Saturday, March 8, 2008

Religious Education

My contact with religion while I was growing up in Cedar Vale could best be described as “shopping around.” I was not encouraged or discouraged from church attendance by my parents. I would not describe them as atheists or even agnostics, they were just not interested in church attendance. I never knew of my grandparents attending church. My grandfather Call was what I would call an active agnostic and a humanist. My parents, on the other hand, simply thought that churches were social institutions where people seemed to fight as often as pray.

I was very interested in religion from the time I was eight or nine years of age. I periodically attended Sunday school at both the Methodist church and the Baptist church in Cedar Vale. I went to vacation bible school at the local Assembly of God church, which was not far from my home, and, at least once, went to the Baptist bible school. When I was older I was a regular member of the Baptist Youth Fellowship (BYF) and actually was baptized in that church sometime during my high school years.

I was interested in the bible and, at one point when I was ten or eleven started to copy the entire King James Bible on a scroll, so it would be more like I imagined the original might have been. I didn’t make it very far into Genesis before the size of that task overwhelmed me. The unfinished scroll remained in my bedroom for years thereafter.

I participated in the other protestant churches in Cedar Vale to a lesser extent. I remember being invited to activities at the Church of Christ, perhaps by Marilyn Holroyd, who was a good friend of mine. I knew that there were also a Catholic church and an Episcopal church in the town, but they seemed to be little attended. The buildings always struck me as nearly abandoned, even though they were kept up as well as the other churches.

My “shopping” among the churches was more a matter of which of my friends went there than any theological consideration. I enjoyed singing and liked to sing the hymns when I attended church services. I was far from a regular church attender, but I did attend services at all the protestant churches in town.

When I went away to college I pretty much left the churches behind, except for the times I visited my parents. They had moved to Minneapolis, Kansas, the summer after my high-school graduation and bought a house next door to the local Baptist church. The minister at that church was a cornet player, and I arranged duets for us to play at church when I was home from college. It was at his suggestion that I began to date a young member of that church. She became my first wife. Joan and I were married in a country Methodist church near her father’s farm.

Religion was always a matter of personal choice for me, and I gradually moved away from any church affiliation. When I was teaching in the public schools in Dolores, Colorado, I made great friends with the local Methodist minister and did attend his church regularly. His religious views were very liberal and humanist, and I felt right at home in his church. It was only when my own children came along that I began to consider their religious education. That brought me to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Ames, Iowa, where I found a congenial church home for the years when my children were growing up. It was in that fellowship that I met my beloved second wife, Elyn. She was a lifelong member of the Unitarian Fellowship, which her parents had helped to found. We attended the fellowship until we moved to Denver, Colorado, where Elyn was studying to become a Unitarian Universalist minister. While in Denver, we attended the Universalist church that Elyn served, along with periodic visits to other churches that Elyn was interested in.

For the majority of my life I described myself as an agnostic, like my grandfather Call, but I have gradually come to see more and more that is not explainable using my five senses or science. I have come to embrace the “mystery” and am seeking to work with it in every way I can. Retreats, meditation practices, body work have all opened me up to a deeper appreciation of the realm of spirit. Organized religion, to me, is still much more about human power and control, in spite of all protestations to the contrary. I would describe myself as a spiritual person, but not as a religious person.


Phil Foust said...

Thank you, Gary ... for this open excellent portrayal (sans prejudice) of a thinking person's spiritual development.

wayne woodruff said...

My spiritual development was inverse to Gary's. Someday we will KNOW.

Jay (J.D.) Mills, HP3AK said...

Gary, from the number of comments, is what I hear stunned silence? Thanks for sharing your journey in a personal and enlightening way. I could say, let me show you the RIGHT (approved of) WAY...but I won't, wouldn't, couldn't. "Truth is a consensus to reality."

Gary White said...

Or perhaps it is simply a lack of interest or anything to contribute.

wayne woodruff said...

I think that no one wants to hear what I have to say about religion.
And, it is not lack of interest in what you wrote, just that I have no comment. Seems that religion and politics bring out strong feelings, and I hate to make enemies in my twilight years.

Gary White said...

Yes, religion and politics are hot topics, along with sex, apparently! I've declared the blog a politics-free zone, but have certainly ventured into the other areas. You know how I love to get a rise out of people. I just enjoy providing a little spice in my classmates lives!

wayne woodruff said...

Actually, if I mix sex with politics, maybe you will allow it on the site??? So, I will. Sex: at my stage it is of no interest.
Politics: elect someone who will get us out of war and keep us from war.

DFCox said...

For all of us who struggle with questions about Faith, Sprituality, and Religion, I recommend a 1st class article by Les Paine. You will find it in the latest AARP Journal/Magazine--the March/April 2008 edition.