For going on a decade and a half, I’ve not set foot in a church (that changed when I did a talk at a UU church sometimes last year so it kinda ruins this sentence , but work with me here, okay?). As a kid, I found the services boring as shit. Sit down, listen to the deacons do that devotional thing where it ends in the more drawn out and dull rendition of “Amazing Grace” or “Father, I Stretch My Hand to Thee” ever constructed by people, listen to the choir, listen to someone do a prayer, give the ushers money, listen to the preacher, give the ushers money again, someone else talks, and finally I could go home and get out of my pinchy shoes, itchy stockings and dress I’d rather be buried in.
Boring from start to finish, and even more so when I got around 12-13 and realized this God thing was kinda nonsense. Of course, I didn’t have that big of a death wish, so I never told anyone, and continued going and participating (usher or in the children’s choir) and slowly dying of boredom, awaiting the day that I never had to step foot in one of these places ever again.
Regular services were dull enough. And then there’s Christmas and Easter.
Oh fuck me running, Christmas and Easter.
It was like people got together and said, “Hey, you know those services we usually do? Let’s make them even LONGER and more BORING! Oh, and we’ll make everyone have to buy a new outfit for themselves and their kids! There’s usually food involved, but they’ll have to wait until the service is over. It’ll be delightful!”
(The food usually consists of ham, with strikes me a hilarious given that Jesus was all Jewish and shit)
So I show up, in an newer dress I’d rather be buried in (and don’t I dare get it even a little dirty), itchy new stockings in white or sheer white depending on how old I was, pinchy shoes, and my hair snatched back three generations into a high ponytail to sit through an even longer service.
Oh, and I’d have to give a speech. Me and every damn child in the damn church.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, by “speech” I mean “memorized little narratives made for reciting during Easter or Christmas, thus lengthening the service by showing off the cute new clothes of each and every child and keeping everyone from the ham.”
A pageant would have taken less time.
The tiny kids would have one line to say, usual whispered by whoever walked them to the front. “Happy Eaasaa Day!”
And we all go ‘aww’ and move on to the next kid.
The older you got, the longer your ‘speech’, from short little poems to longer poems, all about the same damn event we were all celebrating. All pulled out of some book sold just for this purpose.
And then there was me.
See, I was born and raised in Southeast Georgia, and spoke like a Midwestern newscaster. For real. So I got to do a lot of Bible readings during regular services, because the grown ups liked my voice – when they weren’t calling me ‘white’.
I got the longest speeches. One page, front and back, starting in the fifth grade. Delightful.
I hated it. I still hate it. At least I knew that the sooner I was done, the sooner we could get to the part where we eat some ham.
Unless the preacher really got into the sermon. Or the children’s choir had to sing a few songs. Or if we had to go to another fucking service to recite the same fucking speech all the fuck over again. If I thought prayer would actually work, I would have been on my knees begging Lord Jesus to wrap this shit up faster.
So every time those two holidays roll around, I can’t help but recall those memories, now with a smile because holy shit I’ll never have to do that again. I’m thousands of miles away (in the Midwest, where my voice fits in just fine, thanks), I still don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and the only dresses I buy are comfy. And black. With skulls, if possible.
Also, I get to have all the ham I want at any time. 🙂