Tag Archive | church

Why growing up in church can kill your heart Part 2

I didn’t know there was a lesbian couple right in front of me keeping watch. The head of Christian Ed was a woman that had lived with the first head of Christian Ed, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrietta_Mears. Henrietta Mears lived with Ethel Mae Baldwin until her death and then Ethel Mae took over and no one ever thought that they might be in a relationship but after Henrietta died, Ethel May moved in with Adrienne. Ethel Mae was evidently keeping watch over me and I think she knew pretty early on about me. She is the one that encouraged me to start camp counselling at Forest Home, the camp church had founded.

Year after year I did it, starting in 9th grade and until I started working full time at the YWCA camp. She always gave me the kids that were going to be a challenge in some way and one time I asked her why and she told me that because I had been the kid that was a challenge she knew I could handle them with love and I did. It wasn’t until I came out many years later and she was gone I realized just how close an eye she was keeping on me considering how big the Sunday School had grown but she did know my mom and dad.

The first year I came home from working at the YW camp I had changed. I had created different person to be. I was more out going, I knew what I liked and didn’t like and I had learned to stand up for myself. I wasn’t as shy and retreating. So I came back with the first inklings that I really, really didn’t fit. The only place I felt safe and where I felt holy and sacred was outside and church was feeling like a prison. And I was oblivious to men. When the married choir director hit on me someone else had to tell me and since he had known me since I was little and mom worked for him it was more than a little creepy. So I ignored it.

Working at a Girl Scout camp after 2 years at the YW camp, I was beginning to be sure I liked women but I would be in the closet for 4 more years. I went to women’s music concerts with my friends but until I fell hard in love couldn’t take the step. Meanwhile my parents were freaking out that Cam was gay and I was still invisible. Although mom did ask one of the ministers about lesbians and he told her there was no such thing. Right, his daughter was a dyke. At that point every single minister had a kid that was exploring gay behaviour in some way. All but one came out and stayed out.

But I was really struggling because church was making it clear gay people were evil even though I knew several men were in choir, I was the lone lesbian. I literally lay awake many nights knowing that if the people I had known all my life knew my heart some of them would hate me. I lived in fear that people would know by looking at me and it appeared some did when my brother finally asked if I was because the gay men in choir had been discussing me. This was not helped by a male friend in choir was making shy overtures to date me and I was trying to figure out ways to avoid it. I had no desire to hurt his feelings but the quiet ones always seemed to think I was date material. I prayed so hard to be straight, guess what? the Gods and Goddesses don’t care if you’re gay.

But I kind of wanted to be caught because I cut my hair off very short and only wore t shirts, jeans, boots and flannel shirts. But finally the fear and the stress got too much and I walked away from my church home. And the minute people found out why, my parents lost friends.Some people who had known me since birth decided Cam and I were evil and that my parents had raised us wrong. Church friends gave my mom books on how to straighten us out.

Mom tried to trick me into going to the church psychs by driving her to her alleged appt and she wanted me to go in with her and I told her I had a good book and I refused to get out of the car. So she went in and came back out again and we went home. Mom being a severe narcissist did not take my coming out well at all because it reflected back on her.

I did not see any of those people again for over 15 years at my dad’s funeral where my mom had the minister give an altar call because of me and the pagan friends that came to support me. I was so furious and none of them came to my brother’s funeral, they did come to mom’s and barely spoke to me.

So I lost the place where I did a lot of growing up, where I thought people loved me and found out I was mostly only loved if I didn’t step out of line. They should have known something was up when I was 9. The first time I went to church camp in the third grade we had to write down what we wanted to be when we grew up and they sealed it in an envelope. When we closed up my parent’s house when dad died, I found it in mom’s dresser. I had written in crayon, “I want to be a minister”. When I had said it at camp it was one of the few times in my life I was told that girls couldn’t do something.

Joke was on them. I’m a priestess of the Goddess and an Arch Druidess and I’m a dyke.

