The other day, my boys and I were driving through our little town on the way to soccer practice when we passed the Methodist church.
"Remember when we went to that church a few times a couple of years ago, Mom?" my older son said from the backseat. "It was so fun." Then he stopped abruptly, as if he'd just realized he'd said something wrong. His voice turned serious. "But I know church isn't supposed to be fun, Mom," he said in all of his 7-year-old wisdom.
Ah, that sweet Catholic guilt sure does start early, doesn't it?
Here's a story I wrote a couple of years ago about that Methodist church and the Catholic guilt that my husband and I experienced when we walked through the doors. I'm happy to report that even now, all these years later and despite our ingrained-from-a-young-age misgivings about attending another church (and the fact that I wrote about it), they still love us. The feeling is mutual.
But we still regularly attend the Catholic church. (I'm Type A, people. Habits are hard to break for me.)
Before I even begin this story, I must specify: Yes, I go to church every single Sunday. It makes me feel better about the trash that I write throughout the week.
And yes, I do understand that singing a few hymns won’t erase the drunken skankiness of my past (yesterday), but hey, it’s a start.
Okay, she so hasn't done that. But I like to say that because it gets her all riled up—and because then I’ll have someone else to blame for the times when I do go to her Sunday services and my Catholic friends find out.
The first time the hubs and I decided to cheat on the Catholics by attending a Methodist service, we spent the entire Saturday night prior to the service shaking, tangled up in our sheets, drenched in nervous sweat and unable to sleep. No, it wasn’t the lack of alcohol making our poor bodies behave that way, and I know this because we’d had a few drinks before hitting the sack that Saturday night.
It was actually our Catholic guilt making our bodies lurch feverishly as we tried—to no avail—to get some sleep.
I remember the hubs rolling over in the dark to face me. “Do you think they sacrifice Catholics?” he whispered, tremors in his deep voice.
We learned that Sunday that no, they most certainly do NOT do Catholic sacrifices, and that also, it may not have been the best question for the hubs to pose to the greeter as we nervously walked through the doors of the church. Oh, well. Better luck next time.
Here are a few other things we learned NOT to do—things that might make visiting another church one weekend go a bit more smoothly for you. Hey, I’m here to help, my peeps:
1.) Do not shake with fear as you enter the new church, as if it would be the act of walking into another church—and not one of the many nights of standing half naked in a random bathroom, quivering with regret after a collegiate one-night stand—that would cause you to spontaneously burst into a thousand flaming pieces and fly into the fiery pits of hell.
Wow, that “bathroom quivering” line was way more depressing than it was funny, huh?
2.) Definitely don’t slap the ass of the woman handing out programs for the day’s service, causing her to squeal with delight and say, “Betcha don’t get to do that in the Catholic church, huh?”
Okay, maybe you can do that one. But to be fair, I should specify that we knew each other through mutual friends, so my behavior wasn't all that shocking to her. In fact, I'm pretty sure she enjoyed it. Pervert.
3.) When offered a cup of coffee (Seriously, you guys, they have coffee during the service), don’t say, “And I won’t go to hell?” prompting the congregation member who kindly offered it to respond, “Um, well, I don’t—I don’t think so…” and look down at her own cup questioningly.
4.) Do not yell at your husband for handing you one of the children when you weren’t ready and almost making you drop your “steaming cup of the Lord’s Coffee.”
5.) When standing in the middle of a group of people you hardly know before the service begins, do not engage in an argument with said husband over said Jesus Coffee, especially when he begins with something like this:
“I hope you enjoy that coffee in hell.”
“They don’t even have coffee in hell,” is an example of what not to snap back.
“Exactly. Remember that,” is what he should not respond with a smartass smirk.
Obviously this is a totally hypothetical situation, but if it truly had happened, I would venture to guess that I was a little too happy for the hubs’s liking, and he had to do something to squash my coffee-loving spirit.
6.) When the preacher takes his place at the front of the congregation to begin the service, do not lean over to ask your friend, who was nice enough to sit with you during your first visit to her church, if you should address him as “Head Witch.”
7.) Do not ignore the hubs when he begins sneaking sips of your coffee while you’re wrangling with the children. Instead, raise your eyebrows at him, move two chairs down and explain that it’s because you “don’t want any sparks to fall on me” when he bursts into flames.
8.) After the beautiful service ends, do not ask your friend if she thinks God will be mad at you for attending her church. She might get a bit upset and yell, “And don’t come back, ASSHOLES!” as you are walking out with your family.
9.) DO buy a hair shirt for the next time you decide to attend a service there. Like the hubs said, “Isn’t church supposed to be a little bit more miserable in order to count?”
You’re welc for the tips, my peeps. Although I’m pretty sure if you’re reading this blog, the first thought you have on Sunday morning is probably more, “Who moved the damned whisk-ay?! I need some for my coffee!” and not so much, “Hm, which church service shall we attend today, darling?”