I have to make what feels like a weird sort of confession. I took Addie to church today.
Here are a whole bunch of caveats and explanations and hems and haws:
First, my church (is it my church?) is not a churchy-sort of church. In fact, it feels weird to even call it a church. There is some praying--though it doesn't really look or sound like prayer--and there's music--though it's not what you might consider your typical kind of churchy music--and there's a "sermon," though that doesn't really seem like the right word for it.
It's a Science of Mind church, and I think I will do a poor job of explaining exactly what that is here, so Google it if you want to know more, or check here to find out about my church, Mile Hi. Or don't. My worst fear is that you might think I'm prosletyzing. I'M NOT. I hate that, and wouldn't do it to anyone. I'm just trying to explain this experience, what it's like to go to a non-churchy church.
So, what's non-churchy? Well, I suppose the most appealing thing to me about it is its inclusiveness. There are no stern pronouncements about gender or sexuality there, and the ministry staff (oh, these words, which in other contexts give me the creepy crawlies!) is racially diverse--though the congregation is less so. The theology is also quite inclusive, drawing on a spectrum of faiths and teachings, with Christianity only being one. They speak of Jesus not as a savior or even as the son of God (I'm getting the jeebies!) but as a great teacher. And God is more of a force or energy that exists in everything, rather than some bearded guy with a bunch of rules and regulations and judgments (not my God).
The music is good, the prayer is basically guided meditation, and the emphasis is on how we create and understand our realities. It's a nice middle ground for the intellect and spirit to meet, without having to do too much compromising on either end.
But this post isn't really about my decision to go back to church (un-church), though it's part of the something big I alluded to in an earlier post. I'm not really ready to write more about this yet, since I'm not totally sure what's happeneing.
No, this is actually a parenting post, believe it or not. See, there's a daycare at Mile Hi (un)Church, and so I decided to have Addie to go with me today. I thought it might be fun for her to play with some other kids, and have some time out of the house this morning, and she usually naps better if she's had an outing for the day. Still, I was a little nervous about dropping her off, for a few reasons.
First was simply that it was a new environment, and as a parent it's always a little scary to leave your kid somewhere new. But I have faith in Addie's adaptability, and true to form, she ran right in and started to play, not even giving me a backward glance.
Second, Eric is an atheist and I'm a pretty skeptical agnostic, so I was worried there might be some Sunday-school-indoctrination going on. There wasn't--the only religious thing that happened was that there was a tiny wood manger scene on the floor for the kids to play with (the rest of the kid paraphernalia wasn't religious). Ironically, Addie gravitated to the manger and immediately started to play, picking up one of the wise men, who had a crown on, and asking me, "Mama, where's the Queen and the Princess?" Where, indeed.
Third, as an ending to the (un)service, the entire congregation holds hands and sings a slightly tweaked version of the song "Peace on Earth" (tweaked to be more inclusive--"with God as our power" instead of "God as our father" and "family all are we" instead of "brothers all are we," and so on). While this is happening, all the kids who have been in daycare come to the front of the congregation and stand on rafters in the front of the room (which seats several hundred). I was a little worried about Addie doing this, worried she might freak out or cry.
But she just tromped right out there, eyes wide at the hundreds of people singing before her, but looking confident and unscared, and held her teacher's hand for the song. She was wearing the leopard coat that her Aunt Julie brought her ("It has ears, Mama! And a tail!") and seemed totally fine with the whole thing. I was the one who freaked out. I started waving my hands and jumping up and down and yelling, "Addie! Addie! Over here!" like some maniac cheerleader mom. I was filled with this bizarre pride, this desire to yell to the entire room, "Look at my kid! She's only two! Isn't she brave? Isn't she smart? Isn't she wonderful?"
And, of course, she is brave, and smart, and wonderful. Still, the depth and origin of this pride is a mystery to me. Somehow just seeing her up there, though, away from me and on her own and in front of tons of other people triggered a protectiveness, an ownership that I hadn't felt before. She's mine, is what I really wanted to yell. She's mine. I did that. And at the same time, I was in awe of her separateness from me, her ability to get up there and be without me. Can you tell I'm getting a handle on this whole individuation thing? Talk about your spiritual mysteries.