Sunday, October 18, 2015

Oh, Heavens, It's More Kvetching About Church

I grew up Catholic.  I'm 62 years old as of this writing, and that means that when I was first exposed to Sunday services, they were performed in Latin, with the priest's back to the congregation to preserve the mystery of transubstantiation (or whatever) and apart from the sermon (usually a request for money rather than a lesson of any sort) it was in large part unintelligible to me.

Then Pope John XXIII held Vatican II and the world went crazy.  Suddenly the Mass was being said mostly in English, everybody could see what the priest was doing (it wasn't much, it turns out) and it was all done in understandable colloquial English.  In an effort to add more community to the service, a bit was added where we all had to greet our neighbors and "offer them a sign of peace."  ("Peace be with you.")

Man, I hated that.  Not Vatican II or the English, but that greeting of strangers.

I am fairly introverted, and extremely uncomfortable around people I don't know, even people who are only acquaintances.  So when my Unitarian church added a bit to the Sunday service which involved getting out of the pews and greeting your neighbors, it gave me fits.  I don't like it, and I rarely choose to participate in it.  I don't feel like I'm being true to myself when I'm forced into phony sociability with things like "greeting my neighbor."  So, just like I drop out of prayers or meditations that mention God (I am atheist, strenuously so,) I only choose to greet the friends immediately around me and I don't go looking for others.  I'm not antisocial, I'm just a bit shy and a bit introverted, which is why I sing in a choir.  It does me good to get out of my comfort zone a little, and generally on Sunday mornings I'm already surrounded by people I like so I can get away with not wandering out into the congregation at large.

Now this will seem like I'm going off on a wild tangent, but bear with me.  Like most librarians, I hate the movie/TV stereotype of The Librarian who is a buttoned-up plain woman who likes to SHHH people.  However, we have in our church a librarian who is, unfortunately, the living embodiment of that stereotype.  Severe clothes, permanent scowl, and a tendency to over-enunciate when talking to you as though you were some unfortunate idiot with comprehension issues.  She chose this morning to barrel her way through to where I was sitting and frown a stern "Good morning!" at me.  It was anything but a wish that I have a good morning.  The tone was definitely one of admonishment, with an undercurrent of "why don't you get up off your ass and get out there good-morning-ing with the rest of us?"

So I wished her an oblivious "good morning" right back and stayed right where I was, on my ass.

Which she can kiss if she doesn't like it.

You don't get to judge me, or anybody else, lady.  You don't know what kind of baggage or damage people might bring with them, whether it be from previous church experiences, or family experiences, or life experiences.  If someone doesn't want to hop up and glad-hand with strangers simply because they were ordered to, that's their business.  Leave them the hell alone.

If I see someone I particularly wish to have a good morning, I'll tell them.  Otherwise, as Unitarians, I expect to have my privacy respected.  If there are elements of the service that make me uncomfortable, whether it's being asked to say that "what we know about God is a piece of the truth" (because what I know is that THERE ISN'T ONE) or if it's processing down the center aisle like an Episcopalian or greeting our neighbors and wishing them peace which makes me feel like I'm back in a Catholic service ... I reserve the right to refuse to participate, and moreover, I ask that those reservations be respected.

That's all I'm looking for.

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