Tuesday, 5 April 2011

thoughts on cultural identity (part 3)

Our church cultural identity included enthusiastic congregational singing, accompanied on piano.  All well-raised girls took piano lessons, of course.  As my parents explained when I wanted to take art lessons instead, "Christians don't need to be artists.  But they do need to be musical."  So I spent many tone-deaf years learning to play piano and clarinet, and being part of the church youth group "musicals."  Sadly, in the latter I was given "speaking" parts, as my natural musical-ness didn't measure up for singing.  It was a great personal tragedy, and in reality, made me an outsider to some degree.  Oh dear. 

Over the years we of course memorized many hymns.  We had a Sunday morning service hymn book of majestic, worshipful songs (red, hard-covered), a Sunday-evening service and prayer meeting hymn book with more "evangelistic" songs (green, hard-cover), and a camp-meeting hymn book of lively, evangelistic songs, and even some "youth" songs (burgundy, paper-cover).  I still have copies of the latter two!  And then of course there were Sunday-School songs, Children's Club songs, Youth group songs, and around-the-campfire-accompanied-by-guitar songs.  We weren't big on choirs, but we liked youth group musicals, men's quartets, men's and ladies' quartets, and Bible-school traveling choirs.

Summer camps were much beloved events, gathering in the extended family from far and wide.  Many folks took their annual work holidays at camp time, year after year.  Some even built their own private cabins in the denominational campground.    I remember one dear lady, Sister Smith, who attended family camp faithfully until she was 103.  She never missed a camp in well over 60 years.

Yes, I do believe that church was for many of us "our culture," our identity.  We knew who we were.  We knew what we believed (in a general way, but that's another story).  We lived in a time and place where denominationalism was important, and we wore our denominational distinctives proudly, like a badge of honor.  We giggled at jokes about how heaven would have a special area reserved for us true Christians, but deep down inside, I suspect we kind of believed it.


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