Note: the church I grew up has now voted to be part of the retrograde Presbyterians that want nothing to do with gays. You would think as many of us that grew up there would have changed a few minds but I guess not

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.

Memories of a friend and apprehensive about the movie

There’s a movie coming out next week that I really want to see. It’s Unbroken. I haven’t read the book yet. I have it on my Kindle and part of me doesn’t want to read it for a very good reason. I knew and loved Louis and I don’t want my memories messed up with reading a book.

I don’t have many heroes from growing up but Louis Zamperini is a big one. He’s wasn’t only a hero is was a friend and mentor and someone who was loved just because he was Louis. He was our Junior Hi Summer Sunday School teacher, he was one of our church chaperones for our weekly trips to Santa Monica Beach. He was an amazing person.

We used to sit for hours on the beach listening to him talk about his experiences. He spoke about the Olympics and meeting Hitler. He wasn’t impressed. He told us about wanting a souvenir with his buddies and deciding a flag was a good one and about not meaning to cause an international incident. He told us about his friend, Jesse Owens.

He told us about the horrors of being shot down in the Pacific and about what the Japanese did to him when he was a POW and about the one guard that was the worst. The one that found out he had been an Olympic runner so the guard broke his legs and made him run down the road. He told us about learning to forgive after learning to hate.

He wasn’t very tall and wasn’t physically imposing but once you spent any time with him you couldn’t forget his loving smile or gentle voice. He had the most amazing white chest hair I’ve ever seen and he told us it had turned white overnight when he was in the POW camp being tortured. He used to give us huge long lectures on skin cancer and sunscreen back in the 60’s before anyone else was talking about it. He’d yell when he saw the bottles of baby oil we were using to tan and tell us we should just go jump in a frying pan. He would really yell at me because I burned so easy but when you’re 13 you’re immortal and indestructible and think adults are crazy. He used to talk to us about dreaming and what we wanted to do and get a bit peeved at me because I never really let myself dream.

When we got older he started to be in charge of the Seniors programs at church. They had daily lunches for the elderly in the neighborhood with programs and activities around our church in Hollywood. My mom was the Music secretary for the church and during summers I was occasionally her indentured servant and would get to carry a message down to Louis and chat for a bit if he wasn’t busy. He even came to my dad’s funeral at church.

Anyway, I do want to see the movie and they better not mess it up. I’ve never seen a movie about someone I knew and someone I loved. I still see his big smile shining in my mind.louis 2 louis

This is Louis on one of the church ski trips and he’s skateboarding in the chuch garden outside the Sunday School building

Poetry Month – My favourite childhood hymn -Be Thou My Vision

I so loved this hymn from the moment I heard it in children’s choir at church that I memorized it that night. Later that night mom woke up to loud singing. I was sitting bolt upright in bed and singing it in my sleep at the top of my lungs. Something I would never have done while awake. LOL!

The version I sing

Be thou my vision, O Lady of my heart,
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought by day and the night,
Waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, thou my true word,
Tthou ever with me, and I with thee Lady;
Be thou my great Mother, and I thy true one;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
Thou my whole armour, Thou my true might;
Thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise me heavenward, great Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise:
Thou mine inheritance now and always;
Thou and thou only the first in my heart;
O high queen of Heaven, my treasure thou art.

High Queen of Heaven, thou Heaven’s bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won!;
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

Modern Irish
Bí Thusa ’mo shúile a Rí mhór na ndúil
Líon thusa mo bheatha mo chéadfaí ’s mo stuaim
Bí thusa i m’aigne gach oíche ’s gach lá
Im chodladh no im dhúiseacht, líon mé le do ghrá.

Bí thusa ’mo threorú i mbriathar ’s i mbeart
Fan thusa go deo liom is coinnigh mé ceart
Glac cúram mar Mathair, is éist le mo ghuí
Is tabhair domsa áit cónaí istigh i do chroí.

