On Religion – Pt 1

The Foundation

“Which church do you go to?”

The question that inevitably comes up on the first or second date. I never know how best to answer this question because I’ve been to a number of churches, more than once.

I see you raising your eyebrows. I was anticipating that.

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The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Westerham

My Christian journey has been an uphill climb, and I haven’t reached the peak yet. I was born and raised in a Pentecostal family, a Pastor’s child, so bunking church on a Sunday was never an option. They say when I was a baby every time the congregants would shout “Hallelujah!” I’d burst into tears, frightened by the sudden noise, and my mother would have to take me outside to calm me down. I always laugh at this story because I have grown to be quite loud, and I probably make the loudest Hallelujah in church today. Sunday school was such a great part of my Christian foundation and when I was old enough, I became a Sunday school teacher myself. Scripture Union camps, all night prayers, and choir competitions – those were the Christian social scenes. I thought I’d end up with a love story as sweet as my parents – meet a boy at camp, be friends, date, court and marry.

Family
Baby Musa and Family

The Pentecostal church formed the foundation of my understanding of Christianity and for a while I felt this was it. But, they say that change is the only constant. When I was 6, my father, a revered Reverend, walked out on us and never looked back. Later I came to realise the impact it would have on my spiritual life, because as I grew older, I became wary of pastors, bishops, priests – just anyone who stood at the pulpit. Iwould always question if they were living what they were preaching, because in my experience, anything was possible. I still struggle with this today but it has protected me from being gullible because I appreciate that pastors are but men (we can debate about this another day).  As I became more aware of church politics, factions, divisions and as church splits became a trend, my foundation in the Pentecostal church was shaken. I found myself having to pick which pastor to follow as the church I had called home for years was rocked by leadership disputes. I was still young, and so I went with the choice my family made. A few years on, I started questioning the doctrine in that church and eventually stopped attending because I felt I wasn’t growing spiritually. The holy-water, back-to-sender hype had taken over and it wasn’t the good-old-gospel anymore. Leaving the church was no easy feat, it had been a great part of my life.

How am I going to spend my Sundays?

What of my Sunday school class that I’ve been teaching for over three years? 

What will people think of me?

How do I explain this to my mother? (whose opinion I hold very highly)

Those were some of the questions running through my mind the first Sunday I decided not to go to church. Difficult conversations are always a challenge for me, but my family gave me the support I needed by accepting my decision. Now I had to find a new church, a new home. And that was the beginning of a journey many avoid by staying in their comfort zones, no matter how uncomfortable they are.

To be continued…