Every Sunday the church bells provide the soundtrack for Loring Park. The Methodists at 9:00 and 11:15. The Episcopalian at 8:00, 9:00 and 11:00. The Catholics (harder to miss) at 7:30, 9:30, 11:30, 1:30, 4:30 and 6:30. Having been a resident of Loring Park for over a year now, I've developed the ability to identify the tones of a particular house of worship without looking at a clock or straining my ears to narrow down the physical origin of the sound.
There's something unassailable comforting to me about waking up to the sound of the celebration of faith. As a child, for the years 1979 to 1997, I was in church every Sunday without fail. Many an attempt at fake illness was lost on my parents. It was their responsibility, their promise upon baptizing me, to educate me in the ways of the church, and it was not something they took lightly. Church was a community of the faithful, of friends and involvement. When I was strong enough (or, more accurately, heavy enough), I myself rang the churchbells to notify passersby that the Sunday service was about to begin. I acolyted at services ranging from run-of-the-mill Sunday Eucharists to indiscriminate marriages of two people in love to services that mourned the loss of parishioners that had been my friends and neighbors since birth. I helped in the operation of the Sunday soup kitchen for the hungry and homeless. I watched as members of the community expanded their families and watched other children grow as years passed.
I got older. I started asking questions. Rather than remain a fact of life, faith began a question mark. Was I going to church because my parents made me go, or because I believed in the words of the Christian creed? Why did I find it so difficult to speak certain words or listen to certain parables? Was it a misogynist belief structure? Was it okay for people to have to ask forgiveness from God for loving someone of the same gender, or for otherwise asserting their individual humanity? In asserting myself as a Christian, was I discounting other belief (or nonbelief) structures? Could I be the fully objective person I aspired to be while remaining true to my religious beliefs? Would I rather sleep in than go to church? Could I go to church alone, without the comfort of my own family unit, and still be comfortable and experience the same feeling of comfort and safety?
I didn't know the answers to these questions, many of which I ask myself to this day. When I left home for college, I stopped going to church on Sundays. There are times of year when the call back to a faithful environment becomes too much to ignore, and I allow myself to let go of the questions and return to the church. There are occasions when I find myself deeply in need of a quiet, supportive, spiritual environment, either for myself or on a friend or loved one's behalf. Each Sunday I hear the church bells ring in my neighborhood, and I welcome the sound not just with my ears, but with my mind and spirit. They call me home. If not physically, mentally and spiritually.
I still shy away from Christian responsibility in the full sense of the phrase. I avoid confrontation by arguing for accepting religious groups when the "liberal" media covers fundamentalist Christians or Catholics asserting beliefs that counter what are, governmentally, basic human rights. I cringe, but accept and witness, people's choices to reject God and yet be married by one of the stewards of the church. I spend Sunday mornings at a coffeeshop blogging when I could be at a church service down the street from my apartment. I shift uncomfortably in my seat at my father's church, still reluctant to accept my role as "Pastor's daughter". I rejoice in the seemingly endless stream of "P.K.'s" (pastor's kids) that seem to naturally gravitate toward me...toward kindred spirits.
My personal faith journey continues. Ever present, ever complicated, everlasting.