When I was eight, we lived next door to the Gospel Temple. I absolutely loved that church — but not for religious reasons. I loved it because it had a huge parking lot ideal for road hockey. I spent many carefree hours there pretending to be Bobby Orr or Eddie Shack. But I’d never actually gone inside.
That all changed in the late spring. A missionary family arrived at the temple with a travel trailer. Soon there were pamphlets at every door inviting us to a puppet show. They could have all the puppets they liked, but I wasn’t going to church, no sir! Sunday mornings were for watching cartoons.
On Saturday night, I didn’t have a care in the world. The next morning mom and dad woke me early and told me I was going to Sunday school. “What?” I yelled reasonably. “Why do I have to go to church? You don’t!” “Never mind that” dad warned ominously. “You’re going!” “Is Jay going too?” “No, your brother and his friend Steve are going swimming at the community pool.”
“But that’s not fair! Why doesn’t Jay have to go to church?” “Never mind. You just put on your suit!”
A suit? Were they kidding? It was a nightmare!
I arrived at Sunday school with a nickel for the collection and an aura of martyrdom. The other boys were similarly morose as we pulled at our ties gasping for breath and tried to ignore toe-pinching dress shoes. The puppet show lasted five minutes and then they started quizzing us about the Bible. It was my first day and there was already a test! Looking back, I suppose they were a little shocked at my answers.
“Do you know who Moses was?” “Charlton Heston?” “Who were Jesus’ first two disciples?” “Davey and Goliath. They have their own cartoon show.” “Can you name something God created?” “Baseball! It says so right in the first verse of the Bible: In the big inning.”
I don’t think they were impressed by my sense of humour. But when I got home, mom and dad seemed in an unusually good mood. “Did you like church?”“No!” “You’ll get used to it,” Mum smiled. “Yes,” dad grinned at my mother, “and it’s a lot cheaper than sending him to the movies.”
I guess a lot of people have a negative view of church. I did. But it wasn’t until I started going to Qualicum Baptist a few years ago that I realized how much church has changed! It’s fun! People wear jeans and T-shirts, the sermons are informative and interesting, and we have a nice lunch afterwards. If church was only like this when I was a kid, I’d have been the first one through the doors.
Still, something has always bugged me about those early days. Why didn’t Jay have to go? “Easy,” Jay replied with a laugh. “That spring my friend Steve and I were playing Mission Impossible at the church. We had a huge pile of firecrackers and decided to tie them all together with a long fuse. They had a row of tulips along the wall and we put one firecracker in each flower. Then we lit the fuse. One of the church ladies walked around the corner just as the tulips started exploding from one end of the building to the other. It was like slow motion. Naturally, she turned us in. After that mom and dad were too embarrassed to send me to church, so they let me go swimming instead. “So you were rewarded for your mayhem?” I muttered incredulously. “Yup. And I guess that’s why you’re a chaplain and I get to sleep in on Sundays.”
— Ray Smit’s column appears every second Thursday. Ray serves as the Chaplain to Seniors at Qualicum Beach Community Baptist Church. E-mail is Raymondsmit@shaw.ca.