Friday, July 30, 2010

Flashback Friday - Growing Up in Church


Since my church is in the middle of VBS this week, it has brought back some memories of my childhood experiences with VBS and other church-related activities.
Did your family attend church when you were growing up? What are your earliest memories of church? Did you attend VBS (Vacation Bible School) when you were young? Sunday School? Other church activities? Was faith a Sunday-only thing or did it impact your life and the things you did? If faith and church were not a part of your growing-up years, when and how did you begin and what drew you to God?

A couple of cautionary notes. . . As far as I can tell, the overwhelming majority of my blog readers are Christian believers. This flashback is not intended to bring judgment on anyone's past or present experiences, nor is it meant to prompt theological debates or discussions of denominational differences.

* * * * *

Sometimes I say I cut my teeth on a church pew. I think somewhere I have my little pink New Testament given to me by the Cradle Roll department when I was born. I am grateful to have been born into a family whose strong beliefs gave me a firm foundation. Church was never an option - we were there Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights. My dad was the church treasurer, my mom taught Sunday School and WMU (Women's Missionary Union), etc. etc.

I had a great foundation but it wasn't perfect. My folks were genuine believers, but they did have a pretty strong thread of legalism, as did a lot of folks back then. As a result, I've never had a problem seeing God as a Judge, but grace has been a bit more of a struggle, although I've come a loooong way, especially in the past six years as we have been in a very authentic church. Thinking about my upbringing always brings to mind Paul's words in Philippians 3:4-7.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

All of the "things" are meaningless and just "playing church" without Christ.

So many memories drift through my mind as I think of my years growing up in the Baptist church:
  • Being baptized. I was 8 when I accepted Christ and was baptized, although my commitment solidified when I went to college. But I remember how excited I was. Except I didn't like all the old ladies hugging me and their hair spray smearing on my glasses!
  • Missions: My sisters were both in GA's when it was called Girls' Auxiliary, and I think they both reached the level of Queen with a Scepter (which will be meaningless to most of you!). By the time I got into GA's, they had updated and modernized it, and the initials stood for Girls in Action. I never thought the newer program was as good as the old one, though. But we learned lots about missions and early missionaries - Hudson Taylor, Adoniram Judson, and of course, Lottie Moon (for whom the annual foreign missions emphasis each Christmas is named) and Annie Armstrong. (The Easter offering emphasis for home missions is named for her.) Oh, and then there were the occasional visiting missionaries (usually in the Sunday evening service) and their never-ending slide shows!
  • Speaking of missions, when I was in 4th grade, there was a missionary family on furlough from Tanzania (in Africa) in our area. They attended a different church than ours (when the parents weren't traveling and speaking in churches), but one of the daughters, Belinda, was my age and we were in the same class at school. She was one of my best friends and we wrote each other for about 5 years. I remember writing on those blue tissue-thin airmail pages that folded up into its own envelope.
  • Christmas in August: Mailing packages was a whole 'nother experience when I was a kid; You had to mail your Christmas packages by September if they were going overseas, so the churches collected donations for missionaries during the month of August.
  • Vacation Bible School (VBS): Way back when I was really little, it lasted two weeks; then they changed it to M-F and the following M-W, and finally shortened it to a week. VBS brings back memories of Kool-Aid and cookies, memorizing the books of the Bible, decopages (you hacked on a piece of wood to distress it, then glued a picture (after you singed the picture edges with a lit match), and put a million several coats of "shellack" (varnish). I think I finally got rid of mine about 10 years ago; who knew I'd have a blog one day and want to post a picture! Mine had a picture of William Tyndale and his printing press.
  • Weekly offering: How's this for legalism? Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, the Baptist weekly offering envelopes had little boxes you would check off: Present (in Sunday School), On Time, Bible (did you bring it?), Worship Service another attendance check), Bible Read Daily, Offering. There may have been another one or two. Each box counted 10-15%, and the goal was to have 100. I have no idea what they did with that information or if it was even recorded anywhere! They finally realized that your name and the amount was all that was needed!
  • Revivals: These lasted a week and there was a guest evangelist and a guest musician. I always loved the music in revivals. And I always hated the Saturday night service - that was the traditional night for the 2nd Coming/Hell sermon and it would scare me to death!
  • Choir: I always loved children's choir and later, Youth Choir. I remember when churches began doing youth musicals; my dad was horrified at them, especially the fact that they used drums in the church! He eventually mellowed a teeny bit. I think my favorite musical was Celebrate Life, which we did when I was in high school.
  • The incredible youth group of which I was a part my last two years in high school; I've mentioned them on past flashbacks. I've enjoyed connecting with a lot of them recently on Facebook.
  • Miscellaneous things: (1) going with my dad to the church on Saturday evenings and helping him set out the attendance boxes for the Sunday School classes. And in the summer I thought it was beyond neat to walk around in the church barefooted! Oh, yeah, I was living on the edge pushing the envelope on that one! LOL (2) Friday nights in the spring when my dad coached and pitched for the church slo-pitch softball team.
    (3) "Dinner on the Grounds" - the annual church picnic. And there was always, always, always Five Cup Salad. (4) Being teased by my friends in high school because I knew what page many of the hymns were on and also knew multiple verses of most of them, a side effect of playing piano!

