Whenever I have a thought that keeps coming back to me, I eventually have to write about it. I want to make clear that I am only talking about my own experiences, here. This is what I remember about my church going days while growing up in Murdo.
Above is the Methodist Church I went to until they built the new one. I think I was in first or second grade.
Grandma and Grandpa Sanderson with their six offspring and spouses
Grandpa and Grandma, and usually Aunt Tet, went to the Methodist Church every Sunday, and when they were moved to go to church, everybody in the family, except Aunt Irma and Uncle Jeff, who were Lutherans, went to the Methodist Church. Uncle Wayne and Aunt Emily might have been Lutherans too, but I don’t think they went on Christmas Eve, because they were never late to the family celebration. (Their son, Terry, was quite a few years older than me, so maybe they no longer went to the children’s program on those Christmas Eves I remember.) The Lutheran’s were always late because their Christmas program always went on forever.
My Parents rarely went to church. The only time I remember Dad going was the Sunday I was confirmed. He was embarrassed because I wore an old skirt and blouse. He thought I should have worn a new dress like most of the other girls. I was in the seventh grade. I probably had nice dresses in my closet, but Dad did not like my choice of attire for such an important occasion. He went shopping and brought home a red double-breasted jumper, that had two pleats in the front of the skirt, and a pretty white ruffled blouse. I loved it and wore it often.
The other clothing issue I experienced was when I was around eight and Grandpa announced we were going to Church in Rapid City. I had gone on a trip to the cabin with them and hadn’t packed a dress. I wore a pair of bermuda shorts and held my thighs together, so it would look like I was wearing a skirt. That must have looked really ridiculous, especially when I was walking, but it somehow made me feel less embarrassed.
Grandpa at the cabin
Though I was far from being a regular, I remember going to Sunday School several times a year. I will have to say, except for Grandpa and Grandma Sanderson, Mrs. Thomas was probably the best example of what a true and kind believer looked like to me. She had a beautiful voice. I still remember all the words to “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” and “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” Both are sweet and reassuring songs for little kids. All these years later, I still remember Mrs. Thomas’ explanations of some of the Bible verses she taught us. It is more difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, then it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. I imagined a sewing needle, but Mrs. Thomas explained it was a figure of speech that exaggerated for emphasis and that Jesus was saying that it’s impossible for anyone to be saved on their own merits. You just can’t buy your way into heaven.
The new church was built on the same lot as the old one. The parsonage is next door.
Another Sunday School memory I have is looking around and wondering if the church was ever going to have enough money to finish the basement and the classrooms.
The church basement cooks
When I was in the second grade, I developed an irrational fear of dying in my sleep. Every night, I faithfully said the prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” I still remember in what order I said the names of the people I wanted God to bless. Billy always made the cut even if he had been mean to me that day. I ended by saying, “In Jesus’ name I pray,” because I heard someone say that if you asked in Jesus’ name your prayers were answered.
I finally got over my fear of dying in the night. Then, in the fourth grade, I begged Mom to take me to the funeral of a dear old lady who had died in her sleep. That set me back for another year or so.
On two occasions, I recall Mom telling me to go and kneel by my bed and ask forgiveness. Once, was when I threatened to tell the lady who was visiting us, the rather unflattering thing I had heard Mom say about her. I learned two important lessons. It’s not necessary to tell someone things that will hurt them, even if it is true; and mothers do not appreciate their kids trying to teach them a lesson.
Sunday was never my favorite day back then. Mom and Dad sat around all day and read the paper. I didn’t have anyone to play with because Sunday was “family time” and none of the kids in town could play. Sometimes we would have Grandma and Grandpa over for Sunday dinner, which helped, except when I had to do all the dishes. As far as I was concerned, that ruined my favorite fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, and corn, dinner.
When I was a teenager, I went to MYF, (Methodist Youth Fellowship). It was great because most of the kids who went were friends and it was the only way they could go anywhere on a weeknight. It was always on Monday night. I don’t remember much about it except standing in a circle at the end of the meeting, holding hands and saying, “May God lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
Mom always said that being a pallbearer was Grandpa Sanderson’s favorite indoor sport. He lived a long life and I’m sure when the roll is called up yonder, he’s always recognized as a man who lived a good life and helped carry many a casket.
I remember Lois Jaide playing the organ or piano… beautifully. Aunt Elna Miller sometimes sang in the choir.
We had three different ministers during those years . I remember little Kim Lindquist telling a new Methodist minister, who moved in next door, that her family didn’t say, GD-it, anymore.
I remember dying hard-boiled eggs for Easter and wondering why the colored eggs didn’t taste any better than the white ones. Mom went to church on Easter and we always got new hats, gloves, dresses, and shoes. About every other year, we got a new coat.
Stephanie Miller, Karen Lindquist and me on Easter morning
I remember learning that Jesus died for our sins and I can still see the image I had of Him ascending into heaven on the third day. (My son once drew a picture of Jesus on a donkey. At the bottom, he wrote, “The Lord has ridden.”)
As far as my childhood indoctrination into religion, this is a pretty complete accounting of how I thought of things back then.
I’ll have to go back and read this. I’m sure it will give me something more to think about.