Saturday, August 23, 2008

Church Ladies

I went out to lunch with some very nice ladies yesterday. All of them were at least ten years older than me-- a retired music teacher, a semi-retired farmer, and a retired lab-tech. The food was good, the little restaurant we ate at very pleasant. We puttered around in the gift shop afterward, oohing and ahhing at the shiny gift shop fodder. A pleasant way to spend an afternoon, all in all.

I listened to them talk about grown children and grandbabies and I enjoyed it. They listened to me talk about my boys and chuckled over my stories as well. They've known our kids for most of their lives and they adore them. They've had my boys in Sunday School and youth group, given them music lessons, hired them for odd jobs.

This is the part of living in a small town that I enjoy. Everyone knowing everyone. Connections. A sense of belonging somewhere. I wanted my sons to have this sense of community because it was something I didn't get growing up. I missed having roots.

But the flip side to living in a small town is the mindedness of it, the rumor mills, the bubble that encompasses the perception of the world, the sense of running ten years behind. And then there's the discussions that illustrate my point.

We touched on politics. I was in the wrong group. Again. That's okay. I'm growing well practiced at not pointing out that e-mail forwards are suspect sources of useful political reports. If they want to base their vote on Internet myths like, "Obama painted over the flag on the tail of his plane" let 'em. Never mind how they voted on the issues or what they plan to do for the Social Security crisis.

I was relieved when the conversation moved on to the one subject we all had in common--our local church. In fact, this filled most of the afternoon. We talked about Sunday school, the minister, our youth programs, etc. And, for the most part, we were on the same page on important issues like baptism, Christmas music, communion, and our awful pepto bismol colored choir robes.

Then one of the ladies said, "If the church grows any more liberal, I don't know that I can stay."

You know how it is when you can see the train bearing down on you and you stand on the tracks anyway, paralyzed with curiosity? This is me. "What do you mean?" I asked.

"Homosexuals in the church. Letting them be members and all. I just don't think that's right. The Bible is pretty clear about it being a sin. What do you guys think?"

I think she doesn't know that I have a bisexual younger sister or she wouldn't have asked me what I thought. I think she doesn't know that this sister was a member of our youth group until she went off to college last year, that she was christened and confirmed in our church, that she stands next to my mother and sings with the church choir when she's in town. I think she doesn't know that she often brings her newest girlfriend to church with her when she's visiting.

To be quite honest with you, I'm having a tough time aligning my beliefs as a Christian and what I've been taught my whole life with my feelings as an older sister. My sister's "announcement" was fairly recent. In fact, it wasn't really an announcement at all. I discovered it while visiting her My Space page. I then asked my oldest son about it. Yes, he'd known for some time, but he didn't feel it was his place to discuss it with me (and he wasn't thrilled, but he was resigned to it. He and she have been best friends for most of their lives and that hasn't changed). She's now quite matter-of-factly mentioning her girlfriends to me. And I'm matter-of-factly, staying silent on the subject, because I do not know how to respond. But I love her and enjoy having her around, so I'll work it out. Loving her and objecting to her lifestyle will just get to go hand-in-hand for a while.

But I had an answer for the lady who posed the question. This to me, is a no-brainer, so I said. "That's a no-brainer. If we start cherry-picking members based on how righteous we believe them to be, then the church pews are going to be pretty empty."

Two of the women who were listening agreed, with a lot of caveats concerning it being a sin, etc. She questioned whether we should let them take on leadership positions. More discussion ensued, most of which I missed, as I chose to focus on passing scenery.

I was grateful when we moved on to talking about gardening, which I'm beginning to believe is the only safe subject to discuss in a group setting.


Scotty said...

"That's a no-brainer. If we start cherry-picking members based on how righteous we believe them to be, then the church pews are going to be pretty empty."

Well said, Mary; let he/she who is without sin cast the first stone, eh?

*tips hat*

Debby said...

Very well said.

You know, we have a lesbian couple in our church, and a very large group of very old people. The couple has had two babies baptized in our church. Although there was quite a bit of quiet consternation when they first began to come to the church, I am glad to say that our oldsters decided amongst themselves that God will do the judging. There was no angry discussion at all. I love our oldsters. When I'm not teaching sunday school in the summer, theirs is the class that I attend.

Mary Paddock said...

Thanks guys!

True, Scotty.

Debby--thank you for that story. It illustrates my belief that our doors should be open to everyone.

Pencil Writer said...

Before I read anyone else's comments I'll just pass this one on . . . One of the priesthood holders in our Church once said, very kindly--"This Church is not a haven for saints; it's a hospital for sinners." It makes far more sense to me.

Then I think about Jesus being condemned by the scribes and Pharisees for healing on the Sabbath. And another time Christ posed the question, "Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days?"

We often have to broaden our horizon when trying to follow the Savior. Love the sinner, don't condone the sin.