Trying to be "good girls"

During last week's Companions in Christ small group meeting someone said something that reminded me of a childhood experience.

We lived in a town near Beaumont Texas. I must've been about 6 and my sister 5. As I've written here before, we didn't really go to church (and when we did, after I was older, it was to the Christian Science church). At 6, I had no experience of church at all.

Carol was a little friend who lived down the street from us. I still have her picture in one of my scrapbooks. She invited me and my sister to her Baptist church one day, and my mother obviously said OK. I suppose we went to Sunday School first, although I have no memory of that. What I do remember is sitting in the sanctuary, on the end of a pew, with my sister next to me during the new and quite alarming experience.

The minister began to preach, and whoa...! My sister and I had no idea what was happening. Hellfire! Damnation! What in the world was this? What did he mean? Toward the end of the sermon he was screaming for us to save our lives! Come down this aisle NOW and be saved! I got SO upset, and I remember looking over at my sister, and seeing that she was crying and scared, too. Be saved in the name of Jesus! We're waiting for you! Just come down this aisle and save your lives! What else to do? my sister and I took each other's hands, moved out of the pew and walked down the aisle, crying and frightened.

I called my sister a few days ago to ask whether she remembered any of this. "YES!" she said. She even remembered going to the minister's office after the service was over, and "it was like we were going to the principle's office!"

I'm sure Carol's mother was embarrassed...I sort of remember that feeling from her when she took us home. We were all at the front door of our house and my mother was there. Carol's mom probably felt she should have warned us, or at least not have allowed us to sit at the end of the pew out of her reach!

I have no idea what that minister felt that morning when he saw two tiny, little, scared and crying girls, holding on to each other for dear life, coming haltingly toward him down that aisle, having no earthly idea what awaited them but trying to be "good girls" and do what they were told.

My sister and I laughed the other day when we remembered this together.

That was 45 years ago now. My gosh, is that right? 45 years. Wow.


Jan said…
Wow, what a memory, Katherine! You wrote so well describing you and your sister and how you felt. I can see you two little girls so scared and apart. It reminds me of Marcus Borg writing how he'd grown up with a Lutheran minister yelling and shaking his fist in sermons, so he imagined God as being like that, too. Once when he saw his wife, an Episcopal priest, serving the Eucharist to children, he wondered if they imagined God as a gentle woman.

Did that experience affect your idea of God? Hope not!
Gannet Girl said…
Yes, it wuld be really interesting to know how that experience influenced your concept of God!
Anonymous said…
And the beat goes on. It's still easy to find that kind of theology today. It dresses up a little differently but as long as many evangelical churches continue to use baptisms and other head counts as their primary metric there will still be these kinds of emphases.

What a horrible experience. I'm so sorry this happened to you.

Katherine E. said…
Thank you, D.

Jan and GG, I don't know how it influenced my image of God. I'm not consciously aware of anything, but it certainly seems that it might have had a profound effect. I guess other experiences in my younger years acted to counter it--I mean, I don't ever remember carrying an image of God as angry or angrily judgmental. Hmmm...I think I'll live with this question for a while, though. It's a good one; thanks.
Anonymous said…

Thank you for your kind welcome to RevGalBlogPals. I can tell that I will enjoy reading your reflections. What a powerful memory of you and your sister responding with fear and trembling to the experience of threat in preaching.

I, too, will appreciate a Disciples voice!
Powerful reflection.

(I tagged you at my place...if you are interested)
Diane M. Roth said…
wow, again, what a memory, (as others have said). what could that do to a child? I shudder to think.

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