When we came to this Valley, I had no experience with churches, except for having been married in one. Garry had enough to make up for both of us. We chose a church because a very serious Christian friend of mine loved it and I loved her.
Between our coming to the valley in 2000 and now, the Pastor who I like very much was driven out because he liked to talk about what was going on in the great big world but the elders wanted him to follow the old traditional format and leave reality at the door because reality didn’t belong in a church.
Having ditched a smart (and often funny) Pastor, they decided the way to attract “young people” was to play modern music. Ditch the music many of us knew and loved. We hated it. It wasn’t even bad folk music. It was just bad. The guitarists and bongo drummers were even worse.
Meanwhile, they couldn’t find a new minister, so they brought in a retired minister to temporarily serve the church. He did so for about five years, but he was getting pretty old. He became a good friend. My friend, another Marilyn (she was Marilyn Baker and I was Marilyn Armstrong, so we were Marilyns A and B) was also getting on and her husband, who was a doctor, developed the symptoms for Gehrig’s Disease.
Their children, in the name of caring for the old folks decided they should move to where they lived. This meant moving them out of the home they loved, the neighborhood they had both grown up in, and separating them from all their friends. I understand why kids do it, but it’s a bad idea. You uproot us from the places we love and the few remaining people for whom we care and we drift away. And often die.
Both Marilyn and John slipped away. First, Marilyn died. I was heart-broken. Then her husband died. The minister we cared for died. I had heart surgery and I didn’t want to go to church. I had gone because I loved Marilyn and every time we came, she was so happy to see us.
She was so intelligent, had traveled the world. We had intelligent conversations that lasted until wherever we had brunch was getting ready to serve supper. Now, with Marilyn gone and having been so sick, I couldn’t bear having everybody asking me “How are you” and knowing they didn’t want an answer. All they wanted was to see a bright smile and hear me say, “I’m just fine, thank you.”
No one, at church or elsewhere — other than family and best friends — really wanted to hear how you actually are. They want you to be happy and prove that a bright smile was the same as feeling fine. It isn’t.
Then came the endless battles to find a minister who would stay long enough to get the church to settle down and the nonstop quarreling between ministers who wanted the job and those to whom we offered the job who never stayed. The other pastors who were rejected, were angry and left the church. It was exhausting.
The Elders finally budged on whether or not the minister was allowed to say anything real. It was 10 years too late for me. Garry wouldn’t go without me, even though he is the actual Christian.
I didn’t want to go. All I could see were where my friends used to sit and how empty the pews seemed. The church congregation is gradually getting older, I just want my friends back.