Diane Vogel Ferri is a teacher, poet and writer. Her essays have been published in Scene Magazine, Cleveland Christmas Memories, Raven’s Perch, and by Cleveland State University among others. Her poems can be found in numerous journals. Her chapbook, Liquid Rubies, was published by Pudding House. The Volume of Our Incongruity was published by Finishing Line Press. Diane’s essay, “I Will Sing for You” was featured at the Cleveland Humanities Fest in 2018. Her novel, The Desire Path can be found on Amazon. She is a graduate of Kent State University and holds an M.Ed from Cleveland State University.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Change is Good—To a Point

Change  is Good—To a Point

Change is difficult. We get used to the way things are and a lot of what is in the news is about people fighting for their chosen ways of life in this country. But the fact is that we CAN choose our ways. The problem is often that we want others to make the same choices we do. This causes conflict and division.

Cleveland is in an uproar about Chief Wahoo again. I grew up with him too, but as Maya Angelou said—when you know better, you do better. Why can’t we can grow instead of clinging to meaningless sentimentality when it hurts other people? I don’t see that as political correctness, but as growth as fellow human beings.  I’m called a snowflake for that. But how is acting like your life is ending over a cartoon caricature not being an overly sensitive snowflake?

The fact that I grew up and discovered that everyone wasn’t just like me, that everyone didn’t celebrate Christmas in America, and might not say Merry Christmas to me does not effect my faith or traditions in any way. Do “Merry Christmas” enthusiasts think they will convert others to Christianity by forcing them to say a certain greeting? HAHA!  If you don’t want your traditions taken why would you expect that for other people?

But change should accomplish something. Make something better. Sometimes change doesn’t make sense:

Recently I saw a segment on TV about girls joining the Boy Scouts. I suppose this is seen as progressive, fair to girls, equality, but this makes no sense to me. Girl Scouts should have the opportunity to earn all the same badges as boys if that’s the issue.  But one little boy said it all when he said he had to be with his sister every day and going to Boy Scouts was when he didn’t have to do everything with her. Now he doesn’t even have that. He made a good point.  Not sure what this is accomplishing. 

I have been going to a Methodist church all of my life. Different churches have different worship styles and we have the freedom to choose a church that suits us best in America.  The particular church I attend has traditional and contemporary services. There are three to choose from in one church building. I am traditional all the way. I am in the choir and the music suits my voice and is most meaningful to me. It’s the kind of service where you sit and follow along with the program and listen to a message from the pastor. 

 A couple people attending my service like to say things while the pastor is speaking. Things like, Wow!, Go Pastor! Yes! Thank you Lord!  You get the idea.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but I don’t like it.  It isn’t part of the traditional worship that I choose to attend. It distracts me. It makes me anticipate when they’re going to say something next instead of focusing on the message. 

It seems rude to me. Don’t they notice no one else does this? Are they trying to change us in some way? Loosen us up? Isn’t that what the other services are for?  I know for a fact that a number of long time members have left or are considering leaving because of the changes. This, I realize, always happens in churches. You can’t please everyone. But if there are already different offerings available why is one being forced to change? 

One Sunday I told my husband that I felt sorry for the people sitting directly in front of these callers. To me, it’s like sitting in front of a crying baby, you can’t pay attention, and you have no choice.  But yesterday I came home to tell him that I am now one of those people. One caller joined the choir and was sitting behind me.  His constant uttering seemed to encourage yet another new choir member to join in on the noise. What’s happening? Am I going to lose my choice of worship?

I went through a range of emotions during the service. I felt some anger and some frustration. I worried about what other people around me were experiencing. And then I felt like one of those Chief Wahoo people who can’t tolerate change and insist on being an old stick-in-the-mud.  That is something I have never considered myself to be.  Something I actually abhor. 

Having said that, I think there is a lot more at stake here than sentimental traditions. This is more serious than a logo or a greeting.  I choose traditional worship because it is what reaches me. I don’t want to be distracted from what the pastor is saying. I can’t focus when there are interruptions. So what if I don’t have that choice any longer? 

Years ago my heart was broken when the church I grew up in moved to another county and I lost every tradition and precious memory I had there. I was told not to be sentimental over a building, but I lost so much more than that. The membership divided. My children never wanted to step foot in a church again after witnessing the fight between sides. I lost life-long friends. I never saw some people again. I struggled terribly with the loss and then after much searching I found the church I am in now. If I cannot worship in this church and must leave I don’t know if I will ever look for another church. I have had to reinvent my life over again too many times already. 

Organized religion is flawed. I don’t expect pastors to be perfect human beings. I don’t need the church to fulfill my every need.  I just want to be able to choose the type of worship that is most meaningful to me. I think I am losing that choice.