KIDS IN CHURCH

5
623

My problems of Christian belief started early. My earliest memory of Sundays was the length of the morning service. My brother and I took turns to ask Mother – how much longer?

My problems of Christian belief started early. My earliest memory of Sundays was the length of the morning service. My brother and I took turns to ask Mother – how much longer?

The men were away at the war. The congregation were mainly fishermen too old for military service, and families which were separated with the women and children in pews on the right side of the church and the men on the left. Women covered their hair with a veil or a hat. Men wore hats or caps when walking to church, and black suits: the war-blinded of two world wars wore the light blue suits, red ties and dark glasses of St Dunstan’s.  Requiems were held on Sundays as the boats were out from Monday to Saturday. We knew when a serviceman had died: many arrived wearing berets and medals and there was usually no coffin. Sailors went down with their ships or were buried at sea: soldiers were buried near where they fell abroad: aircrew were lost at sea or cremated in the wreckage.

At bedtime, Mother often gave us a homily on the Holy Family. I got puzzled by this because families were not allowed to sit together in church. We worked out that in our church, all the families had done a mysterious “something bad”, and we were all in disgrace and not allowed to be like the Holy Family and sit together in church.

Sermons were very long and the only parts I understood were the constant reference to sinners and hell. Sometimes we were all called sinners. Attempts back home to discover what sins I had committed were answered by reminders of staying out too long and being late for meals, and not eating everything and not leaving a clean plate (very important during war-time rationing). My complaint that being sent to hell for that was not fair caused Mother to become severe thereby closing the subject. My friends said that sinning was kissing girls which seemed silly because grown-ups were always kissing each other and us on arrival home and we were allowed to play Postman’s Knock at birthday parties to shrieks and giggles. The adult explanation for this inconsistency was “Birthdays are different” followed by the adoption of the severe facial expression.

As adults we may think that Christianity is difficult. I find it easier now than I did as a child.