|University Place Christian Church|
Our Sundays are Spanky-secular nowadays, too. I get up and mix up bread dough from the sourdough starter I've fed the night before. We head out to Panera, where we eat a little and read the New York Times. Then off to Acme and Heinen's for the week's groceries. Home to make bread and write blog and have lunch. After the bread's out, I bike (if the weather's good) down to Starbucks, where I do my daily quota for Kirkus Reviews (100 pp/day), then do some other reading and/or editing of some text I've written. Bike home. Do some typing/writing. Supper. Off to find a Starbucks with Joyce. Home. Do a little more work. To bed to read from several books. To watch something on streaming Netflix. These days, we've started a Canadian series called The Border. One of its co-stars is Graham Abbey, a wonderful Shakespearean actor we've seen in Stratford for years. He plays a kind of grungy government agent in the series. You'd never know he's played Prince Hal, Henry V, Berowne, Jaques, Petruchio, Posthumous, and so many other wonderful roles.
My Sundays were not always like this. Our family church (see photo) in Enid, Oklahoma, was only a few blocks from our house. And just down the street from my grandparents' place. Grandpa, in fact, had been the minister of that church for a number of years before he began devoting himself more entirely to Phillips University, just a block away from the church, where he was a professor at the Bible College. Grandpa baptized me in that church on Easter Sunday, 1954. April 18.
I remember this: The water was frigid, and Grandpa was unhappy with the custodian who had not filled the baptistry in time. He waited till the last moment. And the Oklahoma heat had no chance to warm the water. I wore black pants, white shirt, tennis shoes (didn't want to ruin my good ones). Grandpa held a handkerchief over my mouth as he immersed me. Only nine years old, I wondered if he would let me up in time. (I hadn't taken a big enough breath.) He did. Obviously.
I know exactly what Grandpa said during the service because he'd written the service book used by the Disciples of Christ: Christian Worship: A Service Book, 1953--published just a year before my baptism. As I've written before here, he gave me a copy of that book for my high school graduation in 1962. I can read his words, right now ... God is witness, he said, to what you are doing. Center your thoughts on him, as I pronounce the baptismal formula. ... Now I am about to lower you gently into the water.
Grandpa wrote directions in the book: The lowering should be done so slowly that there is no splashing of the water, but only a gentle ripple; ....
My father was also a Disciples minister in those days--part-time. He was also teaching at Phillips--but in the Education division. On weekends, though, he would preach around in little country towns--Waukomis and Lahoma are two I remember. Reading through a history of Garfield County (ours) not long ago, I saw that in 1952 Waukomis had actually hired Dad as their full-time minister. I had not known that. But what I did know was that in 1952 the military called him back into active duty because of the Korean War. He ended up not in Korea but in Amarillo, Texas, at the Amarillo Air Force Base, which needed a chaplain. We were there a year and a half. So Waukomis had to look elsewhere.
Coincidence: A few years ago Joyce and I were having dinner with one our favorite English professors from our Kent State grad school years, Sanford Marovitz. The conversation drifted ... and we learned that he'd been stationed at Amarillo AFB during the very years we were there. But he didn't recall the chaplain ...
On boyhood Sundays back in Enid, my routines were very different. Up in time for Sunday School (I dreaded it), then into the sanctuary to sit with my parents (if Dad was not preaching somewhere) and Grandma, who would sometimes entertain me (a restless little fellow) with creatures she would form from a cloth handkerchief--she'd tie rabbits and kangaroos. And I would sit in amazement at gifted Grandmother. In the summer, church started an hour earlier than in the winter--the heat, you see. No air-conditioning. So the service began at 10 instead of 11. For which, much gratitude.
After socializing outside later--it was off for home. Outside, of course, I could run around with my friends. And it was on the long sidewalk outside University Place Christian Church that Shirley Williamson, a year younger than I, beat me in a footrace. My first lesson--my first hard lesson that shattered the glass of my dumb ideas about male superiority. Oh, she could fly! I had a crush on Shirley for a while. Then totally lost track of her. (She went to Colorado College--that's the last I heard of her.)
At home, my mom would remove from the oven the pot roast-carrots-potatoes that had been heating away in there since we left the house. (I don't think I'd do that, myself--leave an oven going while we were away for a couple of hours?) Afterwards, we three boys would take our dishes out to the kitchen, where Mom would do the rest. The three sons and Dad would head for the living room and divide the Sunday paper (the Enid Morning News--still in business). Dad got first choice, Richard second, me third, Davi last. (Seniority, you know.)
The funnies and the sports page were all that interested me. Though I have a weird memory about a headline that said something about a SADISTIC KILLING. I didn't know that word--sadistic--and I read it as SAY-duh-sack. And that's the way I pronounced it one day in class, a few years later, much to the surprise of the teacher and the amusement of my classmates.
After the papers were through, outside we'd go to run or bike around the neighborhood till supper time. Leftovers from lunch.
Sunday night--homework (I had very little in elementary school--maybe none?). Maybe a little Lassie or Mr. Peepers or the Colgate Comedy Hour before heading off to bed. Until I was in high school, I shared a bedroom with my little brother, Davi.
But those experiences deserve a blog of their own ...