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Saturday, December 18, 2010

it's hard being a PK

one of my favorite childhood bible school songs was "we are the church".  if memory serves me, the lyrics went as this:  "i am the church, you are the church, we are the church together..."  the song gave me a warm fuzzy feeling that no matter what church i attended, i was a part of it as a whole, not as an individual. over 30 years later, i'm not so sure that's the case anymore.

as a preacher's kid, or PK, i have no home church.  i have the childhood church where i grew up, and the church i currently attend as an adult.  my dad's family church closed and consolidated with another church decades ago and my mom's church is the same church my grandmother attends today.  a preacher's family could be considered nomadic, albeit a more long term one.  some calls can last a couple of years, others can last decades.  i'm fortunate that my father's calls have been quite long, his first one lasting 16 years and his current one nearly 20.

i'm not sure if it's the current state of the lutheran church, or cynicism in my old age, or my unique position as a PK, but i feel a bit disillusioned about the church right now.  it's been growing for a couple of years now;  now it feels more overwhelming that i am comfortable with.

for quite some time, i've felt alienated in my own church.  it's amazing how alone you can feel in a church of 200 + people.  no one should ever feel this way.  i take partial blame for the situation - i am a very introverted person;  you'd have to beat a conversation out of me as i'm the type of person who'd rather sit in a corner and knit or observe than talk to a bunch of people in a group.  i'm fine one on one with someone, or with a small group, but i feel swallowed up by a large crowd.

i feel the aloneness when i pick up the boy from choir practice.  a group of parents stand in the hallway, chatting in clusters, and when i greet my friends, they acknowledge me but go back to their conversations.  no one asks me how i am.  no one asks about my kids.  it's all about extracurricular activities, jobs and who's the most tired.  i feel invisible.  never did i think church would become high school all over again, with cliques.

ah yes, the "C" word.  it's funny how a church is supposed to be cohesive when sometimes it's anything but.  i'm not sure if recently established churches or urban/suburban churches have established "families".  i often refer to them as the "clans of the church".  my current church has about half a dozen clans.  my childhood one had families that merged as children and grandchildren married into the other clans.  my old church never felt cliquish to me, perhaps becos i was too young, and becos the kids i went to church with i also went to school with.  (however, i felt the same alienation in junior and senior high school as everyone was interrelated to some extent.  my family was not from the area, therefore making me somewhat of an outsider as i was not part of the county's "clans".)

anyway, my dad said that someone made comment recently that our church is "cliquish".  i told him i understood what that meant as i felt like an outsider in my own church.  mom and dad reminded me of the church's strong "family" vibe and that as the pastor's family, we were the outsiders.  heaven forbid people befriend the pastor or his family, i said.  i thought the church was supposed to be all about the people, not about this family or that family. (ironically, the national church frowns upon pastors' families having "friends" in the church.  how lovely they encourage the alienation.)

i thought that being a spouse and a parent would be the great equalizer as i grew up.  i thought that i would feel connected to the other parents or other marrieds couples, that it wouldn't make a whit of difference whether i'd been a member for 2 years or twenty - we had common interests.  apparently, not so.  my children don't go to the same schools as the majority of the kids at church, and i'm the only SAHM in the circle, so i'm still an odd man out.  it shouldn't make a difference.  but it does.

we came to this church when i was freshman in college.  the majority of kids my age were away at school and didn't bother coming to church or sunday school until they were married with children.  i know the first year of going to church, i had no sunday school class to go to.  there was a high school class, but i was older than most of the kids there.  there was a "young marrieds" class but they were older than me, some with kids, and i couldn't relate to either being married or being a parent.  there was supposed to be a college class but the college kids just didn't come.  i wound up going to my mom's sunday school class, which was made up mostly of retired couples or couples my parents' age.  i liked my teacher, i liked having a bible lesson, so i stayed.  over the years a young adult class was established (i was still too young, these couples were at least 10 years older than me) and another college class was given a go (at that time i was working and married and had nothing in common there) so i stayed with the class.  this year another young adult class was developed for my generation group, but the people that attend don't go over a lesson and instead chit chat.  for the one hour of the week that i am kidlet-free, i want that hour to be educational becos i'd like to use my brain for something.

i also feel a bit disillusioned by certain members of the church.  recently our church had to make a decision regarding something.  for whatever reason, the situation became somewhat hairy (and IMO mismanaged).  a final decision was made, and obviously some people were unhappy with it.  as a result, some individuals made some rather passive aggressive comments and actions that made me feel quite sad.  and they call themselves christian?

another individual from my church annoys the snot out of me.  this person never comes to church - they actually belong to another church - but expects us to mail bulletins (they send SASE along with a "tithe") to keep them in the loop.  they get pissy if their flower orders go awry, never mind they rarely send them in a timely manner.  what galled me this time was that with this month's "tithe" they also included a copy of the church's budget, with a portion of it highlighted with a very rude comment written next to it.  i suggested to dad that when they mail the bulletins to the person, just send the envelopes empty except with a slip of paper with the same rude comment on it.  i know, it's stooping to their level and i prefer taking the high road.  but seriously, if you can't be bothered to come to our church, which you consistently put it down, while bragging up the church that you currently attend, then maybe it's time to remove your associate letter and go the hell away (incidentally, this person holds "associates' letters" in several churches - how and why, i'll never know).  what a drip.

i'm not sure what i will do when my mom and dad retire.  i really like my church.  of all the churches in the area, it has a good (albeit small) sunday school for the kids and children's choirs (a biggie for me).  in our synod, my church has an excellent reputation and the bishop often speaks highly of us.  i would be sad to leave.  for now, i try harder to socialize, suck it up for my children's sake, and support my church as much as i can.  church is really important to me.  it is one of the few sources of comfort i have.

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