Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Churches

A small break from preachers, but on the same line. Today is my sister's anniversary. Her wedding was one of the last in the old church and so I felt it appropriate to write about the churches growing up.
The first one, a red brick, was as I said across the alley from our house. I thought this is the way it should be. I don't remember the sanctuary much, because I was too active to sit in church at the time and my brother became bored with church, so Mom let us come home after Sunday School and he watched me. I remember shaking like a poor man that had Parkinson's a row or two in front of us, across the aisle and I'm sure that sent Mom over the top. Dan and I were home when they shot Lee Harvey Oswald. He was more excited than I was.
The Presbyterian churches merged in 1964, on a national level and in town. We also happened to move to the "big, white house" next to the new church the same time. Being an egocentric, charming three year old, I thought the church just moved with us.
So the first church became the borough building and my memories of it are more of it in that capacity than as my church. The big basement under the sanctuary was the setting for many dinners(Woman's Club Christmas bazaar,) Campers club meetings, bridal showers. A door on Main Street quickly led downstairs with narrow stair case. Institutional green invades my memories of that basement. I do remember ringing the bell with Dan before we headed across the alley, every time I'm in the Emporium First UM church.
The next church was built in 1884, on the highest spot in W. Middlesex. A taller church, the aisles were two, one to the left and one to the right. The bride marched down the left aisle and returned with her groom up the left side. The communion cup holders were in a group of three on the old dark wood pews. I went a few more times to this church and always enjoyed the weddings. I was the flower girl for my sister. The reception line was outside on one of the hottest days in August. The reception then proceeded into the even hotter Fellowship Hall for cake, cookies and punch. Maybe Aunt Eleanor had hot tea. A telegram was read there in the foyer during the rehearsal in the morning from Denise, our exchange student from South Africa, then migrated to England. Quite impressive to a seven year old, who had never seen a telegram before.
A gray painted metal porch was off the kitchen, that was great as a kid. We thought of jumping off it, but I don't think I ever did. Years later, a toddler of one of my friends fell from this ten foot drop and even though greatly pregnant with Mary Ellen, I ran so fast, Katie was amazed at my agility. Under this porch, the beams to hold it up connected by horizontal beams that were only 6 inches off the ground became a balance beam for budding gymnasts.
The basement of the Fellowship Hall held the education wing. Even with fluorescent lights the hall emitted a dingy feeling. The rooms had plenty of light as they were solid windows. The bathrooms, small and enclosed, the girls that 60's pink. I only caught a forbidden glimpse of the boys, it seemed different. The upstairs bathrooms were roomier, but still only one toilet.
The new church,






dedicated in 1969, I always boast that I helped build. At least I spent many days and sunny summer evenings playing in tall piles of dirt and later pretending the scaffolding and rooms being built were hidden cities. My dad was on the building committee, so I often went along for the inspections. I absorbed the great clean emptiness of the fresh golden carpet in the sanctuary before the pews filled it. I rolled on that floor, just lavishing in openness. I still crave a large sparse space.
I know the church is more than the building, yet they are so interconnected. I played hard at that church growing up. I also observed the people and their reactions to children. I have many good memories of my churches.
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