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2.28.2013

2.5 STEPS UP


Setting aside all religious and denominational pride for a moment and forever, I grew up in the Missionary Church, which is both in essence and reality, a mere 2.5 (or possibly less) steps up from the Mennonites.  That's not meant in arrogance or disrespect, but rather in regards to their standing in chronological and reform lines.  You've probably got your own story from whence you came:)  We all do.

As Missionary folk we have a book chronicling our departure and rebirth from the Mennonites called, Merging Streams.  To be honest, I tried to read it once, but found myself just getting a bit bogged down with the self righteousness juxtaposed as laws and rules just packaged in a new "radical" way at the time.  

The cliff notes synopsis is as follows . . .

Several Mennonite preachers were kicked out or left the Mennonite church over pietism and revivalism - they wanted more Bible study, personal religious experiences, revival and practices.  These men formed an alliance and eventually in 1883 the Mennonite Brethren In Christ denomination was formed.  Later, the name was changed to the United Missionary Church in 1947.  Then in 1969 the United Missionary Church merged with the Missionary Church Association creating The Missionary Church denomination as it stands today.  I know, blah, blah, blah...  Now that you are asleep from church history, here is the point:  the Missionary Church denomination is basically reformed and/or kicked out Mennonites!
 
Recently I joked with my sister and brother-in-law that the Missionary Church was really only 2.5 steps up from the Mennonites.  Having now attended most recently a United Methodist Church, my brother-in-law possibly concerned about my choice of churches, asked, "If the Missionary Church is 2.5 steps up from the Mennonites what are the United Methodists?"  I replied, "One step up from hell:)"  It was just  a tongue-in-cheekish way to say denominations really aren't the relevant question.  A relationship to Christ is.
 
Prohibition still reigns in most Missionary Churches.  Those I think it has softened some with the years. Juice does NOT turn into wine at communion and congregants who become members sign that they will not drink alcohol.  I don't know if that is enforced or if the honor system is meant to keep that in check.  The whole alcohol thing was deviated a bit in my household as a kid.  Medicinally, whiskey or vodka was mixed with orange juice in a small glass for a bad cold.  You slugged it down and then slept like a baby that night!  That's as far as alcohol went in our house growing up though.
 
Playing cards were NOT ALLOWED as well, at least when I was growing up!  We had one deck of playing cards that were kept in the back of a bathroom cupboard.  Why the bathroom, I do not know other than if the card police ever made a surprise visit they would NEVER look in there.  My mom to this day, when questioned on the cards, claims she doesn't know why there were in there:)  I do believe in Article IV it states something about them being the devil's workshop or can led to debauchery or gambling - oh and that leads to trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for POOL (oh sorry, I was singing "Ya Got Trouble" from the musical, "Music Man" as I typed!). 
 
Don't get me wrong we played cards, but they were wonderfully magical games like "PIT" or "UNO", most definitely "OLD MAID", and the always wildly riveting "DUTCH BLITZ".   I had no idea how to play with playing cards till I got married and my husband taught me poker. To this day you do not want to be paired up with me for euchre.  And if you are, I freely disclose to my partner, "I am 2.5 steps up from Mennonite and have little card playing experience!"  It's my you-will-lose-with-me-as-your-partner disclaimer.
 
As a child, movie theatres and roller rinks alike were the playgrounds of Satan.  I can distinctly recall asking my father if I could go to the SCHOOL SPONSORED ROLLERSKATING PARTY (said slowly and loudly for dramatic purposes please).  His response, "Well, I can't always be here to tell you what is right and wrong.  If you feel you can do that and still love Jesus, then you will have to make that decision."  I did make it.  I went:) 
 
Movie theatres for years had a shady living-on-the-dark side-of-life portrayal in our home.  Once I think I heard my father say, "If Jesus comes back I just don't know if that's where I want Him to find me."  Really!!?? I was thinking when he spoke those words that it might be just as easy for Him to find me there since He was God and would have already known what movie I was in, even what row and seat.  It seemed way more convenient for the return of Christ to occur while I was sitting there in the dark munching on popcorn.  When I was gathered into the air with Jesus there might be a bit of spilled popcorn on the floor, but other than that, fairly orderly and neat I thought. 
 
Scaring children into the kingdom of God was a frequent method of winning souls.  During the 1970's movies were shown in our church about the rapture of the church called, "A Thief In The Night" and the equally frightening and disturbing sequel, "A Distant Thunder".  Now mind you, movies in theatres were evil, but Godly scare-the-devil-out-of-you kinds were highly accepted forms of behavior modification and "kingdom building".  Those movies to a elementary age kid elicited a more terrifying response than watching "Halloween".  For months after watching them every time I couldn't find my mom or dad at home I went into terror mode believing that Jesus had come back and I, the sinner I knew I was, got left behind.  
 
Mennonites are about routines and tasks that promote service to God.  So were the Missionaries.  What better tasks could there be than having as many church services as possible weekly, highlighted by 2 week revival meetings meant to personally revive us all (the premise of the start of the Mennonite Brethren In Christ Church).  As kids we were not exempt from being revived either.  Running parallel to the adult "revivals", the children met in the basement for speakers and special chalk artists drawing to music with a black light.  I found myself as a kid being distracted by such tight lines of operation and interpreting God in always this regimented and orchestrated way.  But I knew to keep those thoughts to myself.
 
That was oh so obvious when I went to the "salvation" curtain room following one revival meeting session to accept Jesus at probably age 5 or 6.  I had such a great time, felt such warmth flood my insides, that the next night I headed back at the close of the service to the "salvation" curtain room.  I was carded that time, "Lynn, you accepted Jesus in your heart last night.  You don't need to go in again." I didn't think Jesus was limited like that - off limits, hard to get a back stage pass to.
 
I laugh about that now as I view God a bit differently.  Did I need to go back-no probably not, but I wanted to experience and feel.  In my adult spiritual journey I have come to know that God hugely loves me and is less concerned about what I do (rules) than who I am (my heart).  The God I know would have said, "Lynn, come into the "salvation" room anytime where you can experience more of me.  He would also said, "'Nacho Libre' is playing at Cineplex I.  It would be right up your humor alley."

1 comment:

  1. OK, there's a big class in the library now and tears are streaming down my face b/c I can't laugh out loud!!! Dang it! That 2.5 is funny stuff!

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