Being sent to church

I hated going to church as a kid. Not unusual that. Not only did I find it boring, I just didn’t believe – and realised this was odd for a pretty young kid going through the usual rites of passage such as first confession, communion and confirmation.

I think this lack of faith grew into a pretty militant and active atheism (as opposed to just not caring) precisely because every Sunday I would have to go to church with the family and at numerous times around Easter. I was bemused at Easter by Benediction, wondering if there was some correlation between the length of the service, the number of times we’d have to kneel and then stand up; and the number of alter-boys who fainted.

I began to hate Christians and Christianity, precisely because I had to go through this boring time which meant absolutely nothing to me. I think if I’d been given the option when I was younger to skip church I wouldn’t have developed such a negative opinion towards it. Yet I can see now that when these feelings developed I was too young to stay home on my own. And I do remember, thinking back now, my mother saying when I was older I could make my mind up whether to go.

When I was 14-15 I got a part time job on Saturday/Sunday mornings. This meant I couldn’t go to church with the family. Instead I used to go on Sunday evenings. Well I used to say I went on Sunday evenings. I’d get on my bike and head off to church yet actually just go for a ride, go read a book or maybe go sketching in the countryside. The funny thing was that I would even do this in winter, trying to find shelter when it would have been easier to sit through mass in warm cosy church.

I was part of a Catholic church where everyone knew each other. But I got good at maintaining an alibi. Sometimes I’d lock my bike up outside church just before the end of the service. Walk round to the other entrance and enter as folks were leaving. Then leave by the front door saying hello to family friends, the priest, and then unlocking my bike and heading home. Alibi maintained.

Alas my deception was discovered when I claimed to have attended a church service that was in reality cancelled. And the daft thing was, my mother said it was totally okay for me to not go to church. It was totally my choice and it didn’t bother her in the slightest. It bothered her more that I thought that I was forced to go. It did bother her though that I said it wasn’t boredom that prevented me going but actually because I had thought about it a lot and was an atheist – she found it hard to actually understand the concept, bless her. But I think looking back, her acceptance of me not going to church laid the ultimate groundwork for me becoming a Christian in later life.

I still don’t like going to church though. And the irony is once again, I move in circles where I have to pretend I do actually go more than just occasionally.