I grew up Baptist and Presbyterian. I have nothing but fond memories of my church communities. I remember Sunday school: coloring pictures, memorizing verses and books and stories, watching videos, putting on plays for special holidays, learning little kid songs about the faith, teachers reading us stories while acting them out on a felt board. I remember the Baptist church I was baptized with in Carrollton, Texas, how they started out meeting in a school in Plano, raising funds to buy property and build their own church, moving to meeting in an actual house near my own, the construction of the church and the empty rooms and the little round metal circles punched out of electrical sockets. I remember the thrill of being baptized, both Baptist as a little girl and later as a Presbyterian, how grownup it made me feel to be going through this ritual in front of the entire congregation. I remember Vacation Bible School, day camp at church really, with crafts and games for a whole week of fun. I remember youth group activities, both at my own church and at churches with my friends, bowling, picnics, hiking, caroling. I remember singing in the children’s choir and the adult choir at First Presbyterian, the youth choir at Crestview Baptist where we went touring around the state of Texas.
I remember the feeling of my church being like a second home, and the congregation being an extended family.
I only ever went there because my parents went there, and all my friends did the same thing. Everybody goes to church, that’s just what you do. I never had any real belief, no rapturous faith, no communion with that God. When I discovered Wicca in high school, it was like coming home as far as my faith was concerned. I found a name, a system, a religion that encompassed my feelings toward the world, my love of magic and mystery and nature, gave them words and structure and form. I left Christianity behind without a second thought, because it never really was my religion, after all.
What I miss, though, is the community that I left behind. I miss the potluck dinners and presentations. I miss singing in the choir. I miss the circle of dear friends that we saw every week, the ones who would pray for you and bring you food when you were sick or had a new baby, who would ask about you when you came to church every week. I miss being comfortable in scouts, instead of feeling excluded when they work on bible-study badges and pray and go to vespers.
I didn’t realize this all at once. I found Wicca at about the same time that I left for college, and so I would have naturally been leaving behind that church family even if I hadn’t had a change of heart. A loner at heart, married young, I didn’t feel the need for that extended family. I had my husband, we had each other, we had fun. It was good.
Until we had kids. Until we were left alone with triplets and all our “friends” disappeared. I remember encountering a woman in the baby store one day. It started out as a standard, “Oh look! Triplets! They’re so adorable!” Usually the next line is, “You sure have your hands full!” Instead, this woman said, “You must get a lot of help!”
“No,” I said. “We really don’t have any.” I probably started crying at that, I don’t know. So much of the first year or two is a blur now, but I remember being so tired and frustrated. This encounter happened the first summer they were home, so they were sleeping through the night but still bottle-feeding, not really eating solids although I kept trying, busy crawling and trying to get into everything. My parents both lived out of state, the girlfriend I had before getting pregnant had disappeared, I had no playgroups or moms groups, there really just was nobody that we knew who was even interested in helping out or even visiting.
This woman in the store had assumed that I was a member of a church, as she was, and that my church community at least was helping us out. When I explained that I had no church and no family nearby, she jumped into action. She put us on her church’s list of new families, as though the triplets had just been born. For a month, people brought us dinners to eat. A crew of ladies came to help clean the house for me. Just that little bit made such a huge difference to me, when the only people I ever saw besides Brian were the therapists who came by every week.
This is what I lost by becoming Wiccan. Not just the chance to receive things, but the chance to give them, too, the chance to just take that meal to a family in need, no questions asked, the chance to find out about somebody who needs help and go provide it. I lost the chance for my children to have those experiences I remember so fondly from growing up, the chance to have a scouting experience that is not exclusionary, the chance to experience something like Vacation Bible School.
I’ve gotten a little of that community back recently through our wonderful homeschooling group. We circle the wagons and take care of our own when bad things happen and when babies are born. I’ve gotten some more of it from my church community. I cherish getting that back…and I want to give it back to others. I want more. I want to make sure others have that space and place, that home and family of shared faith and fellowships, shared songs and stories.
That’s why I initiated into the ATC tradition, with its commitment to congregational structure and clerical support to the community. That’s why I continue to study and pursue the path to my Third Degree, which will require my commitment to a Great Work of my own. Whether or not I ever go home to Texas and start my own church, I will still work wherever I am to find ways to provide those bits of church community to the Wiccans and Pagans where I live, however I can, to the best of my ability. My life’s work to this point has been family, children and nurturing. I intend for that to continue even after my children leave home, so that they can have their children with the benefit of a strong community.