From third to sixth grade, after about a month into the school, release time started. This was an option for religious study outside of school. The protestant kids were together and the Roman Catholic students chose to go to Good Shepherd Church over the hill by the oak tree. For me, I was protestant, the first two years my church sponsored the classes. Fifth grade I went to the United Methodist Church and then in sixth grade, we traveled to the Wesleyan Methodist Church.
We left school an hour early, walking to the churches assigned to our grade, in all weather. I suppose a bad snow storm canceled it, sometimes. No buses for this event. The students who didn't go, studied in the cafeteria. One of my friends stayed and now, I'm sure she was Orthodox, but I never asked why she didn't go. Parents decided those choices then.
West Middlesex didn't have a Jewish population. My mom growing up in Sharon, PA had Jewish friends. Years later when I was a senior and went to a reunion of sorts for Washington Workshops, in Harrison, NY, a boy had a crush on me. I told my mom I discouraged it because he was Jewish and she told me that it would have been OK. But I stray from the story. Maybe I'll blog about that another time and that I wasn't prejudiced, but knew from Bridget Loves Bernie mixed religions in romantic relationships are hard.
I totally enjoyed my first two years of release time. I had pride in my church. I thought it was the best in town. It had that great Fellowship Hall and education wing. It was the biggest. And children are definitely ego, ethno, church centric. I got high grades on the tests, especially in fourth grade. We had memorization cards with a picture depicting the scripture. That wasn't my favorite part, feeling a little shaky on recitation in front of the class. I never wanted to be first.
Fifth grade at the Methodist Church was pleasant enough. We sang fun songs in the sanctuary. We learned about Queen Esther this year. I loved that golden crown in the flannel graphs as well as the purple robe.
Sixth grade we spent the whole time in their sanctuary and sang slow songs. I'm not sure if I felt the leaders looks were disapproving because of rebellion rising in my spirit or if they really were judging us. Even though sixth grade was only the second year to be allowed to wear pants, we had digressed to donning jeans, T-shirts and maybe generally appearing heathen to these very conservative people. Their women never cut their hair and after a certain age, never wore it down, always in a bun. Their dresses, although modern, had to be to their ankles. Not like the Amish, but like the 30's. The men wore black pants and dress shirts, no long hair.
I knew a Wesleyan family on Chestnut Street and they showed Christ's love in all they did. The mother was a nurse. April, a few years older than I, showed kindness. An older sister did mission work on a Native American Reservation. So I was not against this denomination. I believe in freedom of religion, that is what our nation was founded on.
I do think back that rebellion had taken a root in me and I expected resistance. This time on the roller coaster of preadolescence proved to be the start of a dip. I do wonder if I used this experience as fuel for rejecting good behavior and attitudes. God, though, has put that struggle for independence in us. A child has to form her own ideas, beliefs and parents need to be there for questions. The basic information should have been put there, it was for me. Then through these years up until almost a person has their own children, the personal style of belief crystallizes. This is free will. Parents need to guide, but not panic through these years and pray, pray, pray.