Sunday, October 28, 2007

Concessions - an ironic full circle

Whenever we move to a new duty station, we go through the experience of trying to find a new church home. This task was much easier before we had kids. When it was just the two of us, it was easy to go to a different church every week for several weeks until we decide which one to stick with. With kids though, it takes several weeks of going to a church before they start to recognize the Sunday school teachers and the other kids in the class and start to feel comfortable with you leaving them there. So each time we just visit a church to "check it out," it's nearly impossible to get the boys to stay in the Sunday school and they would frequently end up in the sanctuary with us.

We don't claim to be members of any given denomination of church. It varies from one duty station to the next. I was raised going to a Lutheran church, and LW was raised going to a Congregationalist church. I went to a Catholic university, and as a result, I had to take 9 units of religious studies in order to graduate.

Warning! Tangent ahead...

Both the best and the worst class I took in religious studies was "Christianity and Its Practice." This class was all about the different denominations of Christianity. Each week, we studied a different denomination, and each weekend we attended a church service at that type of church. The following week, we would write a paper about that church and what we learned from the experience. So, for example, one week we studied the Baptist Church, then went to a worship service at a Baptist Church that Sunday. The next week we would write our paper on the Baptist church while we also studied the Episcopal church in preparation for the following Sunday, and so on and so forth... From that standpoint, it was an AWESOME class. I enjoyed it tremendously and learned a lot about different practices and traditions in Christianity. It was a great class.

I say it was both the best and the worst class I took in religious studies because of the Catholic priest who taught the class and his spin on the class content. He claimed that the class was all about ecumenism, which sounds good and noble. However, the way he presented his introduction to each "branch" of the church was like this: "Here is the history of when and what caused this branch of the church to break away from us, the true church. This is what's wrong with their beliefs and what they have to do in order to come back and rejoin us in the true church." He just came across very pretentious and snobby. Also, when I wrote my weekly papers, I refused to spew the Vatican theology on what was wrong with that church, so I got a D in the class. Please don't take this the wrong way. I'm NOT bashing the Catholic church. I'm just bashing that one very close-minded priest, that's all.

Anyway, what got me on that tangent was thinking about what a great class it was to set me up for future PCS moves and finding a new church home in each duty station.

End of Tangent - Resuming My Original Line of Thought.

So when I was on my JO tour in Groton, I found a church home in Old Mystic Baptist Church (OMBC). OMBC is an "American Baptist" church, which I would have told you back then was a more traditional-hymn, low-key type of church and did not appear at all like what I thought a stereotypical baptist church was.

After LW and I first met, we spent every weekend together. In fact, the first weekend we met, I took her with me to OMBC on Sunday morning. If I didn't have duty on the weekend, then I'd go up to Boston and we'd go to Park Street Church. If I had duty on the weekend, then she'd come down to Groton and we'd go to OMBC.
Aside: This was back in the days before terrorist threats when LW could show a bag of Boston Market food to the gate guard and say, "My boyfriend is the duty officer on the PROVIDENCE," and the gate guard would say, "Okay, have a nice time," and let her through the gate.
In any case, the style of the two churches was very similar (traditional hymns, similar worship service format and prayers, etc) and we each felt comfortable in either church.

After we got married, our next duty station was Monterey. We tried several churches there, but none ever felt "right" to us. We became very good friends with our neighbors Steve & Kim, though. They introduced us to KLOVE (for which I am and will be eternally grateful), and they also invited us to their church, FPC (First Presbyterian Church) in Salinas. Having grown up with traditional hymns played on an organ, I was a little uncomfortable with the contemporary Christian music at FPC. I mean, it just seemed WRONG to have electric guitars and drums in CHURCH. However, we really enjoyed the worship service overall, and the fellowship we shared with Steve & Kim. So we made a concession to "get over" or "put up with" the contemporary music at FPC for the rest of our time in Monterey.

Now, to FPC's credit - they played a mixture of traditional hymns and contemporary music. After a couple of years of listening to KLOVE and going to FPC, it had grown on me. When we got to our next duty station in San Diego, we went to Eastlake Church. Eastlake Church is ALL contemporary music, and I loved it!

Then we went on to DC and found a church home with Christ Community Church (CCC) in Ashburn, VA. The music there was mostly contemporary with a few hymns thrown in here and there, and I loved it!

Now, here we are in Hawaii. We've decided to make our church home FPC in Kaneohe, but it came with another concession... it's all traditional hymns, NO contemporary music.

