The Beginning

I began attending the church that would become my life when I was 12.  I left when I was thirty-five.   I began attending because my mother was dating the “worship leader”.  (This was basically the leader of the band and the person responsible for causing god to take notice of the congregation and “come down”).   I had never attended a charismatic church before, and it scared the shit out of me.  The church I had attended previously was a very soft, slow paced, predictable Presbyterian Church.  This was a loud, raucous affair.  People were screaming, waving their arms around and dancing in the aisles.   One woman was shaking violently, her face turning red as she screamed.  The occasional shofar would sound and people on tambourines pranced around.  They looked at me with hungry eyes, wanting to make me feel what they were feeling.  I was terrified.  When the music had finished, the children were dismissed to attend a “kids church” in the back.  For a few weeks I hid in the bathroom instead of attended because I was afraid.  I was subsequently found out, and grounded.  This was my introduction to the world of Charismania.

I would grow to get used to what was happening and began to be taught the rationale behind it all.  The first thing a church does when they sense that you will become a regular attender, is find a job or use for you.  Since I had a talent for singing that was surprising for someone so young and small, I became a “singer of specials”.  I would be on a rotation to sing a song when the offering was being received.

My mother married the worship leader, whose family basically had control of the church due to the fact that they had participated in the construction of the building.  They were a very prominent fixture and no one was allowed to disagree with them.  There were a lot of them.  They were very musically gifted.  The sing-a-long nights and church dramas were legendary.  People in the community looked forward to the Easter and Christmas productions that were truly top-notch.  I geeked out over the special effect chemicals that caused Jesus to actually appear to bleed when flogged.  Since I loved music and theatre, I quickly became involved in these productions.  I also rapidly learned the rules.  The lady with the bleach blonde ratted hair, eyes lined completely in black and the gigantic diamond ring?  Yeah- we don’t mess with her.  She gets all the best solos because she is rich.  The lady with the violin has something to say about everyone, and you will listen.  Unless it’s about her child molesting husband….we don’t talk about that.  The worship leader showed up drunk again?  No, it’s fine.  He’s from “The Family”.

 

Tales from a recovering Pastors Wife

I used to be a pastors wife.  Now, I am not.  I tried desperately to find support for my journey out of religion.  I found nothing.  The disappointment and shock on peoples faces when they find out I no longer have a belief system is incredible.  The complete crumbling of my financial and emotional well-being has been staggering.  The loss of a compass, and the feeling of drifting has been overwhelming.  People do not understand me.  Even though I have been able to build a network of non-church people due to my work in local theatre, they do not understand me either.

I used to have a plan, a goal and a reason for all my actions.  I loved the feeling that some all-powerful being “had my back”.  If things got bad, I was supposed to pray.  I used to be calmed by the idea that god was working on my behalf and that, actually, the best thing I could do would be to STOP worrying because it is a sin to not trust that he had it “under control”.  Problem solved!

I knew my place in the universe.  I knew my job, and I had clear indications that I was failing or succeeding.  People were happy with me, or they weren’t.  They were touched by what I said or sang.  God had spoken to them through something I did.  I was a “conduit through which the heavenly interacted with the earthly”, and there was no greater honor.  I felt superior in some ways, yet remained humble. “Oh, it was all god”.

I had constant encouragement for the one thing that makes me feel like I have anything to offer, music.  Every week I had the opportunity to sing and play the piano several times, and for people to tell me it was good.  I was not prepared for the complete loss of this platform, and how not having a musical outlet would crush my soul.

I look back on this time and wish I had made other decisions.  Sometimes the pain and regret is unbearable.  I no longer know who I am, what my place in the universe is, or sometimes, how I will feed my children.  I left to stop living in a world that I no longer believed in, and to give my children a better life.  Pretending like I believed in a god that I HATED made me feel like a liar and a thief for getting paid to sing to a god I wasn’t sure existed, (and if he did, he had a lot to answer for).

Two years have passed, and although I can say for certainty that no god exists to me, I am not certain of anything else.  I have not come very far in these two years, but I do understand.  Sometimes just having someone understand a unique circumstance is a little bit soothing.  I want to continue to write about my experiences and what led to my ultimate departure, but I think this will be enough for today.  Thank you for reading.

Abandoned Places

CTY-BOBLO14p-1   “What is so disconcerting about abandoned places?”  I found myself asking this question as my youngest daughter and I clicked through endless photos on Google.  The journey started when I found an album of photographs taken at a now abandoned theme park I had visited as a child called “Boblo Island”.  This isn’t the first time I had traveled this dark internet rabbit hole, and I have actually become familiar with most of the standards, from the giant graffiti covered Gulliver from the closed Camelot theme park in Lancashire England, to the remains of Chernobyl.  Photographers love to capture the rotting corpses of once beautiful and thriving places in Detroit.  Even Disney has an abandoned waterpark carefully hidden from view on it’s Orlando grounds.

As I went through the Boblo pictures, I was also mentally recalling the photographs I have of myself as a child.  My mother had one of them hanging in a collage type frame for years.  Each picture I looked at I thought, “I could have been standing there at one time”.  The skeletal remains of the Boblo ferries were terrifying.  “I wonder if I have been on that boat”.  I thought.  For some reason, the thought that I had once been there scared me.  Why?  I wondered.  It’s no different from any other place expect that the ‘presence of the absence’ is measurable.

If I were to stand in an open field, I would never give a second thought to the thriving farm that may have inhabited the same land hundreds of years ago.  I wouldn’t think, “at one time, people lived here, were happy here, had tragedies and dreams.”  Why?  Because there would be no evidence that it had ever existed.  I could happily assume that it was an open plot of land and had always been so.  When the framework of the old house exists, the perspective changes.  The ghosts of the former tenants spring to life and the mind is compelled to search for more information.

Houses are very spooky, as seen in countless horror films.  The general consensus is ‘the older, the creepier’.  For example, an empty house built in the 90’s is just touring real estate compared to a two story farmhouse constructed in the early 1800’s.  People assume paranormal activity waits around every corner.  And while I do not believe in the “supernatural”, I do admit that there is a definite feeling that overtakes one in these situations.

Although abandoned houses are disconcerting, another level is reached when it is full of relics.  Furniture, decorations, and even paperwork strewn upon the floor.  The emblems of a life interrupted.  The evidence of private pain.  It can be the chaos of fleeing quickly because of some impending doom; or the untouched, dust covered evidence of a life that time forgot.

Worst of all, is the abandoned amusement park.  The garish faces of once brightly colored mascots, the decaying roller coasters, the decrepit food stands and gift shops.  Water parks are especially terrifying with their broken down, rust infused slides ending in black, murky pools.  I find myself at once terrified and intrigued.  How does this collection of rusty metal, wooden frames, and overgrown vegetation illicit such strong feelings?  I pondered this as I poured myself a second cup of coffee.  Maybe it is because they are reminders of what used to be, and symbols of cancelled hope.  There are songs, smells and people in my life that feel the same to me, I realized.  The imagination reconstructs what used to be, and a sadness swoops in when it realizes that it can’t be any longer.  The hope of what could be is dashed.  Potential, dissipates.

It makes me sad to see places of fun turn to places of horror.  Just as in my life, it makes me sad to see places and things that I once enjoyed turn to pain.