Sunday Morning Guilt

Along with Sunday morning comes the guilt. I feel terrible for not going to church. The guilty voice in my head tells me that I’m being a negligent parent by not instilling that weekly act of self-discipline in their schedule. Because I grew up going to church every single week, it’s been hardwired into my mind that, somehow, I’ll be a better person for going — and a worse one for not going.

In recent months, I’ve hit a new low in my spiritual wellbeing. (Ironically, I’m also happier than ever.) My skepticism has overwhelmed my desire for tradition. I’m no longer content to sit in the pew and take things at face value. I doubt what I’ve always been taught to believe about the Bible stories, the act of Communion, baptism, even Jesus himself. Of course, I don’t want to push away those things too quickly; after all, the Protestant church has formed the basis of my entire childhood. Neither am I content, though, to accept things “just because.” No, I choose to live my life deliberately, and that requires an acute level of awareness in every decision I make. If I go to church, then I want to know why I’m going to church. If I choose not to go, I’d better be able to back that up, too.

For a while, Jason and I had aspirations of raising our kids in a spiritual setting that reflected both of our backgrounds. Every Sunday, we’d haul our baby to Catholic Mass, followed by a Protestant service. It was a long morning that we both dreaded and a pattern soon emerged. I’d leave Mass feeling awful, usually in tears because of the way people glared at me whenever the baby made a sound. There was no Sunday school, yet there was no warm understanding on the part of the congregation to make us feel welcome. Ultimately, we stopped going because I wasn’t willing to spend the hour-long Mass entertaining the baby in the coat room. My distaste with that experience came before my disillusionment with the lack of female equality in the Catholic church, so I can genuinely say I gave it a fair shot.

Our experience in Protestant churches has been positive, but what drains me is feeling like the lone young family in a congregation of elderly people. They’re lovely folks, but being the single beacon of hope for the church’s future is a lot of pressure. It made me realize that I go to church mostly for the sense of community, and if there were a large, vibrant crowd of younger families, it would increase the appeal for me. We did find a Mennonite church with wonderful music and younger congregation, but it’s nearly an hour away and — I know this sounds like an excuse — I feel really guilty about burning that amount of gas just for an hour of church before driving all the way home. It feels so excessive.

photo: mennonitechurch.ca
photo: mennonitechurch.ca

When I stop to think about what I’d like to see embodied in my ideal church — academic group discussions, food kitchens, acceptance of gay rights, feminism and 100% equal treatment of women in everything church-related, refugee support, guest speakers from all walks of life, social events like potlucks, shelters for pregnant teens and abused women, in-house care for the elderly, mentoring programs for kids, etc. — I realize more and more that this just isn’t church. It’s an ideal society I’m picturing. The church’s ancient mission has always been spiritual wellbeing, not societal government, but this is where I’m stuck: how can one achieve spiritual wellbeing unless those other problems are addressed first? 

I won’t be passive in my spiritual journey. I’ll continue to think, read, and discuss with others what is concerning me. I owe at least that to my heavily-churched upbringing and to my kids, who someday will have questions for me. I must be able to answer sensibly why I make the decisions I do. In the meantime, I laud churches for the wonderful work they do and hope that I can find a way to balance church in my life without feeling hypocritical. That would be nice, because then I wouldn’t have to suffer with my weekly Sunday guilt.

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7 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Guilt

  1. Thank you! I’ve been thinking these same things myself for years. Our experiences at church the last few years has really made me hesitant to attend.

    I would have to say we do not agree on all points, but overall my feelings are quite similar.

  2. I believe how you treat people in your every day life and how you act towards other people serves God just as well as going to Church. I have known people who go to Church on Sundays and screw (sorry for the wording) people during the week.

  3. You’ve pinpointed so many of my feelings about church/religion/community over the last few years. My husband and I have vacillated between the decision to raise our daughter in a church or not, and both of us feel like neither of those choices are the right one for us. It’s confusing.

  4. I am a christian woman raising my children in a christian home and will always make faith the foundation of our household. I strongly believe however that people need to find the appropriate church for them. When we moved to Port Elgin this was a bit of a struggle, but we did find one that embodies the biblical principles we believe and is also engaging for our kids. We got.involved quickly as well so that we could always have a community sense in the church.

  5. Your article resonates with me, even though I am single without children. I recall being a young child in the United Church being confused as to why I was apologizing for my ‘sins’; I didn’t know what I had done that I was apologizing for!
    Overall the community and love in the church was great but the reciting of passages and continuous apologizing failed to appeal to me as an individual.

  6. Dear Katherine, Perhaps a near-by Unitarian Congregation would offer family/children friendly services… Blessings all around,

    Artist Lisa, Amberfly & Minou Gris-Gris XXXOOO

  7. If a person wants to model his or her life after the life of Jesus Christ, then church can be a great place to find fellow travelers on that long a difficult road, and love for humanity will be a natural outflow. But, if all Jesus is to you is an interesting, if not slightly insane, historical figure, then to go to church is to miss the point, and that is probably why you feel torn about attending. There are many wonderful secular humanitarian organizations out there that can provide a mechanism for helping out your fellow human. Pour your time and money into those. Perhaps spend your traditional hour on Sunday morning planning a volunteer time in the local community and making an online donation to a different charity each week. The world will be better for it.

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