A Sand Beach In A Sunday School Room

Chapter Five: A Sand Beach In A Sunday School Room

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I remember when the young Pastor asked me to teach Sunday School. A former Catholic teaching religion to first graders when I was still learning to be Lutheran? I didn’t think that was a good fit. But because I wasn’t into saying no in those days and because I wanted to fit in, though terrified, I accepted.

Little did I know the first time I said yes would lead me to teach sixth grade, then confirmation, finally serving as Sunday School Superintendent for many years. As I look back I have to analyze whether I said yes because I wanted to be liked or belong or whether I really wanted to teach young minds about Jesus. I think it was a little bit of both. I hadn’t counted on learning right along with the youngsters.

We had young Pastors so they knew what young kids liked and were on the pulse with what was happening because they had young families. The older generation of people at that time seemed to be open to some changes when it came to the kids.

Remembering how I grew up I wanted to make learning about Jesus interesting. We chanted Bible Verses, we told the story so kids could understand and one year we had a night family Bible School. We decorated the rooms to the hilt with a real beach with sand in one room, rowboats, nifty food, drama, storytelling and music. It was memorable and well planned. The older generation joined us too. We blended the old with the young. The older generation helped us shape our kid’s belief in God. We couldn’t have done it without them.

And I learned about the Bible, something I didn’t get from my old religion. Being a young adult I still didn’t give the structure much thought because the church was booming and it didn’t feel so structured as to be intimidating or judgmental. It was a growing time and members were excited about the growth. Although one of the things which did frustrate me was the amount of money spent on education versus keeping the church beautiful and perfect.

Perfection was part of the establishment which made me want to scream. Imagine stacking silverware perfectly in the drawers in the kitchen one by one with not one item out of place or we got into trouble with the kitchen ladies. What did that have to do with God? At another Lutheran Church which I belonged to, I was helping with a Ladies Luncheon and there were two sets of silverware. Being a new member of the church I didn’t know. After I had the entire room set with one of the sets of silverware I was told I needed to change the silverware. A little note here–the silverware all looked good.

I said I thought it looked fine. I was told to change it or I could leave. I was a little over the wanting to belong, so I said I could arrange that and started to get my purse to leave. They must have thought about it and the silverware stayed and so did I, but my views started changing on what church should be. These are the tiny little things that made me start to question religious institutions. What was their priority?

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It’s Lutheran Time

Chapter Four: My journey as a Lutheran

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I started to question religion when I was in high school. Many of my friends were Lutheran and I liked what they were learning. I could believe their teachings much easier than some of my Catholic teachings.

One of the biggest problems I had was going to confession. Yes, I thought I needed confession but I didn’t understand why I needed to go through a Priest to ask for God’s forgiveness or how the way I confessed my sins by reciting a list that I wasn’t sure was right, made a difference.

I graduated from high school and spent some time in college before quitting to go to work. During this time I met my husband to be. Before we could get married he had to go through marriage instruction in the Catholic Church. He was turned off and so was I from his joining the Catholic Church when the Priest made a comment about the Vikings and used a derogatory word against another race during a conversation. I must admit that too made me question my roots.

A few short months later my father died. The funeral was in the Methodist Church and it made me sad that the first time I attended his church was the day of his funeral. What it would have meant to him for us to go to church together when he was alive, but he never questioned the authority of the religion I was raised in.

Later on, I would find letters during my mom and dad’s thirteen-year courtship of the problems they had getting married because of the difference in their religion, something as a young child and teenager I had never thought of and it was something they never spoke of. It took them thirteen years to challenge the stigma of what then was called a mixed marriage.

My first son was baptized Catholic in a private baptism because of my husband not being Catholic. At least one sponsor had to be Catholic and that was no problem since my best friend during my grade school and high school years was Catholic.

Observing my husband’s family and what his brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews knew of the Bible and the education in the church, I made the decision to change religions. I wanted something for my family I never had growing up and that was to go to church as a family.

So I started instruction in the Lutheran Church from the Pastor I mentioned earlier. My mother told me I was going to hell because I was changing religions. It was not an easy time but she loved her grandchildren and so she tempered her judgment–still, over the years it would come up in subtle ways, such as her reluctance to attend communion and confirmation of her grandchildren.

Her feelings were still prevalent when she was in her nineties. She never let go of telling me I was going to hell because I was a Lutheran and not Catholic. It caused me sadness and her heartache because of her views. Can you imagine believing your only child was going to hell?

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