Sunday, February 24, 2008

Memories (installment 9)

The church I grew up in is good, theologically, for the most part. The basics are there. The Bible is the Word of God, inspired, infallible. God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit make up the Trinity, and the only way to Heaven is to accept the free gift of salvation provided by the death and resurrection of the Son of God.

Once you get past those basics, however, you run into a few snags.

My parents were married in a Presbyterian church. I even remember attending a Presbyterian church...we probably left there sometime when I was around 5 years old. My mom's background is Presbyterian. My dad grew up attending a Moravian church (you can find out more information about the Moravians here). Sometime in my young life, my parents decided that they didn't like the direction the Presbyterian church was heading, and started on their church hunt. I vaguely remember visiting a Southern Baptist church, and then somehow we ended up going to a Mennonite church (to learn about the evolution of the Mennonite church to here).

Today, there are a LOT of different variations of Mennonites, but I just want to write about the church that I grew up attending. Actually, attending is too loose of a word for the Mennonite culture. One of the first things we learned is that being a Mennonite is an all-inclusive way of life. We attended the Mennonite Church, we kids went to the Mennonite school, all of our social activities revolved around our Mennonite friends, and the church rules governed our whole lives.

Rules, rules everywhere. Somewhere I still have the booklet from our church that lists all of the requirements. There were a lot of things that are common across denomonational least many....smoking, drinking, extra-marital relations, etc., were "verbotin".

Then, there were the dress codes. For women they were NUMEROUS. Dresses only. No pants. No shorts. No capris. No skirts or blouses. But, not just any, these were specially made, hand-sewn dresses, similar to what you see on me in my prior life as a college student. Yes, I made that one myself. I LOVED that dress. It was cool and hip...and just a little bit dangerous, because the repeat of the pattern on the material was larger than 1"...yes, there were even requirements about how large of a pattern the materials could have. That, and the dresses had to be a specific length. "Three inches below the knee, sitting or standing." Obviously, short, short skirts were out, but for some inexplicable reason, long skirts were also out. That was never explained to me.

Next, notice my head covering. Every woman (or girl over the age of about 12) was required to wear her hair up, in a bun, UNCUT, and covered by this specific style of head covering. Added to that, no makeup was allowed, and no jewelry...not even engagement/wedding bands.

The guys had relatively few dress requirements. T-shirts were okay, as long as there was nothing printed on shirts advertising for anyone or anything. The suit coats that they wore had to be altered, to have what is commonly known as a "clerical collar", and they weren't "allowed" to wear a tie....which my father had no problem with, whatsoever!

Our activities were simple. The "youth group" was opened to singles from age 15 thru whenever said singles either got married or decided that they were too old to take part...occassionally as old as mid-30's. We got together at varying homes every Sunday night after church, and played board games, or card games like Rook or Dutch Blitz, or sometimes games like Flying Dutchmen or 3-Times Around. Monday night was Volleyball or Softball night, depending on the time of year. Wednesday night was prayer meeting night, and we got to hang out and talk afterwards. Thursday nights a group went to sing at a nursing home. Occassionally, we had get-togethers on Saturdays, and sometimes our Sunday activities started earlier in the day, since the 5th Sundays didn't have evening services.

Thinking about how I grew up is exhausting....keeping all the rules was all-consuming. Must go take out the contacts, and take a nap....


MondaythroughSunday said...

wow! That is exhausting!

Stacey said...

Oh Laura this fascinates me! I think about that way of life often and while the dress code would bug me, I'd rather enjoy the community, the simplicity, the family that is your church. Your parents are quite amazing that they went from being Presbyterian to Mennonite, that was quite a leap. To be born into that life, however, doesn't sound so darn bad after's THIS life that just plain wears me out! I'd love to hear more about your life, I hope you post more soon. xo

Laura said...

I was tired after reading it...haha. I am horrible about following 'rules'; although I do. I find all religions fascinating.

Jen Lang said...

thanks for sharing. I'm a "cradle Catholic" so other religions' rules are foreign to me. I like the series you're doing.

Skittles said...

Stopping by to give you a hug after reading your comment.

Anonymous said...

That is interesting about the dresses, not short but not long? And rules about the pattern! Crazy! It must have been interesting to live through.

D... said...

I with Stacey. Very fascinating. I hope you post more about your life soon.