Thursday, October 14, 2010

A memorial service

This afternoon I attended the memorial service for the brother of an old friend. Susan and I have known each other since high school and reconnected about a decade ago with great success. I met her brother several times but in the 1960s and so didn't really know him. But I know Susan and Larry's wife was a student of mine for a while. So I wanted to support them.

As an interesting coincidence, the service was held in the Presbyterian church where I went as a teenager. I was quite into church in high school and was a youth minister and preached a sermon from that very pulpit. I had not been back in that church since 1970.

I long ago gave up any Christian affiliation, though I appreciate that it is a belief system that works for many people, and I have a great deal of respect for the teachngs of the historical Jesus. Since I got sober, my own leanings have been Buddhist and shamanic in a mixture that works for me.

I was curious how I would feel in that church and at a service there. The actual physical structure was vaguely familiar (clearly renovated not too long ago) but the evangelical spin on the service from the female associate pastor was, for me, really offensive. She seemed to assume that everyone there was deeply Christian or wanted to be and the service seemed more about Christ than it did about Larry. I was grateful for the poem that Larry's wife, Andrea, read and the poem that Susan's husband, Doug, read. His daughter also told a couple of great stories about her dad, which gave me some insight into him.

I do not remember the Presbyterian ministers I knew years ago as so fervent in their desire to bring people into the fold. As Larry was 11 years sober when he died, there were many AA members. I wonder if the minister thought we needed saving. Of all the people I know, AA members are some of the most in tune with a higher power. I'm so glad the program stipulates that we can believe in the God of our understanding, not the baroque version of the afterlife that that minister wanted to paint for us.

2 comments: said...

Hi Jill
I appreciate your experience - it can feel pretty yucky. When I was attending church, I attended one that was popular and offered many social opportunities, but after months of attending, I started to feel belittled - the "come to Jesus" advertisements (that's how it came across) were annoying. I had my faith and came to be 'fed'. I ended up going back to a smaller church, where everyone was at least 30 years older then me, but the message was thoughtful and intelligent, and respectful. I can see how Christianity can be offensive, and I agree that AA members are amongst the most grounded and faith-filled. said...
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