Churchy la femme

I wish I had a camera (and knew how to post pictures) so I could share the amazing sunset that greeted me this evening, as I emerged from a barbeque benefit at my mother’s church. But even the best digital camera couldn’t have captured the aroma that accompanied this sunset — a mixture of sweet barbeque ribs and chicken, pungent grassy soil, and salty ocean air.

Sometimes this place can be so damn bucolic, it’s embarrassing.

I grew up going to this church — sang in the choir, was an acolyte, did readings and blah-de-blah. I got kicked out of Sunday school because they wanted all the girls to be angels and all the boys to be shepherds in the pageant, and I was having none of that sexist crap. But I was pretty into the church thing as a teen. Then I went to college, and, except for a few sporadic forays into the occasional parish church in New York, I’ve stayed away since, for various reasons. Of course those reasons started out as political, then morphed into the idea that I was exploring other faiths and practices, and then I simply changed priorities, led a late-night lifestyle, and laziness took over. Old story.

But, as is often the case, the church I grew up in remained a fond memory, because of how much support and affection I received there for my first eighteen years. In fact, I had intended to start attending again after I moved back here a few years ago.

Not surprisingly, I was disappointed. The guy in the pulpit was no longer my old, familiar guy, the part-time scallop fisherman and environmental activist who usually wove in references to other cultures — especially local Native American — into his sermons. He had been replaced by some cheesy, hearty, “folksy” guy who often quoted (I am not making this up) TV Guide and Hallmark cards as the basis for his sermons, and who adamantly refuses to bless same-sex unions, even though the church allows it.

The awesome choir director, a funny, dynamic, and hip woman who also ran several semi-professional chorales in the area, and was one of my top role models as a teen, had just retired. In her place they had hired some autocratic jerk with lousy taste in music and a prima donna wife who thought she was a soprano. (It ain’t just in rock bands that you see the “My girlfriend can sing!” phenomenon…)

And my political misgivings may have been somewhat tempered over the years, but they are still there. And they are still valid. And I’m honestly just not into getting up early any day of the week, never mind Sunday.

But once in a while, like when I’ve got to go to a fund-raiser to please my mother, and the barbeque is outstanding, and there are kids running wild in the side yard, and people who have known me all my life are so damn pleased to see me, I remember why I used to dig it so much. Sometimes it’s just nice to belong.

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