So why the concession (and hence the blog post)?

Going back to earlier in this post, I mentioned how "church-shopping" is a lot harder with kids than it was without them. So the kids play a large role in the decision. I wouldn't say we would choose a church solely based on the kids' liking it. If we did, I'm sure we'd find some Church of the Patron Saint of Legos and All Things Star Wars that served seventeen varieties of candy, cookies, and ice cream for snack and played video games all morning long. However, we would definitely NOT go to a church where the kids were NOT comfortable. So, in bubblehead terminology, I guess you could say it's a tripwire or a go/no-go criteria for us in finding a church home. Did that make sense? A better way of saying that using some of that college philosophy and logic class would be: The kids liking the church is necessary but not sufficient for us to choose it as our new church home.

So anyway, the fact that ES was almost immediately comfortable at FPC, and actually likes to go was an immediate big thumbs up for FPC. It was a big hurdle for us to get over so quickly in our search. I mean, it's not just that he doesn't protest us taking him there, but that when we didn't go last week he was asking us why we weren't going.

YS is a different story... It took us a long time to get him to stay in the nursery / pre-school at CCC back in VA. After many weeks of seeing the same people, he eventually grew to like staying there with Nanny. So far, he's refused for us to leave him in the pre-school at FPC. (I suspect part of this may go back to this thing about Daddy taking off for 10 months and betraying the trust he had built in me being there all the time on shore duty - see previous long rambling post on that topic). Luckily, FPC has these neat little bags set up for small children in the sanctuary with coloring books and crayons. This morning LW pointed out to me that we never would have put up with this with ES and we would have forced him to stay in the pre-school, so why were we being lazy with YS?

She had a point. There was no way we'd ever get him to go willingly until he felt comfortable with it. So this morning I went with YS to the pre-school class. I should have done an ORM worksheet for sitting in one of those teeny-tiny little kid chairs. Uncomfortable as it was, it was important for YS.

I sat there in that chair that was about a third as big as my butt and drew pictures for YS and held them up for him to see from his vantage point curled up in a ball in the hallway outside the classroom. I told him he was being a hermit-crab and drew a picture of a hermit crab for him.

Eventually, I went out in the hallway, picked him up and brought him into the classroom to sit with me. Soon the free-time was over though, and we sat down with the rest of the kids on the floor for the lesson. I was actually very impressed with the pre-school Sunday school teacher and the "regulars" in her class. There were at least a dozen kids there. She sang a little song about "It's time to read the Bible." Then she asked the kids, "How many parts are there in the Bible?" A loud chorus came from the kids, "TWO!"
"What's the first part called?"
"The OLD testament!"
"What's the second part called?"
"The NEW testament!"
"What's the OLD testament about?"
"God's people!"
"What's the NEW testament about?"
I thought that was pretty impressive from a group of 3 and 4 year old kids! She went on to cover a story about David as a shepherd from the old testament, and she used a story board to put up little pictures to illustrate the story. Then the kids all did an activity sheet where they put stickers of sheep behind David and a sticker of the shepherd's staff in David's hand. I think it'll be great for YS... once he gets to know the teacher.

Lest you think we're going to FPC just for the kids, Pastor Dan Chun is a great speaker and we've really enjoyed his sermons. He instantly made me feel at ease the first time we attended FPC, but that's another long story, and LW says I ramble too long and put people to sleep with such long posts. So I'll stop now and let you get back to doing something more important with your day.


Future Chaps said...

I am a member of FPC Honolulu, and former sub officer, who is now at Seminary and I can tell you FPC is a great church. As for the music, you can find all the contemporary music you want at the Nightlife service and they do typically blend the contemporary and the traditional on Sunday mornings. The best part is you get to tell everyone you worship at a golf course.

Sagey said...

Future Chaps is right, they do blend. But they don't "rock" as we have become used to. As I told you, they had a great youth band yesterday while you were down in the preschool. I wanted to stand up and do a "woohoo" at the end. But I refrained and clapped politely as the rest of the congregation did. :-) And the location is FABULOUS! What a site to behold.

Black Shoe said...

Thank God.

The Angry Rant said...

*DISCLAIMER* - Practicing Catholic, not bashing - *DISCLAIMER*

You ever get the feeling the Borg from Star Trek: TNG is loosely based on the more obstinate members of the Catholic Church? "You will be Assimilated! Resistance is Futile!"

I think I'll start the 'Church of Legos and All Things Star Wars' - sounds GREAT!