I am indeed so grateful for such a heritage. (Although I used to sorta envy folks who had dramatic testimonies; mine seemed so boring!)

Post your memories and link up so we can enjoy them as well!


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Barbara H. said...

Such a heritage is a wonderful blessing -- fewer scars and bad memories of things you wish you could forget!

I do have vague hazy memories of VBS and baptism.

Debbie said...

What a wonderful godly heritage you had Linda. A wonderful beginning but of course, you had to come to that place of receiving the gift of salvation for yourself. And you've obviously done that. One thing the Baptists are very good at is supported their missionaries.

Blessings and love,

Christine said...

We are also finishing up our VBS this week. But I thought I would join in.

Robin @ Be Still and Know said...

What a treasure you have with that firm foundation.

The hubs and I are front pew sitters. I got in the habit many years ago with our first pastor. I loved being up close and personal during his sermons. You could always tell when he was getting filled with the Holy Spirit or personally emotionally moved during a sermon by his body language and the flush of his face. But the reality is that one of the main reason I always choose to sit in the front pew is because my son actually did cut his teeth on the pew cap at the end of the pew. For years there were these two little indentions he made with his teeth. During the years of his horrible rebellion it was a gentle reminder to me that there was a firm foundation set for him from the very beginning.

Wonderful memories!


Melanie and Alisa said...

In our "red backed" hymnals, on page 57, you will find Amazing Grace.

bp said...

Great memories! I'll work on mine!

Kim said...

I think we existed in parallel universes in our childhood Linda! I have MANY of the same memories! MANY!!

Mrs.B said...

What a wonderful post! Some of my best memories are of CHURCH! I had an AWESOME youth group & youth pastor! My grandfather was a "preacher" too...I say preacher, not pastor b/c although he did pastor several churches, he preached the gospel every chance he had. He devoted his entire life to being a person who loved God & others. I thank God for my heritage as well!

skoots1mom said...

lots of great memories
it's fun thinking back on them
fun week :)

"Just Me - NC Beth" said...

What great memories and it was as if you were telling mine!! I was in GA's (girls auxilary), etc, etc. But before then I was in sunbeams, now known as Mission Friends! Daddy was a southern baptist minister so NOT going to church was never an option! But I loved going, so it didn't matter. And talking about revivals, I loved them! I actually accepted Christ on a Saturday night at our revival, a couple of months before turning 8.

Thanks for sharing with us and giving us such good memories and a moment to reflect on our own!


rita said...

Thanks, Linda. I am the last, but not the least grateful for your prompts.
All the memories you record in detail help me remember more of mine. I should have read yours first. On the other hand I probably would not have had the time to write about ALL of them.

Becky said...

Once again, I must thank you Linda, for encouraging us to take a look back and remember the blessings we have! Thank you for sharing your own memories as well.

God Bless,