Modern Scots Gaelic
Dèan dhòmh-sa tuigse,
Cuir soils’ air mo smuain;
Dh’iarrainn gur Tu
Bhiodh ’gam stiùreadh gach uair;
Làmh rium ’s an oidhche
Is romhan ’s an tràth,
Réidh rium ’sa mhadainn
Agus glèidh mi tro’n latha.

Ceartas do m’ bhriathran
Agus fìrinn do m’ bheul,
Thusa toirt iùil dhomh
’S mi dlùth riut, a Dhè.
Mathair, thoir gràdh dhomh,
Gabh mis’ thugad fhéin;
Cum mi ri d’ thaobh
Is bi daonnan ’nam chrè.

Dìon mi, a Thighearna,
Ri mo chliathaich ’s gach feachd;
Cum mi fo d’ sgiath
’S thoir dhomh misneachd is neart,
Fasgadh do m’ anam
Is mi ri d’uchd dlùth;
Treòraich mi dhachaigh,
Dhè chumhachdaich Thu.
Beartas cha’n fhiach leam;
No miann chlann ’nan daoin’,
Thusa na m’ fhianais
Fad làithean mo shaogh’il
Thusa, Dhè ghràsmhoir,
A-mhain na mo chrìdh’,
Le blaths is gràdh sìorraidh,
Mo thighearna ’s mo Rìgh.

How a cradle Presbyterian becomes a pagan

I grew up in the Presbyterian church here in the US, The biggest Presbyterian church in the US in the 50s, 60s, and 70’s, Hollywood First Presbyterian Church. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Presbyterian_Church_of_Hollywood, known to us as Hollywood Pres. I left in my early 20s for many reasons. I came out of the closet in 1979 and even though every minister at the time had a gay kid they were majorly homophobic especially to lesbians. I also had been finding that other than music there was very little that worked for me and never really had worked. My parents made the mistake of sending me to camp/Forest Home and sending me to spend summers with my grandmother. If it hadn’t been for choir I never would have lasted as long as I did.

Because there were a lot of Scots still in the congregation it was not a liberal church. We had a rather forbidding bunch of Elders of which my father was one. No alcohol, so if you wanted a wedding with anything in the punch you couldn’t have it at church. No smoking, I never remember seeing anyone smoke, ever, at church. You just didn’t do it. And since as an EK and CK ( Elder’s kid and Choir Kid) I went everywhere whether I was supposed to or not we would have seen it.

We found out the hard way about no dancing, Highland dancing was allowed but no boy – girl dancing. The year I was in 7th grade the Junior Hi minister planned a Halloween party for us. It was in the church gym that had been the first sanctuary and was rather spooky and gothic anyway and they made the basement showers into a haunted house. We had a grand time doing games and the older Elders invaded like the wrath of God in black suits and had a conniption fit and sent everyone home. Thank heaven my dad wasn’t part of that but my poor friend Dee ended up in tears when all of them landed on her to scold because she was dressed as a “Tool of Satan”. She was dressed as a die and I think her mom made the costume and I’m sure never dreamed that would happen. No gambling or card playing.

The only thing legally fun we could do, was sing and the Church had world known choirs. Big Choir – Cathedral choir that my mom was in and that Cam and I joined in High School and they sang every Sunday, Chancel Choir for the ones that couldn’t make Cathedral, High School choir, Lyric – Jr Hi girls, Crusader Choir were the boys, a special audition only choir for kids – Wylie Chapel choir that sang every Sunday for 2nd service Junior Church, and the little kids – Carol Choir and we had bellringer choir for every age too. Personally, I think Wylie Chapel Choir was started as a way to control the choir kids that were on the loose when their parents were in Cathedral Choir because almost all of us were choir kids. But we were still on the loose summers.

In summers we raised hell. I remember when we found the hatch behind the organ pipes on the 4th floor and found out we could sneak out and look at the congregation far below. Some clown even pitched a paper air plane one Sunday, after that they remembered to lock the hatch. We dared people to go up and sit in the bell tower when the carillon was ringing. You only did that once. Your ears rang for days.

