There are Heaven and Hell, and Church – Part One
13 of #100DaysToOffload
I have rarely enjoyed attending church.
This is a terrible thing for a Christian to admit, but I have always felt that if heaven was going to be like a church service, hell could be tempting.
My attempts to find a church, one in which I could be content, has had mixed success. But from early childhood, the signs were not good.
My earliest memory of church was of being sent to the Free Presbyterians. The Free Presbyterian Church was founded by Rev Ian Paisley, a firebrand preacher and politician who in later years became pivotal in forming a government with his enemy. I was sent to the Sunday School, not because my parents followed Paisley, but because the church was across the road where we lived.
After a year or so I stopped going, for reasons unknown.
Then it was the turn of the Church of Ireland. My Dad became a part-time caretaker. While I loved the area we lived in, with the green countryside, narrow roads and peaceful, just like where I live now, I had no option but to attend the church. Many of my school friends attended too, so it was like an extension of school.
With every house move, comes a new church. And so it was in 1980 we moved again. This time parents dragged me to a regular Presbyterian outlet, my Dad's childhood church. The minister was the same who christened me as a baby.
Boredom only begins to describe what was the longest 90 minutes of the week. Every Sunday, to pass a few minutes during the service, I would look at the coins I had for the free-will offering, and try to think of the James Bond film made closest to the year the coins were minted.
Looking at ten new pence, 1973. That would be Live And Let Die.
Once I reached the tender age of sixteen, I put my foot down and refused to go to church any more.
In my early twenties, I went to a new church voluntarily, the Church of the Nazarene.
I fitted in well with the Nazarenes. I got involved in the youth group, made new friends and fell in love. But falling in love spelt disaster.
Sexual fun, losing virginity and an acrimonious split with a girlfriend followed.
So I went churchless for years. Occasionally I tried a new church, especially if I knew a nice girl attended.
In 1997 I married and happily decided to join Rita's church – Presbyterian again. The minister who married us was of the younger generation, and he managed to keep my attention during sermons.
Query: Why do all church services test people's sleep threshold with sermons?
After ten years, a new minister came along, and there has never been a more sleep-inducing preacher. Missing weeks became missing months.
But by this time Rita was becoming discouraged about the church too. Here was the church Rita grew up with, her parents attended, we married there, and the services were like watching paint dry.
Rita also had the beginnings of a calling. A calling to work for God and serve the church – just not the one we were in.
Next door to our home stands a beautiful old building, a Church of Ireland built in the 1890s. We started visiting, then after four weeks became members. It was the beginning of a deeper involvement for both of us.
Rita began training for a lay readership, and I became a warden.
What more could I have hoped for?
The Church of Ireland beside us was warm and welcoming. The people were lovely, the Rector spoke of the supernatural aspects of God, and all within a one minute walk from our front door.
All was going well until the Free Masons began to plot against the Rector.
To be continued in Part Two.