rejection by some of the adult youth leaders. The clothes and hair styles that are so important to self-expression at that age were criticized. My life unexpectedly falling apart and then the comforts of church vanishing changed everything. I watched the dream disintegrate before my eyes.
Not only did my personal crisis change their lives, but then the church literally left us! Some of the newer members were put in leadership roles and it was decided that the present site of the church was inadequate. I unwittingly became a leader against the move. My church was the cornerstone of the community in its location and historic presence there for 150 years. Petitions were signed, television reporters came, dozens of painful meetings were attended and after a long battle, we lost. The church was divided in two. Friendships were ended and relationships damaged. I did not lose faith in God, but I certainly did in organized religion. It had turned on me and I could barely conceive of the impact on my family. I could never have dreamed that the one place that I had counted on my whole life would close down and move to another community. I felt like a tumbleweed with no direction or purpose, and I think that's the way my teenage children felt too.
To be continued. . . .