We played hide and seek in the basement and thru places we had no business being. We snuck off to the corner liquor store for candy and soda. We basically did all the things we had no business doing but did because we were bored and knew full well we shouldn’t. Someone invented a game where if you could get into the sanctuary when there wasn’t a service you could slide from the back of the church under the pews all the way to the front on your stomach. That was fine until you got splinters in your stomach.

But we also started Sunday School at age two after we left the Nursery. Bible verse memorization started at 4 or 5 so you knew some when you graduated with your cap and gown to First Grade Sunday School to 3rd Grade where you learned Bible Verses to earn your Bible with your name engraved in gold on the front of your black leather copy of KJV. I think there were about 25 things we had to learn. When we got to 4th grade we got Shields to put memory verses on that had to be recited to the Memory Work Ladies. My idea of torture since I have trouble memorizing anything that is longer than 4 lines and doesn’t have music. Which is why I sang the Doxology, The Apostles Creed, the books of the Bible, the Christmas Story from Matthew & Luke, Thank you Peanuts! And we got a shape for the verse to staple on our shield which represented the armor of God from Ephesians.

When we got to 7th grade we started catechism classes and had to learn the short and long catechism. I think I still have my catechism book somewhere. This was so we could join the church. At the end of the year we got interviewed by the Elders. I finally spilled that I was getting the tar beaten out of me by my dad and was told it was my fault and that I needed to “honour my father and mother.” Not the answer I wanted and I think that was what led to my final shut down and I refused to be baptized with the others. My best friend did and almost everyone else did and they chalked it up to being shy since it was before the whole congregation. Presbyterians dedicate babies not baptize so other than my baby sprinkle I never was baptized. (Dedication is for the parents to profess they will raise the child as a Presbyterian.)

The only reason I stayed after that I was held captive by being 12 years old in a church going household. We went to church 2 services on Sunday, (three on holidays) at least one choir practice and sometimes 2 or three practices and for Bible Study or youth events all the way through High School. On the way I was taught that Catholics weren’t Christian, they were idol worshippers. This led to feeling really weird and surreal the 2 years I worked at a Catholic girls camp. I learned that Baptists, didn’t read or study the Bible properly so they were stupid and they were histrionic because they yelled in Church and held their hands up in the air and believed in speaking in tongues and only loons did that. That we were not born again and Baptists had no clue about how to study and interpret the Bible, they were lazy and let the minister do it for them. I can remember Lloyd John Ogillvie’s first Sunday. He yelled, “And the people of God said Amen!” and there was dead silence while the congregation stared at him and didn’t answer “Amen”. And finally there came A very proper Scottish old woman’s voice from the balcony above the pulpit, saying, “WE DON”T DO THAT!”

We learned the difference between High and Low Episcopals and Lutherans and that the High variety might as well be Catholics because they couldn’t say the Lord’s Prayer properly and say debtors not trespassers.

We did learn some Hebrew to be able to better interpret scripture because the emphasis was to be able to critically think your way through scripture and it’s why I can literally talk circles around people who don’t know their Scripture. Better known as – how to have fun with Bible thumpers and idiots. Just ask them which version of the creation story in Genesis do they follow and watch the fun ensue. The only problem was critical thinking led me to question myself right out the Church.

While this church craziness was going on I was spending the summers with my maternal grandparents and my grandmother was a 180 degrees away from her very correct daughter. My grandmother was the free spirit who loved nature and she and grandpa dragged me all over Southern California to anywhere she felt I could learn something. I learned architecture on trips with them to see the buildings grandpa had designed. ( He worked for Hunt and Chambers) I learned charms and embroidery and divination sitting on her lap by her desk. I watched the ants march around the wrap around porch of the Craftsman house lying on my stomach and changing their pathways. We went to zoos and parks and tidepools and piers. We went to talk to the whales at Marineland. We walked and talked to the trees in the neighborhood. We planted in the garden. I learned about the Fair Folk. I learned about our clan’s history. I learned faery tales and myths and songs to sing to make things work. She basically covered the 7 gifts of Druidry from a child’s perspective. I’m not sure if that was by design or she planned it but I know she called it “What we do”.

