Why growing up in a church home can really hurt – part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot about Orlando and about how so many pastors condemned the dead and not the shooter. It brought back a lot of bad memories of growing up in church and hiding for all the years before I came out and had to leave the church or rather, they left me.

I was raised in the largest Presbyterian church in the US at the time. We always had a minimum of 5 pastors, an executive pastor, an asst, a pastor that did hospital visits, a youth pastor, a college pastor and we also had Christian ED heads, usually the only woman on the executive staff and a Minister of Music. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Presbyterian_Church_of_Hollywood

There were a multitude of choirs and we were world famous for the one that ranked the highest. I started in Carol Choir and moved up to the all girl Lyric choir in Junior high, I was also in a special choir that sang at Junior Church, Wylie Chapel Choir during second service which was supposed to be an honour to be asked to be in but most of us were choir brats whose parents were in the main choir, The Cathedral choir. There was also a High School choir and a choir that was a mix of people not good enough to be in Cathedral Choir and college kids that I skipped called the Chancel Choir and got into Cathedral Choir after High School and I was in the Sunday night choir called the Happening, (hey it was the 70s.) and we got to sing more modern music. We also had a bell choir for each age group and I was in those along with my brother and eventually my sister.

We started Sunday School at 2 years of age and started learning the Bible and memorizing to for awards, a Bible in third grade, filling up shields with memorized passages, (they were shields because they represented the armour of God). This why the holy rollers and Bible beaters can’t get far with me because I usually know the Bible better than they do. I was in Church every Sunday and at Bible Study during the week when I was older. We took catechism in 7th grade to become members of the church and that was the first big time I was aware that maybe I didn’t fit in. I had feelings before this about it. I had difficulty memorizing and Saturday nights before I had to recite some new thing were absolute torture, if I couldn’t sing it I had real trouble remembering  it. I felt really bad about it. I was told I wasn’t trying hard enough.

The year I joined the church I had to make some decisions. At the time I was dad’s punching bag when he got mad and I decided to tell the Elder that interviewed us to join about it and I did and I was told to honour my father and mother in all things. So I made my first act of rebellion. I refused to get baptized when I joined the church. Presbyterians dedicate their babies to raise them in the church and you are supposed to be baptized when you join the church. I told my parents it was because I didn’t want to get up in front of the church which shouldn’t have made any sense since we had to be in the front of the church to join and I was in front all the time when I was in choir and when I did other things but they bought it, even though my best friend was doing it.

My Dad was Head Usher, he was an Elder, he had been a Deacon. He had status in church and I did not. My mom was in Cathedral Choir, and was at one point, President of the Women’s Auxillary, She was President of Elder’s Wives and when women were allowed to be Deacons and Elders she became a Deacon. Wives and husbands couldn’t be Elders or Deacons at the same time. They were in their adult Sunday School classes. Mom was also the Executive Secretary for the Minister of Music. She had status.

We were in church at least 3 days a week, usually more. The only respite I got was summer when I was with my grandparents who for some reason did not go in the summer. That was when we took trips to be in nature. That was when I became a sponge to what my grandmother was teaching about nature and faeries and family stories. That was when I was free.

About 7th grade I became aware that I liked girls way more than the girls around me who liked boys. So not only did what they were teaching in church make me in uncomfortable but the only kind of church I felt at home in was when we went to camp.

They sent us to some conference where the minister yelled about the evils of holding hands and kissing boys and I felt relieved because I had no desire to do it anyway.

I would sit in Sunday School and make up questions to ask my Sunday School teachers. Miss Pringle was our 7th grade Sunday School teacher. She was older than God and had no business teaching a bunch of 12 year olds in the late 1960s. We were smarter than her and we knew it. I remember asking why is was okay for Mary to be an unwed mother and not us? She freaked out at the question and scolded all of us. This was on my mind because my mother has started going on about being an unwed mother and that it would be the worst thing in the world if I did that. Since I didn’t like boys, I found it amusing.

But I was feeling more and more alienated and out of place and the feeling only grew as I got older. No one ever told me there was such a thing as lesbians and this was pre-Stonewall. I only ever heard about gay men and how it was so sad about them being “HOMOSEXUALS” even though I could see Jim in my mom’s choir was anything but sad and I loved him because he was always encouraging me to try new things like design needlework patterns. He loved to needlepoint and at the time I did a lot of it too.