I’ve written quite a few blog posts over the years. Two topics I never write about are religion and politics. But today I’ve decided to touch on religion.
Last weekend I was at a webinar at church dealing with children’s ministry. I am an active volunteer in this field at Leavenworth Church of the Nazarene. The highlight of the summer for me is reaching out to the children during Vacation Bible School. In the fall before I head back to Mexico I will also help out in the Wednesday evening children’s program. I also have volunteered with Light the Night, although this year my time here in the USA is up before the actual event takes place this year.
Back to the Webinar. In the presentations and subsequent discussions, they confirmed what had been missing in my own life, what I had missed out on in my childhood. And I now am more able to fully understand the newly found comfort that I have in my life today.
As a child, along with my family we attended Herzlia Adas-Yeshurun, an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Winnipeg. Weekdays I found myself at Hebrew School after regular public school classes let out. Friday nights and Saturdays were spent in synagogue. Sunday morning was at Hebrew School as well.
Families were separated and did not sit together. Because this was an Orthodox synagogue, the women sat on one side of the sanctuary and the men sat on the other with a tall barrier (a mechitzah) in between. This was to prevent distracting the men from prayer. Women were not allowed up on the front platform (the Bimah) to conduct or participate in services. They were not allowed anywhere near a Torah.
I learned all the prayers in Hebrew and in English. At home we did keep kosher and observe holidays. But there was something missing. That something was that I never really had a relationship with God. I was merely going through the motions of being a Jew. If I ever did question anything I was learning in Hebrew School, my parents would admonish me and tell me that what I was learning was right and that it wasn’t to be challenged. For instance, I particularly found it hard to understand why my parents frowned upon my associating with a Catholic girl who lived nearby. After all, are we not to love others, no matter what religion they practice?
By some miracle I did marry a Jewish man. We didn’t keep kosher and holidays were merely endured for the sake of our parents. Practicing a religion did not exist for us until we had children, when it became somewhat of a dilemma.
We provided our children with a more Conservative-Reform type of background. When they were young, they attended a Jewish parochial school. My son had a Bar Mitzvah and my daughter had a Bat Mitzvah. They grew older and were no longer interested in the traditions. That was fine with me. And religion drifted out of our lives.
In 2009 I was baptized at Church of the Rock in Winnipeg. A few months later I went on a mission trip to Mexico with members of my church. Two things happened. I fell in love with the people and the country of Mexico. But more importantly I actually put into practice as a Christian what I had learned. I wasn’t merely talking the talk. I was now walking the walk.
Finding a Christian church in Mexico, a predominantly Catholic country, is quite a feat. Consequently I often find myself in a Cathedral where I contemplate my own meditation and prayers. I consider Leavenworth Church of the Nazarene as my home church, and am so thankful to have found this treasure two years ago when I first visited Leavenworth.
Pastor Becky Goodman is pastor of children and families here. She has become a good friend and we have often have stimulating conversations. We were out for dinner a couple of weeks ago and she asked me how I could have gone without religion for thirteen years given the upbringing I’d had. My reply was that you never miss what wasn’t there. How do you miss a relationship with God when there was never one to begin with?
Recently I visited a friend in hospital. Before we left, we gathered around and held hands and prayed. Prayer is powerful as is giving praise to God. These are two concepts that were also missing from my childhood. The words may have been spoken back then, but there was no meaning behind them.
I messed up with my own children. I was so quick to dismiss religion from our lives back then. I passed my non-relation down to my children. But a new opportunity has been provided for me. I have a new granddaughter. It is my fervent hope that Maddie will be here for Vacation Bible School in four years time when she is old enough. I so want her to experience a true, loving relationship with God. I do not want what was missing in my life to be missing in hers.