I still retain somethings I learned in church. I don’t like fuss or grandstanding of fanciness in ritual for the sake of doing it. Everything should have meaning. I interpret what I read in context. I believe in research and then UPG and not the other way around. I don’t drink or smoke. I have a Presbyterian sense of humour. I prefer the intricate and educated to the Three Stooges/Jackass variety of humour. I still prefer critical thinking to taking anyone’s word for anything. I learned to question authority and I do and to know why I should or should not believe anything. I learned my sense of justice there. A lot of the Founding Fathers were Presbyterian including the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Witherspoon. I believe service is an important part of spirituality and we were to give service to others and one of the reasons I’m still a Girl Scout. So yes, being raised Presbyterian has had an influence on my paganism.

This is choir recognition Sunday at the church I grew up in

image

My Mom, brother and I are all in this pic. My Mom is in the adult choir in choir loft. My brother is one of the bellringers down in front middle and I’m in the girl’s choir near the harp. Those organ pipes in back are the ones we use to crawl behind and look out at the congregation during church.

I miss hymn singing

I have a confession to make. I miss things like the Doxology and hymns from church when I was a kid. Pagan don’t really have any good hymns except bastardized hymns like “Heretic Heart” which when I was a kid was “I sing the almighty power of God” and I always have to shift mental gears to sing it.

But I really miss my three favourite hymns, “For the Beauty of the Earth”, This is my Father’s World” and “Be Thou My Vision.” You can sort of sing all three as a pagan with substitution of certain words like Mother for Father but for someone who grew up singing every Sunday in a church choir once we got to a certain age it’s a hard thing to miss. I started in church choir in 3rd grade but I didn’t sing every Sunday until I got to 6th grade and joined Wylie Chapel Choir. Wylie Chapel Choir was the choir that sang in Junior Church. Junior Church was a kids service that happened every Sunday led my Pastor Jim. The kids that went to it were the kids whose parents had to be in second service like Elders, the adult choir, ushers, minister’s kids, parents in adult Sunday School who went to the 1st service in big church.

Junior church was exactly like big church in liturgy but with kid friendly sermons and a choir full of imps that were mostly the children of the afore mentioned adults. I guess it kept us from doing our summer activities year round. Things like climbing the belfry, getting up behind the organ pipes in the attic and peering over into church during the service and playing hide and seek in the basement. It didn’t stop me from taking out a loose nail in the choir pew and nailing Jerry’s cotta to the pew during the service because he was annoying the crap out of me. They just thought he’d caught it on a nail when the big ripping sound went. Not that I had quite carefully removed it and put it back through the material all while he sat there oblivious and unless he reads my blog he will never know. And I’m not sorry because he was being a pill that day.

I loved Junior Church. Pastor Jim had the coolest sermons and if you could answer a question you got cool prizes like a weather balloon or the bullfrog I was exceedingly delighted to win, mom not so much. Pastor Jim was the worst practical joker I ever met as a kid and gave me all sorts of ideas when I became a camp staff. He got me in the commission of many crimes as a kid. He said he could think like us. Although once he caught me and didn’t realize we were in the commission of a crime and we still ended up locked out and having to wake someone to let us in.

But back to hymns, I miss them. There is something about singing hymns that pagans haven’t gotten yet and may never because a lot of pagans have no church background. So I sing “This is my Mother’s World” in the car. I remember being delighted that “Song of the Soul” by Cris Williamson started with one of my childhood hymns and none of the other dykes knew it. “Open my eyes, that I may see.” It felt like Cris and my secret.