Growing up a Chreaster (That's a Christmas + Easter-only churchgoer for those who may not know.) you always feel like a fraud walking into a church. You're unfamiliar with the songs, the rituals; every aspect of the service feels ill-fitting, like you're wearing someone else's clothes. You're not ignorant enough to believe that you're fooling God, so you're pretty sure no one else is fooled either.
When I think of my church experiences as a child, I think mostly of icy stares, strictly enforced silence, and trying not to wiggle too much because I always had to pee. These recollections, while not particularly painful, are not altogether comfortable. What's more, such experience makes it hard to find God later in life, and I think it left me feeling as though I would forever be a fraud in the eyes of God and the peoples in his church. After all, I hadn't put in the requisite study hours; I hadn't even "gone to class," as it were. My study of the assigned book was limited to random moments of idleness here and there - without direction, easily forgotten. And I wouldn't describe much of my "extra-curricular activities" as particularly faithful either. Who was I to go the church? Who am I to go to church? Who am I kidding?
So, with little base upon which to build, I spent many years away from the church. I knew God. I knew him in the stream, the path, the mountain pass and the sunset. I spoke to him from time to time, but I didn't visit him at home. It just didn't seem right. I could get by without.
Then my daughters were born, and the world got a touch more complicated. They were precious and beautiful, life-changing and sleep-depriving, brilliant and inquisitive, strong and intelligent yet in need of so much guidance. It didn't take very long for my illusion that I had all of the answers to disappear. The world is an infinitely more complicated place when you begin looking at it through the perspective of a little girl, imagining all of the what-ifs, the pitfalls, the questions, curiosities, temptations and confusions that they will be presented with every day. As they grew, it began to occur to me that in order to do right by them I needed to give them the opportunity to know God. I needed to give them another place to seek solace, comfort, guidance and authority in times of need and of question when my own abilities and the even the boundless talents and compassions of their mother wouldn't be enough. So for their sake more than anything else, I came back to church.
What I've found since my family has been prioritizing churchgoing at UCC is that my old childhood fears are unfounded, and that my lack of experience with God in his house does not preclude me from being warmly welcomed here. I also see the positive influence this community is having on my daughters, and I am blessed to know we made the right decision in promoting their own exploration of faith within the Palmyra Trinity UCC community.