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The sad release of skipping church

  • 09 May 2017


There came a time for me, as it does for many, when going to church was no longer obligatory. I suspect it's most common in those middle years of adolescence, when parents feel the need to loosen their hold over you, but with the blanket of judgement ever fixed.

My wane in piety was not unforeseen. Each Sunday morning, as my family was getting ready, I'd linger by the bathroom still in my pyjamas, wondering what to do or say. The plan was always to tentatively make everyone aware that I wasn't quite up for church-going that day. Of course, reactions varied.

On a good day, my mother would appear nonplussed, almost indifferent, preoccupied with attaching a dangly earring or putting on her makeup. She'd say, 'That's fine, you go back to bed and rest.' My heart would leap for joy. Not only did I dodge the three hours spent swaying to an old piano in a sticky hall; but the whole house was mine, a veritable bounty for doing what I wanted where I wanted.

She'd be happy to go with my father and two sisters, and tell me about the sermon when they got home. Sometimes she was even glad for me. 'Well it's a good job you didn't come today, they had that woman who shouts at the end of every sentence. I mean, I'd understand if she was shouting "hallelujah" or "amen", but no, she just builds up and up to a shout every time. Makes my ears hurt.'

At other times, she was curiously concerned about the state of my faith. Her worried face would turn from the mirror, and pouting her lips, she'd start to tease me. She kept calling me 'sleepy head' and 'my little heathen', poking my flabby arm with her long nails.

When it came to asserting the seriousness of my not wanting to go, she'd turn fretful and annoyed, toying with my future like it rested on that single Sunday morning. If forced to come, I'd have to get ready in a frantic ten minutes, spent mostly ironing a shirt. I'd sit in the car, feeling hard done by. She always pretended to act as if no coercion had occurred.

I found the journey nauseating as she played gospel house music. I think she found it energising, or at least agenda-setting. She'd gradually take on an air of spiritual grandiosity. Later, as she sipped from a