Reflections

Reflections - Sunday

Eleanor Deckert

Today is Sunday. I am getting ready to go to church.

Shower and dress. Do my hair. Pretty shoes. Easy breakfast. Watch the clock. Time to go.

I love going to church. Stand to sing. Kneel to pray. Listen to familiar readings. Pay attention to the sermon. Recite the Creed. Ears filled with the voices. Eyes filled with the candles, the robes, the stained glass windows. Heart nourished by the ritual.

My parents took all five of us kids to church every Sunday. It is just what people did back in the 1960s. We knew we would be going to church because we did so many things to get ready. All five of us lined up for Saturday night baths. Daddy polished our shoes. Mother ironed the girls’ dresses and the boys’ white shirts.

On Sunday morning, Mother made a special breakfast: French toast or sourdough pancakes. Meanwhile, she got the roast and potatoes into the oven and set the timer. Daddy picked up the newspapers and vacuumed the living room. The girls lined up for mother to brush our hair. The boys lined up for Daddy to thread their belts into the belt loops. Mother wore her Sunday coat with the fur collar. Daddy looked over his shoulder, “Everybody have their seat belts on?”

Cars filled the parking lot. Children spilled out and filed in. Girls in fluffy pastel dresses. Boys in their miniature suits and ties. Mothers with a baby in their lap. Dads with a toddler in their arms. Ladies with their hats and purses. Gentlemen holding the door open.

Mother gave each of us a final inspection before we entered. Tuck in your shirt. Pull up your socks. Straighten your tie. Smooth down your hair. Daddy gave us each a dime to hold until the collection plate was passed.

The Baby stayed in the nursery. The children were excused part way into the hour so they could go to Sunday school. The adults heard the sermon. The robed choir provided strength to the hymns and a harmonious interlude. The preacher wore a long black robe.

Afterwards, there was coffee and cookies and the adults had time to visit with friends. The children played tag out on the lawn.

When we got home Mother said, “Change into your play clothes!” The smell of the roast in the oven filled the whole house. Sunday Dinner was a special meal. In the afternoon we could play outside or Daddy would teach us chess or get out a board game. He coached the younger ones. Mother must have been taking a well-deserved and rare nap while the Baby slept.

“It’s almost time for ‘Lassie.’ Get your PJs on!” Mother would call up the stairs. Scrambling so as not to miss the first scene, we all arrived at the TV room just as Mother brought up the tray so we could eat Cheerios, and later popcorn, while we watched Walt Disney.

Well choreographed, these family traditions brought me a sense of stability. “This is how things are. Always have been. Always will be.”

And yet, it would seem that 50 years later, this kind of family pattern is nearly extinct.

Two pay-cheque families, inter-faith marriages, fewer children, sporting events, distraction of screens of all kinds, and a very different view of child-rearing bring many alternatives into the weekend options.

“Do you want to …?” Parents ask their children. Exhausted by the continual coming and going, the weekend becomes time for chores and preparation for the work week ahead.

Empty pews. Grey-haired congregation. Elderly clergy. Will ‘going to church’ be a thing of the past in another decade?

“God is dead!” some shouted in rebellion. “It’s boring,” youth complained. “Multi-multiculturalism” became a trend. Gender roles, family economics, shifting loyalties, dismissing dusty traditions, clamouring consumerism, divorce and other adjustments to the nuclear family, media pressures, all sorts of interruptions and alternative amusements have replaced how we spend our time, value our values and build and strengthen our core beliefs. ‘Personal growth’ and ‘spiritual growth’ and the philosophies associated with Eastern traditions have largely replaced the nourishment that was previously found in church.

If a family determines to attend church with regularity, perhaps the memories I share will be a bridge towards a smooth routine. Begin on Saturday night. Make Sunday breakfast special. Does it matter to the God of the Universe what you wear? Maybe not, but again maybe preparing deliberately and consciously somehow just adds something. Include your children. Quietly coach them to stand, sit, kneel and enter and exit properly. Give your children success.

The sense of belonging is highly important. Perhaps you can read the text before the service so they will be familiar with the story. Probably there is a Little Old Lady you can greet, sit near or speak to afterwards. Is there a Sunday School? Can you participate in the class? Do you listen while your children tell about the project they made? Are there other details of your day that you can put in place so that the experience of going to church is a part of a worthwhile whole with a wealth of welcome woven throughout?

 

I was glad when they said to me ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’ - Psalm 122:1