Church in my parenting journey has been a constant preoccupation. I grew up going to a church that, I believe, really did what Jesus did. (DWJD?)

We were a community, we were uplifting and introspective, we had a lot of fun (youth lock-ins were always a raucous and fun time) and it was G-rated, wholesome fun. 

Jesus was present, but really as a teacher, an example of kindness. There was no fire and brimstone. Everyone was accepted. There were strong rumors that one of our ministers of a few years was a lesbian. And though she wasn’t out, my family and our close friends didn’t care.

statue of Mary - gaudy and lol - church in my parenting journey
Gaudy Mary. Fab.

I’d love for my kids to have the same experience – a community of people rooted in common ethics; an outlet that preaches (pun intended) the difference between right and wrong – assuming it’s a right and wrong with which I agree. Hence, church in my parenting journey is a regular topic of debate with the kiddos.

I’m the Goldilocks of church-going…not too liberal, not too conservative. 

children posing next to crucifix showoing church in my parenting journey

Then at the end, the preacher said “Now, we’re going to push the chairs aside and come together to dance the electric slide!”

My partner and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes and took off. 

During the years before children, my partner and I explored a few churches around NYC’s West Village on Easter. One of my favorite experiences was at a church historic for its role in promoting civil and gay rights. We sat in the church and listened to pretty great music (they drew on the NYC talent pool, for sure). But there was not one mention of Jesus. It was a Christian church and it was Easter, after all. 

St. John's cathedral - church in my parenting journey - best diaper bag for dads
Pay no attention to the best diaper bag for dads in the foreground.

I’m looking for a liberal, welcoming crowd. But that was a bit too liberal. 

Further, there are a couple reasons I want to go to church: 

  1. Reason for the season
  2. A moment of calm
  3. Marking extraordinary days
  4. A second line of defense
  5. Another form of cultural education

Reason for the Season

If we’re going to celebrate religious holidays, my kids are damn sure going to understand the why behind the holiday before (or at least simultaneously) they draw up long-ass lists of crap they’re demanding for no good reason. 

Several of our massive American holidays are centered around religious traditions, no matter how secular and capitalist they’ve become. Though the American retailsphere cashes in on Christmas and Easter to ridiculous degrees, they are holidays that mark the changing of seasons (coincidentally coinciding with ancient pagan holidays honoring changing of seasons). And they arrive at good times for self-reflection (during the doldrums of winter and the beginning of spring.) 

A moment of forced calm in my week

Church is just about the only place I’m shamed into truly turning off my phone. I know this is a matter of self-discipline. I could meditate more frequently or simply turn my phone off. But church provides a focus for my schizo brain. I can let my mind wander (which it does) or focus on the wisdom from ages past (which it sometimes does). Regardless, after the brain vacation from the every day, the change of pace does it good and I feel more relaxed afterward. 

Marking extraordinary days

Going to the effort of rituals is important to me. If we don’t make an effort…getting dressed up, leaving our comfy personal agendas, don’t take a step outside our casual paradigms, every day is pretty much like the rest (whether or not we’re in a pandemic). Going to the effort of making things mindful, special, reflective, helps us ponder our lives and the world in different ways. Otherwise we’re just trudging through our lives without reflection and without ritual. 

Second line of defense

In my ideal world, being part of a church community provides a second line of defense for parenting and education. My kids are so tired of hearing me lecture to them about gratitude, morality, justice and behavior. I’m more than happy to have a second-string team to help with that. 

Cultural education

Finally, church is another form of cultural, intellectual stimulation. Religion has inspired massive upheavals in human history – obviously it’s created sensational architectural projects while also enslaving and killing millions. It’s created the geopolitical map and continues to separate some and unite others. In order to understand more about their place in society and historical context, I want my kids to have some religious education. 

church in my parenting journey

In the end, I welcome them choosing whatever path works, be it Christian, Buddhist, Islam, Zoroastracism, or Judaism. I just want to give them some foundational context for celebration, mindfulness and education and hope they’ll search for meaning and the “why’s” of life…hence my commitment to church in my parenting journey.

Oh – and to treat their fellow human with kindness, mercy and maximize their joy in life. That, too.

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