To many people, this white building on the side of the road is simply a building that takes up space on the side of the road. To others, it is a place where they experienced the beginning of a life through marriages, and to some it is a sad place where they experienced saying good-bye to a life through funerals. For others, it is a symbolism for religion and their own ideals of religion. Perhaps to some it symbolizes hypocrisy or foolishness. To some, I know it has been a safe refuge in times of grief or tragedy, or if one happens to live in a trailer park across the road, a safe haven from tornadoes. It is also a house to a huge garage sale ran by a bunch of teenagers in the first week of October, or a place to drop off one’s rowdy children during one week of the summer for Vacation Bible School (or free babysitting). Twice a year, it is a place to donate blood for a great cause and once a month, it is a place to pick up discounted meals for families falling on hard times. To me, it is a place that allowed me to think about, dream about, and decide how to live my life.
Bachelard wrote, “More than just a ‘place’, the house is “one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories, and dreams of mankind”. The place I am choosing to write about is not my house; however it has become a home to me. On State Road ‘A’ in Linn Creek, Missouri there is a small white building that started as a small, one room wooden building. Over the years its architecture has changed as much as I have since I first entered its large white doors as a small, clumsy, and shy five-year old girl.
It is impossible for me to sit on the fourth pew in the sanctuary of Linn Creek Baptist Church without being surrounded by my own memories. I started sitting on that same pew with my sister when we were five years old. As the years past, that pew grew to become the Goldsberry pew when my mother began to attend instead of just letting us go to service with our babysitter. That pew grew even more populated as our father started to become a different man and joined us. It now seats a husband for my sister and a boyfriend for me.
In the front of the sanctuary there is a baptismal. Here is this baptismal, my sister and I hid during games of hide and go seek with our friends while our parents were attending meetings in the fellowship hall. This is also where my family was baptized together and showed our faith to our congregation.
At the altar of this church is where my parents were the first couple to be married in the new sanctuary with my sister and I serving as flower girls in the frilliest and itchiest dresses imaginable. Fifteen years later, I served as maid of honor in a far-less itchy and frilly dress as my sister married her husband in a long lace gown reminiscent of our mother’s, while our parents watched with teary eyes from a front pew. This altar is also where I saw groups of people gather after the national tragedy of September 11th. I was in seventh grade at the time, and I don’t believe I fully grasped what was happening. However, I did know that everyone looked incredibly sad and lost. I remember being proud that these people were coming to “my church” for comfort.
As I sit in the fourth pew, on the left side of the sanctuary, under the cracked beam that my father repaired, these are the good memories that surround me like a warm blanket and make me feel safe. However, over in the corner of this blanket is a tear of memories from this place that are not some warm. From this pew, I have seen adults I looked up to, who professed to be Christian ripping into each other in heated arguments over things as serious as who will be the next pastor to things as trivial as what color the new carpet will be. Politics, that as an insider, I was unable to ignore.
Inside the pastor’s office, I was faced with my first encounter with discrimination. When one of the girls from the youth group came out as a lesbian, she was banned from attending a youth group lock-in. It was the church’s policy that homosexuality was a sin and that although we were supposed to love this girl; she could also not be allowed to attend an over-night festivity. In this office, is where I stopped accepting blindly what others believed and what they expected me to believe. In this office, I began to really think critically about what kind of person, what kind of Christian I wanted to be and what I believed. This is where I decided to try to love everyone, no matter the difference, and that those ideals were going to be my kind of religion. It is also the first and only time I ever yelled at a pastor.
Churches are interesting in that they can be seen as a space where people go in and go out once a week or twice a year or never at all. I’ll admit that other churches have definitely been spaces to me. However, these memories that the “little white church on A Road” gave to me make this particular church a place to me.