Thursday, January 14, 2010

Home Church

We sat in the Alberts' living room on two tan leather couches and three blue cloth chairs, around an imitation oriental rug. Bill was the loving patriarch and Martha has dutiful homeschooling wife. He owned a successful landscaping business, and their townhouse was one of the nicer homes among the people we knew (far nicer, if smaller, than the single-wide mobile home we lived in.) The Foxes, the Carlsons, the Myers, and the Dixons were there, too. Kids sat quietly in their mother's laps or at their father's feet. Bill and Doug Carlson both played guitar, and we would start each meeting with an hour or so of singing.
As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longether after thee. You alone are my heart's desire and I long to worship, thee. You alone are my strength my shield. To you alone may my spirit yield. You alone are my heart's desire and I long to worship thee.
Doug's daughter Chrissy was only a year older than my sister Esther, and Zack, oldest of the three-and-counting Alberts children, was born the day after I was. Kim Fox had been a friend of my sister's for years, and her older brother Todd, who never seemed to attend these home church services, had been my brother's friend before David had been evicted from the family home two years before, when I was eight and he was twelve. Sometimes, if we were lucky, Gig and all the other adults would decide it was okay if we kids scampered off to the other room, and I would go play Jeopardy on the the computer in Bill and Martha's walk-in closet. I knew Zack had a crush on me, and I knew Gig and his parents thought it would be a great idea if we dated (married) but he was painfully good, and I was... not. I loved my Giggy, and I loved my God, and I loved the part of the evening when we sang and worshiped. But I frankly never reached an age when sermons weren't boring.

After the guitars were put away, Bill would read a passage from the Bible, and then discuss what it meant. He and Martha were part of my grandmother's baby ministry, and Doug Carlson built Home in Zion Ministry's first tabled and framed, painstakingly hand-coded website. I think the Fox kids were both born in the hospital, and maybe Chrissy was, too, but the rest of the us in the room were Zion babies. Unfailingly, my grandmother would have a word from God, or a moving of the Spirit to say something, and she would lead us in faith-driven, powerful prayer on the subject. The adults always prayed. Gig's were prayers were usually exciting; she had the cadence of history's great orators, and all the showwomanship of a televangelist. But when other adutls prayed, they just droned on and on and on. You couldn't really feel the Spirit and there was no sense that any demons present were actually afraid of us. Often their prayers were little more than wish lists and petitions. "Lord, bless my business; Lord, bless our family; Lord, bless our family." Me, me, me, bless, bless, bless. I would be squirming desperately, or else in agony because being still and bored was (and still is) such an excruciatingly painful experience.* I knew I was supposed to be still, like the other kids. And home churches that we visited, with families who were larger and had more Biblical lifestyles, scads of children, from 17 to 2, would be sitting cross-legged on the floor, perfectly still and silent, for the entire four hour service. I just didn't see how they could do it.

After the Scripture-reading and prayers were *finally* over we could move into Martha's eat-in kitchen for the dishes each wife had brought for us. Martha Alberts made the best Rice Krispies treats I have tasted at any point in my life. They were amazing, and I wished she would make theme every week. Still, she always made some tasty dessert, and her brownies were certainly still delicious. There would be egg salad, potato salad, pasta salad, or coleslaw, and usually there would be Donna Fox's juicy, lightly seasoned fried chicken. Rose Myers made the most delicious, hot, bubbly, toasty on top baked mac n cheese this world has ever known. If I had to pick my last meal, it very well might have been what I ate with friends and their families every week as part of home church.

Nothing about it seemed weird, or wrong. The furniture around the Alberts' attractive and cozy living room was more comfortable than any church pew, and the food was hands-down better than the dry cracker and shot of grape juice we'd be served at a "normal" charismatic non-denominational church. A Sunday School room full of toys and Bible activity coloring sheets would have undoubtedly kept me more entertained that these hours-long family-style services, but I likeda ll the people and I liked the singing.

And nowhere in the Bible does it say you need to go to seminary, or be ordained, or form a denomination, to preach the Gospel. Where did we get this idea that anything other than the Bible was needed to understand and interpret the Bible? Sure, it doesn't mesh with reality, but we had the solution for that. Anything in reality that disagreed with the Bible was a deception from Satan. Satan was always trying to lie to us and trick us, and so we had to keep our guard up, and not be led astray by things of this world. Two years later, when I heard about evolution for the first time in school, I was ready.

Still, if anything, I think what I remember most about home church was that, for us at least, it really wasn't that different from what I heard and experienced at a charismatic church before, or a community church, Methodist church, Presbyterian church, and evangelical church after. Sure, the milder of those steered clear of demon-talk, and seemed to focus more on things like good works and conscience than on anointing and ministry and deliverance, but they all used the same Bible. They all sang the same Bible verses turned into hymns. They all started with music, moved onto a teaching, and ended up prayer and a meal. So I had no negative conceptions of home church at all, the first time I read about the Attleboro cult, the night I Googled my grandmother's name.

(the Attleboro story coming soon)

Inspiration just ain't flowing today Anteaters, but the tears of a crazy person are. For some reason I've been intermittently acting like a pathological bitch to my boyfriend and falling apart in a crying huddle. After my last experience with the doctor two weeks ago, when the guy threatened to Baker Act me, I haven't exactly been eager to go see a new doctor. I had to borrow *their* phone to have Dave come get me instead of the sherriff (because I don't get to have one) and then stick around half an hour waiting for him (getting there as fast as he could) because I don't have a car. I was going to that shit doctor in the first place, because he was the only guy Medicaid had in my area, and when I went home to try to schedule an appointment with someone else, I found out my insurance was getting cancelled three days later (2 weeks ago). It's possible I may be going a bit too nuts to continue staying on the outside of a facility.