#152 In which our hero discusses his church.
I have an uneasy relationship with organized religion. I’m the youngest kid (I have three older sisters -- and I mean much older… there is seven years between me and my youngest sister, 15 years between me and my oldest sister) and Mom and Dad were pretty much tired of going to church by the time I came around, so I was never exposed to organized religion growing up. Add to that the fact that so many people seem to use their religion as a crutch, not to mention all the people trying to force their beliefs down my throat… well, it all adds up to me not being especially motivated to dedicating myself to weekly Sunday services.
However, when The Scientist and I got married and started talking about kids, we both agreed that it would be a good thing to take our kids to church. Not so much in a “so they don’t burn in hell!” way, but more that we hope they’ll grow up to be well-rounded and educated kids. I always vaguely felt like I missed out on something by not being part of a church when all my friends growing up were.
So then we needed to decide what flavor of religion we would expose our children to. The Scientist was brought up Catholic, but we both have big problems with some of their teachings, so that one was out. My father was Jewish, but never practiced, and I don’t consider myself Jewish (and since Mom isn’t a Jew, I guess officially I’m not) so that one was out. We planned on making the rounds of a couple of local churches to see if we felt at home anywhere.
And we actually never got past the first one we visited, a United Methodist church right up the street. The welcoming committee -- a gaggle of cute little old ladies -- descended on us after services, plying us with coffee and cookies and generally being extremely nice to us (and not too intrusive). We were looking for someone to marry us at the time, and since we hit it off with the pastor right away, that was a big plus, too. So we found a church.
And before having kids, we were really pretty good about going. Our attendance dropped off after the pastor we liked so much was transferred, which is very commonplace with the Methodists. We weren’t so keen on the new pastor and her boring, rambling sermons.
And once we had babies, that really curtailed our church-going. Neither of our kids want to sit still for an hour, so we end up chasing them around the back of the church while everyone else is singing and otherwise being filled up with God. And after awhile we realized that we could not hear the sermon as easily from our family room as from the basement of the church, so why not just stay home? We hope to return more regularly when the girls are a little older and/or we come up with better threats.
Which is all a long-winded way of expressing my “ugh, why am I here?” frame of mind last night at a church meeting.
Here’s the thing: our church is very small and is full of old people. In the last five years, I would guess that there were 3x as many deaths as births in the congregation. The church is constantly in fear of having the home office pull the plug due to low attendance and spiraling costs and just shut the whole place down. And while The Scientist and I aren’t exactly active members, we like most of the people there (there’s a few assholes everywhere, I guess), and we’d hate to see the church shuttered.
So when the administrative council nominated me to be part of the evangelism committee, I accepted. Now, this committee isn’t the public preachin’/come to Jesus thing its name implies, it’s more membership and recruiting. And since I work in advertising, I thought I might be able to bring a few ideas to the table, maybe boost membership a tad.
I created a brochure and made some guest cards for the pews. Then I wrote up a bunch of ideas that I thought could help membership; I broke these into “free,” “some cost” and “never in a million years could the church afford this.”
And there’s the rub.
The chair of the evangelism committee keeps bringing out this list of ideas like it’s the, um, like it’s a really important book. She keeps saying that she doesn’t want any of these great ideas to fall between the cracks.
Buuut… the problem is that she doesn’t know the great, dark secret that all advertising people know but don’t talk about: this shit might not work.
I mean, it’s all reasonable thinking, and it would probably work, on some level… but it’s a crap shoot, really. Like all advertising, you do what’s worked before and hope it will work again. See, in the advertising world if you try something once and it gets the results you were hoping for, it’s PROVEN. Never mind that maybe it was luck, and next time it will flop. It’s PROVEN TO WORK! So while this chair keeps hammering at implementing my ideas, I’m less enthusiastic about it… because yeah, they may work, but then again, they may not.
The reality is that the church is in dire straights, without enough income to pay the monthly bills, let alone the repairs that need to be done to the façade. We don’t have enough money nor manpower to really do half the things I’ve suggested.
And now, the new pastor (yeah, another one) wants to split the evangelism committee into two groups: one for current members, and one to drum up new members. Naturally, they asked me to head the new committee.
And miraculously, I somehow mustered the wherewithal to say NO.
See, I know me. Unless I’m really excited about a project, I’ll procrastinate and put it off until the last possible minute. If it’s an open-ended task, I may blow it off altogether. Plus, I already have a couple of other projects starring me in the face, daring me to get off my ass and just do them.
And yeah, I feel a little shitty about it, since it’s basically my own laziness preventing me from maybe doing something good for this good little church. I dunno. I’m willing to pitch in, I just don’t want to run the show.
Guilt. Shame. Uneasiness. I guess I have found religion after all.