Laurelle, Missy, and I headed to church on Sunday for the 9:30 am traditional service at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church. Besides just starting again recently, I haven't been to church in quite awhile. Last Christmas a sisterly argument kept me from the holiday mood and prevented my typical annual visit. So besides weddings, I have not been to church in over a year and a half. It was refreshing and comforting to learn that not much has changed. My family and I attend(ed) a smaller Methodist church in Osseo, MN throughout my childhood and adolescence. I remember running through the dark halls after "Joyful Noise" practice and delivering cakes or food for my mom when I received my driver's license. I really loved it. Unfortunately, every church has it's cliques and politics, which turned me away. Not to mention, it is difficult to get me out of bed before double digits on the weekends.
In the last month, though, some personal matters have called me to church, seeking spiritual guidance and stability. The life of a 25-year-old, particularly a graduate student, is chaotic and I missed the "method" in Methodism. I know some people prefer the more fluid contemporary services with a lot of singing and praise worship, but I prefer the traditional structured service. So I was thrilled when Laurelle and Missy, two of my closest friends, willingly accepted my offer to attend with me. Church is like exercise; I'm more likely to participate if I have a "workout buddy."
This last Sunday, the umpteenth Sunday after Pentecost, was the Blessing of the Animals as well as International World Day. Unfortunately, the Blessing of the Animals was at the second service, so we only saw one or two pets. But I must say, I love that these city churches celebrate ideas like this. But for the International Day (one of six days for communion in the Methodist church), the theme was peace. Very suitable at a time when our country is at war with terrorists and our politicians are at war with one another. Hardly the shining example of democracy!
Anyhow, about one-third of the way into the service, the children are dismissed for Sunday school. Before they leave, the pastor gives a mini-sermon with the children gathered around the altar. Every week the children say adorable things and the congregation laughs and smiles, but this week was particularly funny for my Democrat self.
The minister asked the children a few questions. One of which was "How do you do good for others?"
Girl 1: I go swimming in a swimming pool.
Boy 1: I go to the zoo.
Boy 2: I go swimming in the lake.
Boy 3 (catching on): I do chores.
Pastor Robbins of course relayed the intended message and went on to the next question: "How can you bring peace into the world?"
Boy 1: Protect wildlife!
Girl 1: Do good.
Boy 2: Not vote for George Bush because the Iraq War is bad and should end.
As if Boy 1 wasn't funny enough, after Boy 2 spoke, the congregation erupted into laughter. In a very open and tolerant Methodist church, it was apparent why this message would be so well-received. Yet it was so funny to me...I loved what the kid said...it was hilarious. But later I wondered, how do children get these ideas? I understand it must be from parents. But at what point do kids understand why they believe what they do? When do we start questioning these beliefs? Are there some of us who go through life without challenging the beliefs of our parents and simply pass them from generation to generation just like Grandma's pearls and Grandpa's war medals?
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