Every Sunday, dressed in our church clothes (matching dresses that mom had sewn herself) we girls were ushered off to service.  Dad rushed us so that he could get a decent parking spot – one that would permit a hasty exit when it was all over.  He didn’t want to waste his day hanging around that place any longer than he had to.

At eight years of age, I marvelled at how different everyone was on this day.  The crabby old lady from next door, who spent all week terrorizing the children of the neighbourhood, arrived in formal attire, with her little pillbox hat and matching gloves, and sweetness plastered across her face.  Another neighbour, who everyone knew drank too much and beat his children, was greeted as if he himself was free of sin.  On Sundays, I observed, we all became new people.

I chose to sit in the main church for the sermon as I never quite got the concept of Sunday School.  Seemed to me we never learned anything, and most days we just coloured pictures related to some story that made no sense.  That’s not to say I understood the sermon either.  The minister kept referring to God as He, which would set my mind to wondering.  My experience of God existed right back to my earliest memories, and that being was more feminine than masculine.  I could not relate to the He the minister kept talking about.  Could I have been so wrong?  Is it possible that the minister had it wrong?

“What is the point of church, anyway?”  I asked my parents one day.  “Seems to me it is hypocritical.”

“Sunday is the day that we worship our Lord,”  my mother said.  “We dress up and show respect in His name.”

“Well, what about the rest of the week?  Is it okay to be nasty the rest of the week? Doesn’t God watch us then? Shouldn’t we be living in respect of God all week long?” I didn’t mention the gender thing.

“She makes a good point,” my father added.

“That’s the way it’s always been done,” my mother shrugged.

We stopped going to church, but my quest for spiritual understanding didn’t stop there.  I invited myself to my friend’s churches, and discovered stricter creeds, and attitudes of superiority and exclusiveness.

Organized religion, from my perspective, tells one what to believe, rather than encouraging one’s own relationship with the divine.  As a child, I had a deep and very real connection with something that was beyond the ordinary – a loving, yet omnipotent power.

Now, I seek a return to the sense of wonder of life, to the simplicity of knowing that there is a presence or meaning that transcends the mundane, and the security of believing in that force.  I crave goodness, and a harmonious state of being.  I want to know inner peace.

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Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

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