As a young child I attended church every Sunday; often twice on Sunday. At least when I lived with my father and stepmother. I’d fidget in the maple-colored pew. I could hardly sit still. My stepmother would give me the look–it suggested that I stop being antsy. I’d control myself all of a minute, but swiftly resumed swinging my legs or moving around with this nervous energy that I still possess today.
Growing up and going to church in the South in the late Sixties was my introduction to Sunday church services. As an adult I went to church periodically; and on the occasions in which I attended, even then it always struck me as a holy place. I felt different in a house of worship. Not saved or particularly closer to God, but I felt–safe. A minister would preach, a choir would sing, plates were passed for tithing. People dressed up. There was a saying many years ago: Dressed in Sunday’s best. That’s the way people dressed in churches I attending. In time–and especially in L.A.–I’d go to various churches where people dressed casually, and the formalities of churchgoing like in my youth were less ceremonial. I cannot recall when last I saw men wearing ties; and the classy elderly women no longer wear those fancy hats they wore when I was a child. Although they may still do that sort of thing in the South.
I have never been pulled to be a member of a church. I think attending or being a member of a church is a good thing. But I never thought I needed to spend Sundays in church in order that I might demonstrate I had faith, or that it made me much closer to God. That said, I recently went with someone to their church in West Los Angeles. I was told I didn’t need to “dress up.” I could wear business casual attire, but blue jeans was “too casual”. When we arrived the parking lot was full and we ended up having to walk several blocks. The “church” was held in a small unassuming stucco building and there was not even a cross on the building to indicate church services were held there. (I would later learn that the church leases the space for Sunday services, but it’s “technically” not a church.)
Within a few minutes of embracing people I had never met, hearing “bless yous” a few times, and being introduced to various people, we finally made our way to seats in the center of the sparsely decorated room. I took notice that there were more women than men, and more than half were seated in chairs and on cell phones. Most appeared to be engaging in social media. One or two might have had cell phones against their ear. I thought: Okay, service hasn’t started yet. But eventually, when the “speaker” (the title minister doesn’t seem the appropriate noun) reached the podium I expected everyone to put away their cell phones and iPads. No. No. No. If there were 100 people seated in chairs, at least 90 percent of them were holding various devices. I assumed they were referencing online Bibles. Eventually, though, I came to learn they were also TWEETING (and in fairness, tweeting about the speaker’s sermon, if “sermon” is what it would be called). I suppose tweeting in church is now appropriate, like the customer who talks on her cell phone while the barista takes her order (https://bonitathompson.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/talking-on-your-cell-phone-while-the-barista-takes-your-order-is-rude/).