I Never Went to Sunday School

BEHIND ELLINWOOD (1976)
PENTAX SPOTMATIC + SUPER TAKUMAR 135/3.5 + KODAK TRI-X

So I had this thing for the playground in the back lot of Ellinwood Malate Church, I loved those acacia trees and the way the filtered sunlight softly lights the sandbox on sunny Sunday mornings (see here if you missed it).  Anyway, that or the childhood urge to play kept me from focusing in Sunday school and I whined myself out of attending.  It was a surprise that my mom actually allowed me not to attend—the condition was I had to go to the adult worship with my mom and dad (and soon with my younger brother, Noel).

The surprise comes from the fact that most of my cousins were in Sunday school.  In fact, some of my teachers would have been my cousins and it was only a matter of time that my mom started taking flak from my uncles and aunts—who were elders and deacons at some point of their lives in Ellinwoodfor consenting to my whims (“kunsintidor”).

So I never went to Sunday school.

Now the nice thing about being a kid in adult worship is that you can get away looking bored during the service.  You cannot really do that while in Sunday school since in a class of 20 or so, the teacher cannot miss you daydreaming, which I did a lot.  In a packed church of over 800 you get lost in the crowd where a kid can daydream all he wants and even fall asleep too.

I would let my parents sit in the pews first while I took my time talking with friends before the worship started, the idea was, that by the time I sat down, the pews were already full.  So by the time I sat down, I had to squeeze myself between my mom and dad.  That tight fit propped me up when I fell asleep; and it would pull me up as well when it was time to stand up for a hymn or prayer.

That worked quite well until I was tall enough to be seen over my parents shoulders.  And at which point I was beginning to understand what was going on.


This was Ellinwood Malate Church.  The largest UCCP church and it had the ambiance of a cathedral.  It was awesome.  You looked up into the welcoming arms of Jesus in the stained glass with the admonition “Come Unto Me”.  For a skinny little kid it was God’s grandeur displayed.  It was also God’s grace demonstrated.


ELLINWOOD CHANCEL (2007)
PENTAX *ist-DS + SMCP 135/2.5

But I never went to Sunday school.

And I would realize later in life that it left some blank pages in my heart.  While others were somehow inoculated from real Christianity by the vaccine of shallow Christianity—the smallness I felt sitting in this big cathedral left within me a void that needed to be discovered.

Of course, there were the episodes when I ran away from that emptiness, attempting to fill it with something else.  Growing into adolescence also made things a little complicated.  I remember intentionally putting last in my high school career choices checklist anything to do with religion (strange—thinking about it later—that I would even put something “religious” at all in my career choice when I could have left it out altogether).  But then I grew up and later found myself in seminary.

And all that was because I never went to Sunday school.

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