Monday, January 14, 2008

My Past - Part I

In a comment Melody wrote: I am intrigued with your past. 20 years pastoring - in what denomination? I want to respond to this request. I'll leave the reasons for my decision to another time perhaps.

Rather than immediately name the denomination, permit me to give the long answer.I can answer the questions 'what' and 'how' but no longer can I answer the question 'why'.

To the best of my knowledge, my mother's family were members of the Holiness church and my father's family occasionally attended a non-denominational community church. One of my earliest pre-school memories and perhaps my earliest memory of church is of being sent to an evening vacation bible school that I did not want to attend. I refused to go in with children my age and demanded, probably with a tantrum, to attend a class of children much older. For some reason I got my way and, a week later, I remember proudly bringing home some cardboard box filled with cutout figures of a biblical scene. During the first 10 years of my life I have no memories of going to church with my parents other than for an uncle's funeral. I'm sure it must have happened but I have no memory of it.

In 1956 a move to a small town put my father in contact with an elderly gentleman who invited my father to his church. I remember him as a man who had influence due to his winning personality. The net result is I and my family became Methodists after a few years.

Between Christmas and New Years 1967, while in college, I attended a convocation on the ministry that was held on the facilities of a youth camp. It was a good and bad experience. Some of us males were housed in rooms next to the medical office that was used during summer youth camps. Some of the young men who had attended summer camps at the facility got into the clinic and found the medical cards of young women they knew. The found it great fun to read the personal information the girls reported about their monthly cycles. This and a few other things left a bad taste in my mouth. I wanted no part of it. Within a month I had dropped out of college (math major) and enlisted in the Army.

During the four years I was in the Army I went to church at most three times. Army chaplains were -- well, let me put it this way, I never met a chaplain I respected. Sometime while in the Army I received a letter stating that I was now a Presbyterian. Due to the ecumenical movement of the 1960's the Methodist and Presbyterian churches in town had merged and aligned with the Presbyterian denomination.

After I got out of the Army I attended the Presbyterian church some. I had a son and daughter and perhaps that was the motivating force. By this time a group of Baptists had rented the old Methodist building and I attended one Sunday evening just to see the building and reminisce. Long story short, I became a Baptist and decided to finish two years of college at a church-related school in Kentucky. About two or three months after enrolling I began pastoring. After finishing college I enrolled in The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lousville, KY. There's the denomination: Southern Baptist.

College was a breeze for me. Seminary was not. Many people think of seminary as prayer meetings and bible studies. That was not the case at Southern. It was highly academic and challenging. The work load was almost unreasonable. Somehow I survived the three years on four hours sleep per night. During this time I was commuting 80 miles one way, had a family, was pastoring and did occasional work on the side to keep food on the table.

Within a few months after finishing seminary I was offered a job at a church related college which I took. Within less than a year I had accepted another pastorate and basically had two full time positions -- the church and the college. After some years I left this church and took another church before walking away from it all. Since then I've attended church only when required -- weddings, funerals and other family obligations.

I said at the beginning I can no longer answer the question 'why' -- why did I begin pastoring. However, I can answer why I walked away. Four things influenced my decision: I worked at a Baptist college, I attended a Baptist church, I read the state Baptist newspaper and I was married. Those need explanation. I'll save the explanation for tomorrow.


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

This will be interesting for me as I also have an evangelical background, but I don't go to church anymore either.

1/14/2008 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

We were required to attend services in boot camp. I picked Catholic 'cause it was quick. Never spoke to a chaplain and usually napped through the service. We never had enough sleep.

After bootcamp I didn't go to church again until I married. Other than two trips to mass with an ex I haven't stepped foot in a church 'cept for obligatory weddings and funerals

1/14/2008 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger Whitesnake said...

seems to me quite a few of us do the same thing, go to church as required!

1/14/2008 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

I always wondered if my life would be different if my birth certificate had read something other than Catholic when it came time to place me with foster families.

They say the best way to develop immunity to something is to be exposed to it heavily.

1/14/2008 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger Melody said...

Thank you for that very interesting background. The irony is, I live in Louisville, know many people who attended Southern before the upheaval and some still work there, and I work at the Presbyterian national offices.

I am neither Presbyterian or Baptist. I, like yourself, have attended a variety of denominations from independent holiness to Disciples of Christ to Methodist.

I understand the bitter taste of organized religion and imposed values.

There is a vast difference in spirituality and religion.

I look forward to the continuation of your story.

1/14/2008 08:32:00 PM  

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